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Structure communication like tyres; get a grip, keep control, stay on the path

When you run a transport business and have employees and contractors it can be tricky to keep them informed. Giving updates all at once might seem like a sensible, sustainable approach but the effect of bombarding them with information can have a devastating impact on their confidence. It also has an effect on your business.

It starts with the induction process, which is often detailed and requires workers to read many things and understand many different procedures. Caught in the headlights of starting a new job, meeting new people and figuring out what to do, and it's all too easy for new starters to miss detail or data during their company introduction because it tends to be crammed into just one sitting; a buffet-style all you can eat company presentation.

In their minds they fear they've missed something; what was that thing about reporting to Steve? but often they make a decision that it's better to look like they understand it rather than look incompetent and ask for clarity.

So, your new starter is out of the blocks and driving your expensive asset, while not really remembering what that policy-thing was that mentioned something about being distracted or something but I can use a PDA while driving or something?

Once they've got over that hurdle it's on to the regular updates. Now, if your drivers work from home or work away a lot, it can be difficult to reach them. With high demand and an increasingly competitive market time is a rare and precious thing, which is why apps and other remote updates seem like such a great solution. Today's tech makes it easier than ever to connect, with apps designed to provide remote training, periodic updates, news about the route, changes to the schedule etc.

But the reality of this tech is that some drivers just find it easier / more convenient to scan-read a policy or request and just tick at the bottom or worse, just scroll down to the tick at the bottom. So you end up thinking the updates work well and that you've done a great job, while your driver becomes more disillusioned with the weekly messages delivered courtesy of Audrey the automated update app.

Of course periodic training provides an opportunity for drivers to learn something new or seek clarity over something that's been on their mind, but the course is usually a general subject or about a certain way of working that leads them down a different mental path, and that niggling doubt may end up being locked away for another time.

Debriefs at the end of the shift can be a good opportunity to talk about things, particularly as it's often a one-to-one experience (so no fear that other drivers might rib them for not knowing) but the reality is that the driver just wants to wrap things up and go home, and the manager is mainly concerned about failed deliveries, unhappy customers, damage to the vehicle and the next day's schedule.

These days a professional driver is expected to know more, more of the time. But consider doing things differently and understand the reasons why.

If your driver doesn't understand something and wants to avoid looking foolish (in their minds of course) then they might carry on breaking driving time limits or missing information on paperwork or failing to deliver.

If your driver constantly receives wordy updates without having the option to talk to someone then they're more inclined to just 'tick at the bottom'.

Lazy or unstructured communication can lead to big problems. Risk of poor working standards, risk of damage or incidents, higher turnover because they were 'just left to get on with it', higher training costs that could have been avoided and low morale leading to reduced productivity.

My point is this. Keep doing inductions. Keep investing in driver development. Use technology. But use it sparingly and structure your communication.

Make sure an induction is done with care; don't give them a written test that heaps the pressure on; look for confirmation, reaffirm the detail, check they understand. Move on to the next bit.

Video call the driver, call the driver. Set aside time each (or every other) week for issues they're not clear about. Make sure they receive training on how to use the tech. Can they contact someone about technical or content issues?

Plan your updates so it doesn't happen all at once, and always make time for a face to face conversation. And make sure Audrey the app isn't the only source of information.

If you'd like help with planning your driver communication then we're right here when you need us. Email to get the ball, or rather the tyre, rolling.


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