As waste and recycling companies become more competitive in hiring and retaining quality drivers, a well-constructed professional development program for drivers is a powerful and necessary weapon in your arsenal.
By Mark Murrell
Do they, or don’t they? That is the question many waste and recycling fleet managers ask when it comes to whether drivers want or embrace training. Unfortunately, “don’t want” seems to be cemented in the minds of many safety people; it is almost a base assumption that drivers do not want to do training. So, safety managers feel they must find ways to coax or coerce drivers into it. But do they?
In the driver surveys we have conducted over the years, the vast majority of drivers do want training, and value having opportunities to improve their knowledge and skills. In fact, we have never had less than 90 percent of respondents agree that it is important for them to continue learning.
So, if most drivers do want ongoing training, then why do fleets assume they do not? Why has “drivers don’t want training” become such an accepted myth? I believe it is due to misinterpreting the data, failing to investigate why the data is what it is, and drawing the wrong conclusions as a result.
There are definitely training-related things that drivers do not want, and it is easy for fleets to generalize that into an assumption that they do not want training at all. However, that generalization creates blind spots, which can lead to problems. So, it is important to understand the specifics of what drivers do and do not want.
Deciphering Driver Interests
If drivers complain about attending training, or are slow to complete assignments, it does not necessarily mean that they are uninterested in training as a whole. It is very likely they are interested in learning more about the thing they spend all their days doing. It just means they are uninterested in the training you are offering, or how you approach it.
Drivers are typically uninterested in participating if they feel they are the ones putting in all the effort. Such as:
• The training is passive (non-interactive reading or videos) and they have to force themselves to pay attention.
• The content is outdated, or just regurgitated regulations and they are forced to figure out for themselves how it applies to their job.
• Too much is assigned with too little time to complete it, creating more stress that they do not need.
• The training is characterized as ‘corrective action’ or some other phrase that makes it sound like punishment.
• The program is rolled out in such a way that it suggests it is another chore for them to complete.
The phrase “tossing it over the fence” describes someone dumping work on others without doing a sufficient portion of it themselves or considering the implications for the recipient. Any time training looks like something is being tossed over the fence, drivers see that and lose interest. In those cases, it comes off as the company trying to cover its tail, rather than an investment in their future, and then drivers lose interest. Fast.
While drivers are uniformly unexcited by those kinds of training programs, those same drivers still overwhelmingly want to learn new things. In short, drivers are not against training; they are against bad training. They are against things that do not help them, that waste their time, and add more to their already-busy schedules.
Once we understand what it is they are not interested in, it becomes much easier to craft a program that does interest them. Drivers want a program where it is clear that the company has invested as much care and effort as it expects them to invest. That means:
• Content that is up to date and directly relevant to their work.
• Content that keeps them engaged and fits their learning style.
• Organization and pacing that they have some control over (so they are not forced to review things they already know and can spend time on the areas they need).
• Training that fits into their schedule, either delivered to them online or when they are already at company facilities.
• Programs that include follow-up after the fact to ensure effectiveness.
• Programs that connect to other activities in the company holistically.
• Programs that compensate them for their time.
Changing the Mindset
None of those points are difficult to implement, but they do require some planning. That will not happen, though, if the feeling inside the company is that drivers are not interested in training. Misinterpreting driver feelings about training creates a bias against training over time, leading to under investment in training programs or excess time spent trying to coerce people into completing them. Time is better spent revisiting why the current programs are
generating the responses they are and redesigning them for a better outcome.
As waste and recycling companies become more competitive in hiring and retaining quality drivers, a well-constructed professional development program for drivers is a powerful and necessary
weapon in your arsenal. | WA
Mark Murrell is co-founder and president of CarriersEdge, a leading provider of online driver training for the trucking industry, and co-creator of Best Fleets to Drive For, an annual evaluation of the best workplaces in the North American trucking industry produced in partnership with the Truckload Carriers Association. For more information, visit www.carriersedge.com.