by Tim Brady, Business editor

Additional training can help keep employees happy and motivated

boxesEducation leads to knowledge, and the more knowledge you have, the better you can understand your business. This helps create a more efficient operation, which then generates more profit. That’s why training is such an important part of any successful operation.

There are times when it’s not necessary to have a full staff running your operation. And it’s during these times that you may be able to engage yourself and your staff in continuing education. The trucking industry is constantly changing, especially with the introduction of new technologies and tools and the constant flow of regulations. Also, safety training is always something with which to be proactive.

Training can cover many topics and can be conducted in multiple ways. From on-site presenters, to webinars, and to courses at local colleges, there is a plethora of ways to improve your knowledge as well as that of your staff.

To determine what type of training is needed, first look at where the operation is the weakest, i.e., where it lacks efficiency, revenue production or profitability.

Just like any successful endeavor, the better the planning, the better the results. Every department—administration, dispatch, mechanics, drivers—will have different training needs, so look at each department’s needs when conducting an analysis.

GETTING STARTED

Analyze training needs by gathering the following information:
  • What are the current skills for each person in the company?
  • Where are the skills/knowledge gaps within the operation?
  • What new skills or knowledge would improve the business?
The challenge for most small- to medium-sized company owners and managers is finding the most effective means to conduct training, one that will actually be embraced by employees.

The solution is for employees and contractors to help develop the training program. Rather than do a computer-based or paper survey, organize a training “think tank.” Put together groups of people with similar tasks and jobs in which one depends on the other for projects to be completed. The group becomes a training demographic.

Bring the group together for one to two hours and use the following guidelines to figure out what training is needed:
  • Assign one person in the group to be the think tank leader.
  • Have each participant write down what they see as their five most important training needs. They must be very specific about these needs. General statements like “team building” or “better communications” are not what you want.
Instead, ask them for the nitty-gritty. A trucker might want a more efficient means of getting load information and directions, which would encompass both team building and better communications but in a more goal-oriented, specific manner.
  • The leader lists the five training needs of each participant on either a flip chart or white board. Avoid writing down duplicate answers, but keep a separate tally of the ones that are repeated.
  • Once the participant survey has been completed, have the leader tally the responses. On a second whiteboard or flip chart, the think tank leader writes a list of the training topics, from the one with the least tallies at the top to the one with the most at the bottom. Leave space between each topic. (Don’t list the total number of tallies.)
  • After all training topics have been listed, have each participant rate each topic, with a score of 10 being the most needed training program and 1 being the least needed. Record the scores and then add them up for each topic. Make a new list; the topic with the highest score will be at the top and the lowest at the bottom, with total votes received next to each one.
  • Make sure each participant writes down the results and then keeps those results in an “action file.” When scheduling training programs, focus on the top three topics for this think tank grouping.
Keep in mind this is something that needs to be done annually (or more often if possible), so you’re constantly bringing your employees and staff up to speed with the newest and best business practices. The trucking industry is always evolving and in order to be at the top of your game and a step ahead of your competitors, training that improves skills and knowledge is one of the best weapons you can have in your business arsenal.

MEETING EMPLOYEE NEEDS

Use the training analysis as part of an employee retention program. Make a note of each participant’s top two training needs even though they may not have been the top training priorities for the group. Work towards developing a specific training program to meet that person’s needs. It could be a one-on-one session, an online course or webinar, or even a local community college class.

Finally, look at what it will cost to provide the training to reach those objectives, then prioritize training needs based on the available budget. If budget is a concern, then provide essential training over desired training.

Employees and contractors will expect to receive the training they helped determine was needed, so don’t start the process without the follow-through of the actual training.

Remember, it will make a huge difference if the ideal training program is applicable to the job, relevant to the person carrying out the job, and tied to business objectives.

Contact Tim Brady at tbrady@write­uptheroad.com or call 731-749-8567. Join Brady in the Trucking Business Community at www.truckersu.com.