National Connections, Local Ownership
National Connections, Local Ownership

Clark: Five ways to find and cultivate future fleet leaders from within

Originally appeared in Fleet Maintenance

While the commercial trucking industry needs both new technicians and drivers, they’re not the only positions fleets to fill. The role of fleet manager is just as critical, and many are close to aging out, and finding quality replacement will be a major factor in securing your fleet’s future success. A manager can “make or break” a department, so a known entity is often a better bet than an unknown. That could mean promoting from within, but too few organizations take the time necessary to develop future managers within their workforce.

Advancements in technology and the eventual electrification of fleets increase the need for younger talent with the right skills. With recruitment always a problem, fleets that have younger workers would do well to try to promote from within, if possible.

If you are looking for the next leaders within your organization, there are five steps you need to follow.

Create a true job definition

You may think you know how to describe the job of a fleet manager, but once you start listing all of the requirements, skills, and expected outcomes, you will realize the necessity to provide an accurate and complete description of the position. Be extremely detailed and look for obvious things like industry knowledge, problem-solving skills, and leadership ability. Your primary candidates should also possess organizational and communication skills.

Identify which individuals show the most potential

Managers need to have all of these skills, but your younger employees may not have opportunities to show their potential. So, how do you find this diamond in the rough? An excellent place to start is through a candidate’s supervisor and team members. Find out who they feel has many of the necessary skills to enable them to excel at the position. Check performance reviews as well to root out any potential stumbling blocks.

Develop a training program that will maximize that potential

Make sure that these potential managers are provided with the training necessary to achieve the outcomes you expect. Incomplete training can make it difficult for them to do their best. The first step might be pairing them with an experienced manager who could act as a mentor. A second step would be assigning this new manager a smaller team to oversee. This will provide hands-on experience that will enable them to grow into managing all operations.

Define measurable (and achievable) goals

New managers, like all employees, should have defined goals as well as the steps necessary to achieve those goals. Specificity and achievability are essential. If your goals and expectations for a new hire are too high or the timelines are too short, they can eventually lead to frustration and a lack of motivation. Most importantly, provide ongoing feedback that will not only offer suggestions for performance improvement but also positive feedback that will encourage new managers that there is a real chance to advance within the organization.

Make failure possible

That seems counterproductive, but smart and talented people often learn from their mistakes and thus become much better at their assigned roles. While a candidate is training to become a manager, he or she should not be afraid of making a mistake. If they are, the department will likely not be as productive as it should be.

There are several reasons why hiring from within makes sense. First, your candidate will be familiar. Second, it’s always less costly in terms of both time and money to promote a candidate from within rather than do an external search and hope your results are what you’re looking for. Third, there’s usually a built-in loyalty when you promote from within, giving other younger workers hope that they too can progress. If you’re looking for long-term success and growth (and who isn’t?), it’s important to remember that the most valuable assets within your organization are your existing employees. Treat them well.