It’s a daily alert for the industry…the ongoing and growing shortage of drivers and technicians. But companies and fleet managers know that those are far from the only positions they need to fill. One of the most impactful and important positions for any fleet is the fleet manager. Yet, as with other positions in our industry, many fleet managers may be close to aging out. Finding the right replacement is so important. 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 from within their own workforce.
It’s hard to overestimate the importance of a good fleet manager. These individuals play a pivotal role in ensuring the smooth operation of a company’s fleet, with responsibility for managing vehicle maintenance and driver coordination while also ensuring safety/regulatory compliance and operational efficiency, all while keeping an eye on the bottom line. Managers also need to know how to build and maintain good relationships with all of those that work for them. A bad manager can result in vital drivers and technicians finding employment with a competitor.
Advancements in technology and the coming electrification of fleets increase the need for younger talent with the right skillsets. With recruitment always a problem, fleets that have younger workers would do well to try to promote from within, if possible. There are steps to take that make this all doable.
- Create a true job definition – You may think you know how to describe the job, but once you start listing all of the requirements, skills, and expected outcomes, you will realize the necessity to provide a true and complete description of the position. Be extremely detailed and look for things like industry knowledge, leadership skills, organizational skills, problem-solving ability, 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 the situation where they show their potential. So how do you find this diamond in the rough? Consulting with supervisors and team members is a good place to start. Find out who they feel has the best organizational, problem-solving, and communication skills. Also, check a candidate’s employee performance records and focus on those who excel in their current roles and would be eager to take on new challenges.
- Develop a training program that will maximize that potential – Make sure that upcoming managers are provided with the training necessary to achieve the outcomes you expect. Incomplete training can lead to frustration making it difficult for them to do their best. Allow them to gain hands-on experience by gradually assigning more responsibilities and pair them with experienced managers who can mentor their younger counterparts, helping them navigate challenges. In addition to knowledge-based training, also offer training in leadership skills, problem-solving, and decision-making. Communication skills also need to be honed as a good manager is also an effective communicator.
- Set clear expectations and goals – To keep candidates motivated and focused, it’s necessary to establish expectations and goals. Identify specific milestones you expect a candidate to achieve during training and provide a timeframe for that achievement. Make sure that the candidate is given regular feedback that should not only indicate what they’ve done wrong but should also celebrate achievements. This feedback should address areas that need improvement so additional training can occur. Ultimately, a candidate should see a clear career path within the organization and how they can progress.
- Make failure possible – That seems counterproductive, but smart and talented people often learn from their mistakes and thus become much better at those roles they’ve been assigned. 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.
It’s a smart investment to develop fleet managers from within your own organization. Doing so can result in significant benefits such as increased loyalty and cost savings in the long run. Following the steps listed above is a terrific way to nurture the next generation of fleet managers. If you’re looking for long-term success and growth (and who isn’t?), it’s important to remember that your employees are your most valuable asset and your most important resource. Investing in their development is the key to cultivating a more skilled and motivated workforce for the entire company.