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New regulations in the trucking industry and rapid innovation have created a flurry of software and hardware offerings for trucks and everything else connected to logistics.
These advancements have helped with recruitment, training, routing, safety, communication and retention among other day-to-day operations. But when it comes to implementing new technology, a common failure private fleets experience is managing “change” — how it’s perceived by those expected to learn and use the new product or service offering.
Why do you need to manage change?
Like with other industries, integrating new technology can be a challenge for trucking companies and private fleets as those expected to use the new systems may not initially see eye-to-eye with those rolling it out. This is especially true with drivers, since experience using technological devices varies considerably as most in the workforce didn’t “grow up” with tech.
Just because the people leading the technology implementation see the benefits and know how to use the tech being rolled out, it doesn’t mean someone else will understand it right away. It’s why a multistep process that clearly communicates why and how the new technology will make a driver’s job easier — not harder — is key.
Some people adjust well to change, others do not. From an organizational perspective, when you make a change that affects how people do their job day-to-day, it can cause stress. Stress leads to a fight-or-flight response. People can get uncomfortable or annoyed when a change is made. If it’s perceived as a burden to how someone does their job, they may seek employment elsewhere.
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When integrating new fleet technology, here are four things to consider to help with a successful transition.
Historically, drivers have not been involved in selecting new technology — despite often being the primary users. When possible, ask drivers for input into the technology you’re looking to add before it’s purchased. In the most recent Best Fleets to Drive For survey, a program that recognizes the top for-hire carrier workplaces for drivers, 75% of drivers strongly agreed that their companies implement new technologies to improve efficiency and overall productivity, but less than half had the opportunity to provide their input. Those who do involve drivers find they’re more accepting of the change.
Use pilot groups to test out new products and services. Create a list of potential pilot users from different age groups and technological expertise, then determine a base number for participation. Start with a small group (with an upper limit of between 150 and 200 drivers for large fleets). This way, any technical hiccups and bugs can be easily addressed without getting overwhelmed by requests.
Once your pilot group is identified, conduct a survey and create a tech profile, which covers both what is available with the drivers and what’s available at the company. There should be an implementation team assisting the pilot users, coaching them how to correctly use the new devices or software. If the pilot program is conducted in a way that sets participants up for success, they should be able to recognize the benefits or at least be able to easily use the new technology.
After validation — when the pilot group and management are both comfortable with the process — you’re ready to expand to other drivers in the company.
Create a plan to communicate information that drivers will need to feel comfortable about the program. Use town halls, Facebook Live, email newsletters or other communication channels to clearly communicate what is happening with the tech integration. Ensuring drivers are on board and supported makes a big difference in a rollout. It’s important that drivers don’t perceive the program as a chore or punishment. Position the new program as an investment in professional development, and as a benefit that helps them do their job better.
The second part of the communication plan is to identify early adopters, especially senior drivers who command trust, and have them speak with those who are struggling with the change or the technology. Peer-to-peer communication inspires more confidence and simplifies the messaging. Word-of-mouth about personal experiences is often more thorough and relatable than a how-to guide.
Communication, however positive, is ineffective if people are overwhelmed by too much information and too much work at the start of the program. The goal is to start slowly and build confidence and trust that the new program is worthwhile and easy to navigate.
Feedback shouldn’t be restricted to just the pilot stage. It should be a part of all stages of implementation. You can solve problems and make people feel heard by asking for their opinion as the change is happening and checking in with them after it has happened. This can be done with a town hall-style format or one-on-one phone calls. By understanding the effectiveness of your approach in integrating and training those on new technologies, you can improve integration practices moving forward or follow up with employees that need additional assistance using the technology.
With the necessary checkpoints throughout the implementation of new technologies, the fluidity of the transition will be much easier. Being transparent with the changes you’re looking to make with drivers is important in building trust.
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