Getting Rolling with Online Training: Spreading the Word
August 17, 2016
In my last column, I talked about things to do before getting started with online training - things like figuring out how people are going to access it and what kind of devices they have access to. Those are important considerations in the beginning because they lay the groundwork for the larger rollout, but now that we've covered those it's time to move on to the bigger pieces.
Part II - Communication
For the second installment in this series, we're going to focus on how to communicate this new program to the drivers. This, I believe, is the most critical part of a successful rollout. Providing devices, creating logins, and assigning training are all important, but if the communication piece is wrong then the rollout will have little chance for success. Getting drivers onside is an absolute necessity, so let's look at how to do that.
Sending the right message
Communicating this initiative to drivers effectively is primarily about understanding their concerns and crafting a message that addresses those concerns, while also highlighting the positive elements of the plan. Let's start by considering what drivers typically care about:
- Not looking stupid in front of others
- Maximizing their income
- Maximizing their hometime
Those are the three main things they're interested in, and probably in that order as well. Drivers want to make money, and they want to have good hometime, but they'll sacrifice both of those to avoid looking stupid. It may seem counterintuitive, but we're social creatures by nature, and people will go to great lengths to maintain social standing.
So, if we're going to communicate this fancy new training program to drivers, we want to position it such that they understand how we're helping with their income and hometime, and address their fear of looking stupid as well.
The key here is present it to drivers as an investment in them. Every year in the Best Fleets to Drive For program we find an overwhelming majority of drivers who believe ongoing training is important and want their companies to provide more of it. As a result, if the company is investing in a program that provides more of that training, it's generally received pretty positively. Related to that, the core value proposition for online training works for two of the three concerns above on its own - comprehensive training with no lost time and no lost miles.
Putting that together, we can position online training as the company investing in providing more training for drivers, and doing it in a way that allows drivers to participate without sacrificing miles or hometime. That's already starting to sound like a pretty good deal for drivers, but we're not done yet.
The third thing drivers care about - the fear element - needs to be addressed as well. Let's look at what drivers are afraid of, and see how we can calm those fears. When it comes to online training, drivers are typically afraid of:
- Struggling with the technology, and/or struggling and failing in the courses
- Looking less intelligent or qualified in front of peers
- Losing the respect of peers
- Having all that negatively impact their job status and prospects
We may think those concerns are ridiculous, but for the drivers they're real so they need to be addressed. There are three main things that can be done to alleviate those fears:
- Acknowledge them - recognizing that people have those concerns goes a long way towards resolving them. If you pretend they don't exist, they'll just fester and turn into a huge problem down the road. Get them out in the open and discuss them.
- Be available to help - when communicating this new program to drivers, make it clear that you'll be there to help everyone individually as needed. In the first part of this series I talked about how it's a good idea to have drivers start with online training by using a machine in your terminal, and that's useful here as well. If drivers are close by when taking the courses for the first time, it's easy to give them a personal introduction to the system and show them how everything works. You won't need to do that for the more tech savvy drivers, but those that are concerned about technology will benefit. At the same time, make it clear that you'll be there to answer any questions about the content as well, to ensure everyone has an equal shot at success.
- Provide equal access - the previous column talked about developing a technology profile for the fleet to understand who has device access and who doesn't. That plan will come in handy here because it will show that you've thought about how people are going to connect and have figured out how to make sure everyone can get at it. If you have a plan to ensure no one is left behind because they lack access, you'll overcome a lot of the fears from the non-techies.
At this point, we've got the foundations of some pretty good messaging for drivers - we've positioned it as an investment in their future, that doesn't require any sacrifice on their part, and you've addressed the things that are likely to cause concern. There's one final piece that can be the icing on the cake for this as well - testimonials from senior drivers.
Before starting the widescale rollout, get a few of the more senior drivers (or those whose opinions carry weight in the fleet) to try some of the courses and give you some feedback. If you explain what you're doing, and why, and go over your rollout plan, they're likely to embrace it pretty quickly. Once they login and see how easy it is to go through some courses, they'll often be a great source of testimonials.
Adding that into the mix, you've got a pretty nice message to communicate to the wider group of drivers - "We're investing in an online training service that will allow you to get regular training and professional development, without having to sacrifice any miles or come in on weekends; we've got a plan to make sure everyone has equal access and is comfortable with the technology; and these senior drivers have already tried it and they think it's great".
That's a fantastic start, so now we just need to make sure that everyone actually gets the message.
The best way to do that is to take advantage of as many different channels as you have access to. That includes:
- Driver meetings
- Notices and payroll stuffers
- Satellite messages
- Social media
Not everyone uses all of those, but a combination of whatever you have available tends to work pretty well. Discuss it at a driver meeting then follow it up with an email blast or satellite message. Post reminders and notices on social media. Whatever you have, use it. And use it often. One message can easily get lost in the shuffle, so regular repetition is necessary for the first little while. That's part of the reason that the combination works, but even if you're only using one channel, give people lots of reminders - notify them that it's coming, then notify then again when it arrives, then talk about it after it's happened as well. There's no such thing as too much communication with something like this.
Which leads us to the next part of the communication process - making it a habit. We'll cover that in part III.