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Getting rolling with online training: spreading the word

Mark Murrell

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:

  1. Not looking stupid in front of others
  2. Maximizing their income
  3. 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:

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:

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:

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.