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Questioning manager

How do we know they took the training

Mark Murrell

As a continuation of past articles looking at some myths related to driver training (here and here), and the problems that arise as a result, let's consider the issue of whether drivers can and should be trusted.

Like the questions featured in the other articles in this series, this one comes up occasionally when people are evaluating our online training service, and often says more about the person asking it than the drivers at the heart of it. Let's look at why the question isn't helpful and what to do about it.

First, I should clarify that the question isn't asking how we track progress and completion in our courses. It's asking how we can be sure that Driver A was actually the person logged in to Driver A's account to complete the assignment, instead of getting someone else to do it for them.

Lack of Trust

This question tells us a lot about the person asking it because we immediately know that they don't trust their drivers. When discussing the prospect of delivering training remotely to maximize the convenience and effectiveness of the programs, the questioner jumps to the assumption that if they weren't being watched then drivers en masse would get someone else to do it for them (most commonly suggesting their kids as co-conspirators). I always find it interesting that they go there, and a bunch of questions immediately spring to mind in response:

Considering how to make the most of new programs is certainly fine, but if the base assumption is that drivers are going to cheat, it leads to other decisions that make things much worse.

The Solution Creates More Problems

When fleets assume that they can't trust their drivers to do online courses, they typically explore a few ways to prevent misuse.

I've seen some fleets implement a kind of declaration when drivers log in or start a course, making them check a box to acknowledge they are who they say they are. That never works - anyone who's going to cheat won't have a problem checking a box (if they even bother to read it) so it's really just an extra hurdle for honest people to deal with.

Sometimes they make drivers do the courses at the terminal, on a public PC, where office staff can watch over them and ensure they do it. That's not much better, since it defeats the purpose of online learning (access anywhere, anytime) and treats drivers like children who need constant supervision.

Even for fleets who don't go to those extremes, the lack of trust can limit the effectiveness of the program. Rather than letting drivers proceed through the content at their own pace, non-trusting fleets often implement what's known as "navigation lockdown", forcing drivers to listen to all the narration and click every link before moving on. That removes another benefit of online learning (flexibility to customize the learning path), minimizing the effectiveness and irritating them when they have to sit through things they don't really need. It also sends a clear message that the company has no faith in their ability to self-regulate.

Those things can be irritants that hamper the program, but it's the long term effect of that lack of trust that's most damaging. If the company demonstrates a lack of trust in their training programs, they're likely demonstrating it elsewhere as well and sending a clear, consistent message that it doesn't trust its workers. Good people don't stick around a company that treats them like children instead of trusting them to do their jobs. The people who do stick around will see their performance drop over time - inspections, paperwork, customer service, and various other aspects of the job will diminish as they feel less and less valued.

Good people leave and those who stay underperform. Not exactly a recipe for success.

A Better Approach

However, there is a more effective and positive way to approach the situation, creating a much better outcome over time.

Going back to the question at the top and how you know people did the training: the honest answer is that you don't know for sure who did the training. However, if you implement it the right way, that won't be a problem.

Implementing it the right way is critical, but fortunately it's also not that hard.

First, the training needs to be positioned properly, so drivers see it as an investment in their future and a way to help them do their jobs better. Not "corrective action" (I phrase I absolutely HATE) and not anything else that suggests it's a chore or punishment. If it's an investment in them, then they're more likely to get on board. I've posted many articles on that over the years so I won't go into the details here, but make it a positive and they'll be interested.

Second, it needs to be scheduled in such a way that it doesn't add to their stress. This builds on some points in the previous column, but if too much is assigned with too short a deadline, it doesn't work. Heavy assignments give them one more thing to worry about finishing, as well as taking away their opportunity to think about the content and consider how to integrate it into their work. Lighten the load, extend the schedule, and better results will come.

Third, follow-up after they complete it and discuss it with them. That discussion gives them a chance to interact with the content in a different way (talking about it) so it helps ingrain the material and make it part of their normal workflow. It also offers an easy opportunity to confirm that they actually did complete it themselves (it usually takes less than 2 minutes before it's clear that someone's faking it or lying about what they did).

To be clear, I'm not suggesting fleets should blindly trust their drivers and leave it at that. "Trust but verify" definitely applies, so it's important to find ways to prevent cheating while also minimizing the intrusions or babysitting for the honest people. The steps above do that - positioning it as something that's valuable for them, giving them ample time to embrace and complete it, and discussing it afterwards to (gently) confirm they did it.

For the most part, drivers have to be honest people that are trusted to do a job. They're given an expensive truck filled with very expensive or very dangerous cargo and tasked with driving across the city or across the country, dealing with unknowns all along the way. If that's the foundation of the relationship, and online training is rolled out in a way that reflects that trust, then there are rarely issues with people cheating.