Last week we posted 5 Keys to Triangulating Your Fleet’s Position during the Covid-19 Crisis. We offered advice based on our read of the trending topics and prevailing wisdom related to the challenges that the trucking industry is facing due to the pandemic and the resulting financial crisis. We suggested that Human Resources, Critical Assets, and Business Relationships are areas to focus on to restore a solid foundation for your fleet and that doing so will help guide decisions about longer-term decisions related to capacity and capital.
This post will take a closer look at how Human Resources Departments in the trucking industry face unique challenges and offer tips for bringing together the best practices identified by Human Resources thought leaders with the day-to-day operations of a fleet. Taking care of your team during difficult times is vital to making sure that your business is ready to respond to challenges and seize opportunities. More importantly, it’s a chance to show your team how much you value their contributions and care about them and their families.
Our series on the Covid-19 Crisis will go on to examine ways to optimize fleet maintenance in the midst of these disruptions and opportunities to establish and strengthen important relationships with service providers, industry groups, and customers. Watch this space for more tips on maintaining a solid foundation for your fleet and please feel free to share information we’ve overlooked or questions that you have.
We’re all in this together and we’ll get through this together!
Keys to Leading Your Fleet Through COVID-19: Human Resources
For small- and mid-sized fleets in the trucking industry, this is an unprecedented situation. While many businesses are shut down due to social distancing requirements and others have moved to 100% work-from-home operations, transportation, and logistics companies are being called upon to keep shelves stocked and essential goods and materials flowing.
Whether your fleet is small enough to allow you to manage human resources as one of the many hats that you wear or large enough to require a dedicated Human Resources Manager or even a full Human Resources department, your team is probably feeling the strain. The crisis has disrupted business as usual and each day brings new information about the virus and the economy. Employees need to know how to stay healthy and what they can do to protect their finances.
Reliable information and clear communication are the keys to keeping your team working as a team through the upheaval. The HR function of your fleet should focus on making sure that everyone has access to the kinds of quality information that will combat rumors that circulate, the fears that inevitably follow, and the regrettable decisions and actions that can result from fear.
What can your Human Resources professionals do for your fleet during this crisis? They can serve as the source of good information that supplies answers to all of the questions that your administrative staff, maintenance staff, and drivers have about what they should do and how they’re supposed to do it. Human Resources efforts should focus on communicating:
5 Keys to Managing Your Fleet’s Human Resources Right Now
We recommend that you think of your fleet’s Human Resources professionals as the central resource for information about how you are navigating the crisis. Your team will need to know what parts of the normal routine are changing and which parts are staying the same. That might include new policies, procedures, or workflow processes. It might include new ways to communicate internally and new external relationships.
At the same time, it is important to recognize that your HR team cannot be expected to step into the role of COVID-19 expert or financial advisor. The goal should be to make sure employees know how to use the tools that you have already put in place, such as health care plans and retirement plans. That alone will put a heavy burden on your HR staff. Asking more of them is an unreasonable demand that will likely lead to trouble. Let medical experts be medical experts and leave the politics to the politicians. Keep things focused on your team, your network, and your customers.
There are two sides to the information coin and your Human Resources team needs to treat each of them with equal importance. On the one hand, your team needs to gather information about the way that the crisis has impacted specific elements of the organization. At the same time, they need to communicate that information in ways that proactively inoculate your team from rumors and misinformation and effectively respond to problems when they come up.
The HR Examiner has put together a helpful checklist that your HR staff can use to work through the process of gathering information. It includes items that will help them identify areas where new policies are needed or existing policies need to be updated. It also includes items that will help develop a plan for communicating effectively with the entire team.
Laurie Reuttimann has put together a brief vlog on HR In a Time of Coronavirus that offers additional pointers on how to be the source of good information amidst the challenges of the present moment. She argues for:
- Transparency – Protect your status as the source of reliable information—even if this means admitting that you don’t know the answer.
- Expertise – Recognize that you are the expert on your company’s policies and procedures but remember that there are areas where you are better off deferring to subject matter experts.
- Empathy – Prioritize humanity over policy and respond to challenges with the goal of taking care of the team rather than reigning in the troublemakers.
- Temperance – Realize that sometimes you have to go slow to go fast. Use common sense and do research when it is needed. Be expeditious but don’t allow yourself to become rushed.
As it was with information, so it is with guidance. There are at least two ways that your Human Resources team can and should think about guidance in relation to navigating the challenges of the Covid-19 crisis. First, they need to think of themselves as guides who can direct the rest of the team to the information, tools, and resources that they need. A second way that your HR team needs to think about guidance relates to the need to identify reliable sources of information and monitor them for relevant updates.
Your team will have questions about the tools and resources that you’ve made available to them in the areas of healthcare and finances. During normal times, many of your employees left these tools out of sight and out of mind because they weren’t needed. Your HR team should be prepared to assist the rest of the team by guiding them through questions related to:
- Sick Leave & PTO
- 401Ks and Other Retirement and Savings Plans
- State and Federal Financial Assistance Resources
- Mental Health Resources Available for Them or Their Families
If we hope to keep politics out of our internal processes, as we should, then we need to find better sources of information about the virus and the economy than the nightly news. That’s why your HR team should be monitoring reliable sources of information and sharing those resources with the rest of the team so that they have access as well. We recommend starting with:
As we stated earlier, this is an unprecedented situation. That means that we’ve had to make some changes to the way that we do things to ensure that our team stays safe and that we protect our customers and other people as we do our jobs. As we implement temporary policies and procedures that we need to have in place to accomplish these goals or make changes to existing policies, it is important that we communicate those changes in ways that clarify our expectations.
One way Human Resources can stay ahead of the curve on communications that clarify is to seize the opportunity that exists in every question that we answer for our team members. Recognize that they are probably not the only one with that question but rather the only one who took the initiative to ask.
If we let that employee answer questions for other team members, we risk leaving important information exposed to the “telephone game” effect. But if we write up a response to each question we receive and post that information in a way that makes it accessible to everyone then we ensure that the whole team has access to information that is straight from the source.
One of the unique challenges that the Covid-19 crisis presents to the trucking industry is the tension between needing to keep people who are sick isolated from everyone else at the same time that we need “all hands on deck” to respond to growing and shifting demands from our customers. One way to take a proactive approach to the possibility of losing key team members to illness is to cross-train employees. Human Resources should be the engine that drives these efforts as this is particularly relevant to management and record-keeping functions.
If the members of your administrative and support staff are cross-trained, you’ll be prepared in the event that someone becomes ill with Covid-19 and has to step away from their responsibilities for days or even weeks. Your fleet’s maintenance staff should understand the parts of the process that other people handle and be prepared to step in when needed to ensure continuity in your maintenance and repair routines.
One area where cross-training probably won’t help your fleet ensure continuity is drivers. They are the most important members of the team when it comes time to actually execute the jobs that we are hired to do. That means that they are also the members of our team that are most at risk in the current situation. There is no way to get the job done and err on the side of caution with regard to protecting them from infection.
That means that we need to have solid policies in place that give them the information and supplies that they need to protect themselves while they are out on the road. It also means that we need to be prepared to assist them if they should fall ill while hauling a load.
To ensure that our fleets have enough drivers we will need to get better at handling the hiring and onboarding processes remotely. HR Dive has published some helpful Tips for onboarding new hires remotely during COVID-19 pandemic. We think they will help your Human Resources Department adapt to the challenges of the present.
We WILL Get Through This Together
FleetPal is proud to be part of an industry that is doing so much to make sure that everyone has what they need to ride out the storm. We’ve been inspired by the sacrifices that drivers, maintenance technicians, support staff, and service providers are making to take care of one another as we do the jobs that people rely on us to do. We promise to share information, advice, and insights that will help you take care of your team here and we invite you to use this space to share information you have or request information you need.
We want to do everything that we can to support the industry in a time of tremendous need. That’s why we’re offering a free trial subscription of FleetPal Connect to anyone in the industry until the crisis has passed. Become a Vendor in our network of service providers or contact us to request access to the cloud-based software and mobile app for your fleet. We’re here to help.