Soft skills: Building better relationships between fleet managers and drivers
Go digital, by all means. Automate, delegate; sure. But fleet and mobility managers should not forget about the so-called soft skills. Because when it comes down to it, maintaining a genuine, warm and productive relationship with drivers is the actual heart of their job. Especially at a time when the fleet and mobility industry is experiencing such massive change.
Increasingly, companies are in a “war for talent” with each other, and fleet and mobility managers are on the frontline. For corporates, mobility is an instrument of choice to recruit and retain valuable staff. Call it ‘mobility-as-a-benefit’: access to a company car when and where appropriate, and to a range of mobility services, where this is most efficient, or when it is most desired.
If anything, this complex, multifaceted new reality requires an even more employee-centric approach than before. As a fleet and mobility manager, you need to develop a policy that everyone can ‘buy into’. Especially considering the environmental aspect, with the ultimate goal of zero-emission mobility actively desired by some drivers, but perhaps also at least passively resisted by others.
There’s a danger that corporate mobility, if explicitly treated as a retention tool, may in some cases turn into its opposite: a factor for a number of potential (or current) employees to choose another employment option. The right policy, structured to offer options rather than impose restrictions, may help prevent that.
But all too often, we think technology will solve all problems. The key element is not to offer the newest and widest range of gadgets, but to build a good relationship between fleet manager and the employees entitled to a company car, a mobility package, or both. The quality of that relationship is determined by three factors: communication, relationships, and investment.
A good relationship between the fleet and mobility manager and the employee entitled to his support rests on good communication. And by ‘good’, we mean frequent, transparent, and honest. Ideally, it starts with a face-to-face meeting, and it doesn’t decline into a mere relationship via email. Mass messaging may be efficient in most casees, but building trust, assessing character, and getting a sense of expectations are best done in personal meetings.
Developing a personal relationship with employees should be central, not incidental to the job of a fleet and mobility manager. It helps if the employee-to-manager ratio is not too high. If it gets to be 100-to-1, it becomes pretty difficult to be personal as well as professional. With smaller groups, it’s easier to conduct regular (say, monthly) meetings with employees.
Also important: be available. If employees travel for work outside of regular office hours, they should be able to contact someone in case of emergency. Ultimately, the employee should feel the fleet and mobility manager is their ‘advocate’ within the company: not a chatbot, but a live person who understands their needs and concerns and who can translate those to the upper echelons. That said, it's also beneficial for both parties to have available to drivers (through an app or collaborative working cloud platform) an FAQ containing answers and directions for the most frequency asked questions (such as what to do in the case of a cracked or shattered windscreen, flat tyre, breakdown or cancelled transport, for example) so that the fleet or mobility manager doesn't have to field phone calls in which s/he ends up repeating themselve over and over. Systems are the name of the game here and it's important to ensures the address the needs of all parties.
It’s frequently said and it’s often true that fleet and mobility expenses are a company’s second-most important expense, after the cost of personnel. Here too, the adage is: “Pay peanuts, get monkeys”. As per the importance of corporate mobility to attract and retain high-quality staff, fleet and mobility managers must secure sufficient investment in their field. It’s an argument that cuts both ways. The right tools – from BEVs to mobility budgets – attract talented people, and they help position the company for a future in which corporate mobility will only become more complex, greener, and more employee-centred.
Yes, the future will be more digital. But fleet and mobility managers will also need to sharpen their people skills as well.