Driver coaching is the foundation of any top-tier performance management program. Here are four aspects of successful driver coaching.
Mark Schedler - Sr. DOT Editor - J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc.
December 17 , 2021
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The continual coaching and correction of unsafe behavior, particularly from driver-specific dash cam video footage, minimizes the potential for negligent supervision and maximizes your return on investment in proactive safety systems. Coaching is the foundation of any top-tier performance management program — no matter what size fleet you have.
A driver coach’s purpose is more than highlighting performance or skill gaps. A coach's primary responsibility is to motivate a driver to become more safe and productive. A coach should also be able to make tough disciplinary decisions.
There are four aspects of driver coaching that are essential for success:
Limit coach selection to a select group of individuals who can be objective and have the right skills. If the number of coaches gets too large, the quality and consistency of feedback may suffer. Note that a coaching mentality sustains behavioral and cultural change when it’s ongoing and relies on rapport-building skills. Conversely, a “gotcha” mentality won’t be well-received by drivers and does not encourage improvement.
Don’t underestimate the importance of developing coaches or assume certain people do not need training just because they seem like natural coaches. You may find that a few of your star leaders are not great coaches and may be surprised by others who demonstrate a knack for building rapport and getting drivers to take accountability — without putting them on the defensive. Remember, the tone of coaching sessions will be shared among drivers quickly. One poorly executed session can create a negative ripple effect.
Don’t leave the coaches out of the measurement process. A little healthy competition between coaches can add motivation to do well. Give ongoing feedback to keep your coaches sharp and consider incorporating relevant metrics. Possible metrics include:
Regardless, you should see visible evidence of a coach’s commitment to improving their ability to affect change in others.
Driver performance monitoring with cameras can create a mindset for some drivers that “big brother is watching.” You must overcome that belief to be successful.
Drivers should care about the feedback coaches provide, in the same way that an athlete who receives feedback on their on-field performance. Video clips are like game film, and telematics data are the driver’s game statistics. Helping the driver become a better performer ensures employability and compensation for them and improves your bottom line.
Coaching sessions must be timely, conducted in private, and provide a safe environment for drivers to share their feedback. How coaches prepare for the meetings, approach the drivers, and gain commitment to behavior change is equally important. Below are the five stages of a successful coaching session:
End the session on a positive note by thanking the driver and letting him or her know that you are available anytime and that they are a valuable member of the safety team.
You do not want to keep corrective action information beyond your document retention policy for disciplinary documents. If you put a driver on a 90-day action plan based on following-too-close events and the driver has avoided following-too-close events for 90 days, follow your company document retention and corrective action policies. If your policy states, “keep everything for employment plus three years,” then adhere to that.
If you have the policy to destroy disciplinary documents one year after the behavior is corrected, that is what you should consistently do for every driver. However, never destroy or try to conceal any information once a major accident has occurred, as you could easily be found to have engaged in “spoliation” or destruction of evidence.
To learn more about how to leverage dash cams and data effectively, download a copy of J. J. Keller’s The Fleet Manager’s Playbook — Using Driver Data for a Safe and Productive Fleet. This 38-page guide will help you develop critical dash cam program elements and best practices to mitigate risk, create effective policies and procedures, assist in evaluating and choosing metrics, and how to use data to incentivize and recognize drivers.
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