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Getting a return on training

What happens if you spend money training your staff and they leave?

Then again, what happens if you don’t train anyone … and they stay?

With a shortage of staff and trainers across the transport industry, training plans are under pressure with little spare capacity to get people on to training – or people to deliver it.

It’s a cost that many businesses are trying to do without, but the kicker is investing in your staff can substantially improve retention. Not to mention the productivity and safety benefits of having a well-trained and highly skilled team.

Which begs the question: how can you quantify a training program’s value or return on investment (ROI)?

Avoiding expensive incidents is one way. Even a relatively simple insurance claim can result in business disruption, costs and reputational harm. Suppose your training program can help a business eliminate or avoid even one major incident. In that case, it has most likely paid for itself. But there are other ways to measure training’s ROI.

Easter Group has implemented a comprehensive training program for the business. Safety Assurance Officer Karlie Easter says that data is the key.

“You need to be specific when it comes to numbers. It’s really tough to have that conversation around your value when you’re compliance-based.

“I look at our figures for one month and compare them to the previous 12 months to see how we’re tracking. Then we talk in our management meetings about what we’re going to do.

“A lot of that revolves around training.”

Why train?

Some transport businesses see training as someone else’s responsibility. And while drivers certainly should have the correct licences for your fleet, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Karlie says many situations call for training. These include onboarding, legislative requirements, competence assessments, individual career goals, and even customer needs such as site and cargo handling requirements.

In addition to an extensive, two-day onboarding training program for new employees, Easter Group also uses toolbox talks and toolbox emails to get important messages out. Drivers are issued with tablets that include their manuals and other training information.

“We also have weekly toolbox emails,” Karlie says. “We don’t have physical toolbox talks with drivers; we just can’t get them all here.”

Even though some drivers grumble about getting emails, they’ve proved invaluable.

“A good example is COVID. We send out emails about COVID requirements nationally and at customer sites,” she says.

Karlie estimates that around half of the drivers she deals with are interested in their careers and want to learn more. They value the opportunities Easter Group provides and are eager to learn new skills and even obtain nationally recognised qualifications. These include the Certificate III in Driving Operations, reflecting the professional nature of the driving job they are already performing each day.

But even those who are content with their careers and skills need training. Regular updates to keep your team informed about new developments and requirements, such as changes at a familiar site, new roadworks or changed road rules, are essential.

Using a careful mix of in-house and third-party trainers can help here; buddy systems and mentors can overcome some drivers’ reluctance. For some, a more formal, structured session with an outside trainer can underline the information’s importance.

Training is all about value

Karlie says one of training’s least-appreciated benefits is the way it can boost a company’s reputation. Once customers know you’re investing in your staff, they’ll appreciate that you’ll be able to take better care of their loads.

And once drivers – especially young drivers or industry newcomers – know you’ll invest in their skills, you’ll find it easier to attract and retain good staff.

There are other benefits. More skilled staff should mean fewer incidents on the road, more efficient operations and better use of internal resources. Productivity should improve as processes are followed correctly. There’ll be less re-working; management will be able to devote more time to value-adding strategic tasks and projects; and maintenance costs will be reduced. 

Karlie likes to break her data down to report on every critical business rule or regulatory requirement. Then she can chart the trends and (ideally) demonstrate progress with fewer alerts, infringements or costs.

“The data is self-explanatory,” she says, “because we look at the last 12 months, and we can see where we need to focus.”

As a side note, Karlie says it’s essential to share good trend data with the rest of the business.

“We make the conscious decision that sometimes in our weekly toolboxes, we report on positive trends. They can be so used to hearing negatives that we make it positive when we can.”

Data equals ROI

“Now that our reporting is trend-focused, we can track our performance. We monitor trends at an individual level and then at an organisational level,” Karlie says.

“I present on how we’re trending for mass fatigue, speed and vehicle standards, so maintenance, and making sure that those trends are heading in the right directions.”

It’s a simple way to show progress. When costs are trending down and performance indicators are trending up, there’ll be no doubt that your training programs are delivering a strong ROI.

  1. This article has been developed as part of NTI’s The Business of Safety series with the aim of helping transport and logistics businesses become safer and more sustainable. The Business of Safety is funded by the NHVR’s Heavy Vehicle Safety Initiative, supported by the Australian Government. Information in this document is a guide only. It does not take into account your personal or business circumstances. Whilst all due care has been taken, you must not rely on the information as an alternative to legal, legislated regulatory and compliance requirements associated with your business activities. NTI.M002.15.01082021

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