My favorite productivity analogy is this - Managing Driver Productivity is like Maintaining a Truck - and the following discussion explains why this analogy is so appropriate.
Truck manufacturers publish, and fleet operating companies establish, preventative maintenance (PM) programs that assure optimal equipment performance. Each component of a truck (engine, drivetrain, fuel system, etc...) has specific maintenance activities and schedules required to keep it running at peak efficiency.
Getting optimal performance out of a driver group requires the same type of regiment. Peak efficiently will only come with an established Performance Management (also PM) Program for drivers.
Like a Fleet PM Program, a Driver PM Program has components that require specific activities and schedules. These components are: Measuring Performance, Goal Setting, Driver Performance Reviews and Obstacle Removal.
Measuring Performance is the obvious first step towards establishing a Driver PM Program however a surprisingly large number of fleet operating companies do not measure their drivers' performance. Frequently the reason cited is that the type of work performed does not lend itself to meaningful productivity measurement.
That simply isn't true - all driver performance can be measured. If the nature of your operation doesn't allow for use of traditional measurements (miles driven, total hours worked, loads/tons delivered, etc...) there are alternatives such as a 'Work Unit' measurement where units of work are converted to productive hours.
A Work Unit conversion example is as follows: Loading = 1.5 hours, Driving = 1.0 hours per every 48 miles and Unloading = 0.75 hours. Multiplying each work unit by the number of times it was performed and then adding those totals together provides a very effective measure of a day's productivity.
The bottom line is that driver productivity must be measured. I can't think of one company that doesn't measure fleet performance in multiple ways - mpg, miles per month, cost per mile, etc... Why would a company not want to have the same insight to driver performance?
Goal Setting is the process of analyzing driver performance to baseline, define and communicate company expectations about productivity. Done properly, it is a continual process of raising the bar.
One approach to goal setting is to rank and layer driver performance into 3 sections. Drivers in the top 25% are congratulated as their averaged performance is used to define expectations - the targeted productivity level. The middle 60% are challenged to elevate performance to the targeted level while the bottom 15% are coached for immediate improvement and, where necessary, placed on improvement plans.
As performance improves, the layers are recalculated and the bar is once again raised.
Just as trucks are brought in for PMs at defined intervals; drivers must be brought in on a scheduled basis for a Driver Review. Each driver's individual performance ranking will determine the frequency and tone of the review (congratulate, challenge, improvement plan).
Driver Performance Reviews should be structured as a forum for mutual learning. The review should encourage drivers to educate management on how the company can help them improve performance. Possible topics include dispatch hours, reoccurring customer delays, improved routing suggestions, frequent reshops or restrictive shop hours.
Conversely, management should educate each driver on performance improvement opportunities by reviewing individual hours worked, starting times, absenteeism, excessive loading times and other obstacles to productivity.
Removing Obstacles is the final component of our Driver PM Program. This is where management is directly accountable for driver productivity. Suggestions and obstacle concerns provided by drivers during their reviews must be acted upon quickly and effectively.
Like the Fleet PM Program, the Driver PM Program must be highly structured so that all activities are defined and performed on schedule. Unfortunately many companies don't develop highly structured Driver PM Programs because they don't truly understand the value of bringing a Fleet PM focus to Driver Productivity.
To help understand that value, think about what happens when a truck breaks down. The first thing the shop wants to know is: "What component failed?" Following component identification is the research: "When was this component last maintained?" "Can we modify our PMs to reduce the failure rate of this component in the future?"
Now think about taking the same approach with your Driver PM Program. Imagine how much driver productivity would improve if you asked similar questions every time there was a breakdown in a driver's weekly performance. "What component of our Driver PM Program failed for this driver?" "Why did they fail?" "What activities should we modify to reduce their failure rate?"
Fleet PM Programs have more structure and therefore are more effective than most Driver PM Programs. Manufacturer defined maintenance activities, in-house technicians and repair costs that are easily quantifiable have helped maintenance procedures evolve into the regimented processes we use today.
A Driver PM Program requires companies to define their own activities and schedules while employing the use of 'soft' skills and hard-to-quantify costs.
Managing Driver Productivity is like Maintaining a Truck. The analogy is accurate in that both require defined activities and schedules to insure optimal performance.
Unlike Fleet PM Programs however, the Driver PM Program is usually less evolved and therefore requires significant company effort to develop the needed activities and schedules. That's both good and bad.
Good because with serious effort a committed company will benefit significantly from improved Driver Productivity. Imagine what a 2-5% improvement in driver productivity would mean in terms of cost savings and revenue generation to your company.
Bad because too many companies simply don't have the commitment to expend the effort required for a successful Driver PM Program.