|At a Glance|
At the Edmonton, Alberta, Fleet Services branch, workplace benefits include:
Comprised of 4,742 units, the City of Edmonton’s Fleet Services Branch in Alberta is the largest integrated municipal fleet operation in Canada, according to the branch. With 15 maintenance facilities, it serves 34 departments/branches, working to ensure all units are well maintained, equipped, safe, and available for use on a daily basis.
Earning Impressive Accomplishments
While the fleet’s size and scope is one thing, there are a number of other reasons it has earned a spot among the Top 20 of North America’s 100 Best Fleets in 2012. Over the last few years, the fleet has made major transformations — and has achieved numerous accomplishments as a result of its efforts.
To name a few, the fleet has:
● Achieved environmental stewardship and 100% environmental regulatory compliance.
● Worked with clients to reduce City rental fleet expenditures by $1.38 million.
● Implemented a fleet management information system (FMIS) with an initial investment of $7.5 million.
● Improved the time it takes to perform bus mechanical and body midlife refurbishments by 19%.
● Reduced overtime by 39% over 2011.
● Improved heavy truck fleet downtime by 29% through redesign of shifts and production line management to increase client fleet availability.
While Edmonton’s Fleet Services Branch has much to be proud of, its focus on employees and workplace culture may be the branch’s most significant achievement to date.
Transforming the Workplace
Without the people who make up Fleet Services, the branch could never achieve so many milestones. “Our staff of 723 are very knowledgeable, proficient, and proud of the work they do,” Branch Manager Steve Rapanos said. “They develop innovative solutions to complex mechanical, fabrication, and engineering challenges.” Branch personnel, divided into six sections, are the City’s experts in all things fleet-related, such as procurement, maintenance and repair, engineering, fuel management, safety, and administration.
With the level of value Fleet Services staff provides, the City has made a conscious investment in developing, training, and protecting its people. The fleet makes it a point to consistently recognize staff for length of service, educational achievements, commitment to safety, innovation, and leadership in service. It also offers leadership training for supervisors and foremen to promote professional growth, while helping the leadership team create action plans for accomplishing goals.
In 2012, the branch is on track to complete 18,128 personnel hours in fleet-related technical, safety, and operational training to maintain and upgrade staff technical skills. “Training is key to a diverse fleet services operation like ours. Employees need the best knowledge and resources available to be productive and successful in their work while maintaining such a diverse fleet,” Rapanos explained. “Our clients are also attracted to having the newest units and technologies, so we have to keep up with the latest maintenance techniques.”
Safety is a top priority at the City. Fleet Services provides user departments with proactive and preventive fleet safety programs, with the goal of increasing safety for all City drivers, and offers workplace safety training for all branch employees. “Our branch has reduced lost-time frequency by 18% and lost-time severity by 83% through training with an emphasis on the proper procedures while on the job and what to do in the event of an injury,” Rapanos said.
Measuring Workplace Culture
Although the fleet is clearly seeing progress in its efforts to improve conditions for its staff, the branch seeks ways to provide evidence of the cultural shifts in the organization.
Every two years, the City administers an Employee Engagement and Diversity Survey. “It’s an opportunity for all employees to identify our strengths and weaknesses as a workplace,” Rapanos said. “It’s also one of the most important ways in which we learn how to improve — both as a place to work and as an organization that is building on its vision to be vibrant, inclusive, and innovative.”
Since 2008, Fleet Services has also conducted two organizational culture surveys to better assess leadership performance; shop supervisors and foremen are included in the survey. “The survey explores our current culture. When comparing the 2008 results to those in 2011, we had improved in 11 of 12 dimensions, showing we are closer to our desired culture,” Rapanos said.
Fleet Services has made several improvements as a result of these surveys. For one, it has placed more emphasis on improving communication through regular staff meetings, monthly employee newsletters, and town halls. New in 2011, the branch started hosting quarterly Fleet Services leadership sessions with more than 100 shop foremen, controllers, supervisors, and directors that focus on professional development and management skills. The meetings have increased communications within garages and management and have received positive feedback from participants. In addition to daily client communications, Fleet Services encourages two-way communications through informal conversations, a client forum, a quarterly client newsletter, and through an annual client survey.
“When we first embarked on our transformation program, it was clear we needed to act more as a client-focused and accountable organization,” Rapanos said. “That meant a change in the way we do business, and we needed to equip our leadership with new skills to lead employees through that change. We also included a tier of people in supervisory roles (foremen and controllers) directly in the management conversation instead of relying on garage supervisors to cascade information.”
And finally, Edmonton’s Fleet Services Branch created employee engagement committees, both at the local shop level and at the branch level. These committees meet regularly to address and share employee concerns and successes in the workplace and have an opportunity to interact monthly with senior management. “Improving workplace culture isn’t just a one and done fix. To create a culture of leadership, you have to continually measure, make new goals, and work toward them,” Rapanos said.
The Transformation Continues
The City’s strategic focus for 2013 reflects its continued commitment to a positive, high-performing culture. In the coming year, the fleet plans to:
● Increase employee engagement.
● Create and execute strategies to improve customer service.
● Leverage information technology to increase efficiency and effectiveness.
● Improve communication internally and externally.
● Optimize apprenticeship training.
● Advance Fleet Services as a leading best practice fleet maintenance provider.
With a clear agenda for the year to come, the City of Edmonton’s Fleet Services Branch is set to further its evolution and likely continue its history of achievement. Of course, in Rapanos’ words, the work is never done.
Steve Rapanos, branch manager, City of Edmonton Fleet Services Branch, Alberta, Canada.