By Mike Antich

When people think of fleet management, they typically associate it with asset management. However, a critical component to fleet management is people management. The reality is the majority of a fleet manager's time often is spent dealing with personnel and interdepartmental issues. How you deal with these issues influences shop morale, user department relationships, and management's opinion of your effectiveness as fleet manager. 

Successful people management equates to successful fleet management. This translates into higher technician productivity, improved operational efficiencies, and improved customer service.

I am in daily contact with fleet managers around the country and based on these conversations, I identified six characteristics in people management employed by the best of these fleet managers.

1. Become a Role Model: Successful people management means you, yourself, must serve as an example of excellence. Become a role model by showcasing how work should be done by demonstrating confidence, a positive attitude, and employing initiative during trying circumstances. By maintaining a high standard of personal performance, you encourage a similar high standard from all associates. An effective fleet manager ensures all employees perform to the best of their abilities and are given opportunities to improve their skill sets, and can do the job right the first time. In addition, a role model also means standing behind promises and following through on commitments to staff, user departments, and management.

2. Fairness. Managing a staff is very much like being the head of a family. You need to treat everyone equally and not show favoritism. One way to do so is to ensure all shop rules are applied equally. It is important to be impartial when enforcing fleet policy and shop rules. Fairness also means acknowledging when someone does a good job. Never take credit for other people's work. However, fairness also means providing constructive criticism when needed. Maintaining a "feel good" environment is sometimes counter-productive. Strive to develop a management style that is fair, firm, and consistent.

3. Become a Good Listener. Encourage your staff to feel free to express ideas and concerns to you. As one fleet manager told me, you need to listen to not only what they say, but also what they do not say. Encourage constructive feedback. Adopt an open-door policy and let your staff know their comments will be held in confidence. Strive to create an image of yourself as someone who is trustworthy.

4. Encourage Self-Growth. Develop programs that incentivize associates to advance their skill sets by striving for ASE-certification and taking advantage of training opportunities. Let your associates know you are receptive to new ideas to improve fleet operations. Encourage creativity and innovation.

5. Problem Resolution. When issues emerge on the shop floor, your focus should be finding solutions, not assigning blame.  If it is necessary to criticize, do so in private. The best way to resolve problems is to prevent them from happening in the first place. You may think everyone understands the goals of the department; however, it is important not to take this for granted. It is crucial to continually re-communicate the goals of the department. These goals need to be well defined and clearly stated.

6. Cultivate Customer Service. A best-in-class fleet operation has excellent interdepartmental relationships. It is important to remember that without user departments there would be no need for fleet operations. An effective fleet manager listens to user departments. You need to know your customers' objectives. It is important to regularly survey customers to determine their needs, wants, and expectations of fleet operations. If you are not meeting these needs and expectations, then you've failed as a fleet operation. It is important for fleet operations to be cost-efficient and to temper unwarranted user department demands, but an unhappy customer represents a deficiency in your department's performance. If user department problems are identified, seek to resolve them in a timely manner. During a privatization initiative, user departments can be powerful allies.


Text Book vs. Reality

All of the above advice is good, but shop reality is usually more complex with many more variables not easily resolved. The reality is some employees are "bad hires" or "malcontents" and all the advice in the world will not change their negative attitudes or subpar performance. In these situations, annual evaluations should accurately reflect an employee's performance. When dealing with problem employees, follow your organization's progressive discipline policies. If this fails to get them to clean up their act, then issue a "last and final" letter.

People management is harder than asset management.

Let me know what you think.


Mike Antich
Mike Antich

Editor and Associate Publisher

Mike Antich has covered fleet management and remarketing for more than 20 years and was inducted in the Fleet Hall of Fame in 2010.

View Bio

Mike Antich has covered fleet management and remarketing for more than 20 years and was inducted in the Fleet Hall of Fame in 2010.

View Bio