At the recent Government Fleet Expo and Conference (GFX), I was able to speak to a few technicians and shop supervisors attending for the first time. What I repeatedly heard was that the conference opened their eyes to the bigger picture of fleet management.
It allows them to come back to their jobs with a better idea of the overall goal of fleet, and they’ll be more prepared when they move up within the organization.
But the problem is the high number of baby boomers retiring and those ready to step up don’t correspond, leaving some waiting for years for their turn to lead (and leaving other fleets leaderless after a retirement).
Make That ‘Waiting’ Time Count
Within the public sector, it’s common that employees — including fleet managers — stay where they are until retirement. That makes it difficult for those ambitious folks to rise within the organization, especially if they’re already higher up within the department.
Some stay at their organizations and step into the lead role when the time (finally) comes. Others apply for positions at other fleets. Whatever path they take, this “waiting” period is an excellent time for learning.
Maybe it’s getting a fleet certification, or supervisory training. Or it’s participating in or taking on a leadership role in a fleet association. For technicians, perhaps it’s acquiring more knowledge about alternative fuels or obtaining ASE Master certification.
Getting training at the current fleet makes these employees more ready when an opening is available for the job they want.
Fleet managers can improve employee retention and morale for those who are seeking to move up by providing opportunities for advancement and more challenging responsibilities, even if these will eventually make it easier for those employees to leave.
This could mean creating additional “stepping stones” for career advancement, as some fleets have done. It could mean adding professional certification classes and testing to the budget, and maybe incentive pay for acquiring those certifications. It could mean sending analysts and shop leads to fleet conferences so they can learn about the latest trends and technologies, and come back with their own ideas. It can also come in the form of leadership in projects that this person has shown interest in, such as overseeing the implementation of a technology or working with others to craft and implement a new policy.
These are all great things to add to a resume, and they’re also morale-boosting. Having an employee who is motivated about his or her work for a period of time is better than having someone who is bored and obviously ready to move on.
When the Time Comes
I spoke to a young technician at GFX who had been eager to learn and excited about the new ideas and possibilities he’d seen at the conference. Shortly after, he left the department for a promotion at another fleet.
While this may seem like a loss for the fleet, it might not be. Here’s why:
A fleet manager I saw at GFX had been ready to move into the fleet lead role, but while waiting, another opportunity arose and he left to take it. A few years later, he came back to fill the now-vacant lead position, having learned additional skills from his new supervisor while he was away.
And keep in mind that even if an employee’s departure is a loss to your fleet, it’s not a loss to the industry.
How are you creating steps for advancement for your employees?