Effective Communication for a Safer Workforce

Originally published in Fleet Management Weekly 05/03/2022

By Ed Dubens, CEO/Founder of eDriving, a Solera company

“The effectiveness of communication is not defined by the communication, but by the response,” is a quote attributed to Milton Erickson, a late American psychiatrist and psychologist.

Why is this relevant? Because it perfectly describes what happens if fleet operators don’t communicate effectively, they don’t get the response or results they want.

Effective communication is one of the key elements of a successful driver safety program. But what constitutes effective communication?

At eDriving we’ve stressed the importance of a company-wide safety culture (or crash-free culture, as we like to call it) for many years. It really needs to be at the core of any program. A crash-free culture aligns the company AND the frontline manager AND the driver with the goal of eliminating as many crashes as humanly possible. Always remember, the ultimate goal is to get the driver home safely at the end of the day. A crash-free culture doesn’t happen overnight, and it does require ongoing effort. Effective communication is a key part of this to ensure that everyone in the organization lives and breathes safety.

Every company is likely to have different preferences as to how they communicate with employees, but here are ten techniques that eDriving clients have found useful over the years:

  1. Communicate safety guidance formally through policies and procedures. This may seem obvious but making sure everyone is clear about what’s expected of them, and potential consequences of failing to meet expectations, is important.
  2. Regularly provide the latest best practice advice. This might include sharing resources such as driver best practice guides and information sheets on safe driving topics, such as backing up, distraction, speeding, attitude, and so on. eDriving is happy to share its resource library of guides, eBooks, white papers, infographics, recorded webinars, and more.
  3. Send tips before holidays and key events. Crashes tend to increase around major holidays, such as Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Sending short emails or bulletins before holidays, national events, and seasonal changes can help to keep drivers safe both inside and outside of working days/hours.
  4. Incorporate informal safety communication/gamification into your driver safety program. This can encourage friendly competition between employees, as well as informal opportunities for discussion between managers.
  5. Remember to reward safe driving behavior. This might be an automatic process in your driver safety program, such as through the use of “points” or “badges” that can be exchanged for vouchers/discounts. Some companies name a “safe driver of the month” or hold an annual awards ceremony to recognize the safest drivers over the year.
  6. Include employees who don’t necessarily drive for work – they want to get home safely too! Often, driver safety programs only include those who specifically travel for work purposes and exclude the employees who drive TO and FROM work every day. Extending your program to include all employees, and even offering it to employee family members, demonstrates how important safety is to the company.
  7. Consider branded/promotional items. Related items to encourage safe driving and remind drivers of the safety mission, can be used to reinforce policy and expectation and create awareness for your program.
  8. Require annual one-to-one coaching sessions between the manager and driver. This helps to reiterate expectations and reinforce accountability for adopting a crash-free, injury-free, license violation-free approach to driving for work purposes.
  9. Conduct Post-Collision Coaching sessions within 14 days of a reported event. Managers can use these discussions to review what happened, why it happened, and most importantly, what the driver could do differently to make sure it never happens again! Managers can also use this process to recommend eLearning or other training to further reduce risk. Using open questions and the “5 Whys” causation analysis will help drivers examine and understand the underlying root causes of the collision.
  10. Set up more frequent coaching sessions for drivers identified as “high-risk”, whether triggered by an event, by a reduced driver score, or negative on-road performance data. Monthly meetings of no more than 15 minutes can focus on the specific “at-risk” behaviors that need changing and can identify how the manager can help support the driver until their risk level has been reduced.

This list is by no means exhaustive, and there are many additional ways to communicate your culture of safety on a daily basis. In today’s digital age, making everyone in the organization aware of your safety goals, missions and objectives should be relatively simple, and your driver safety program provider should be able to support you with your driver engagement and driver coaching efforts.