Tapping psychology to develop a safer fleet culture
“The safety of my children is not my number one priority while driving.” Very few, if any, parents would make this statement. So why is it that 83 percent of teens say their parents engage in unsafe driving habits with them in the car? Considering the high degrees of motivation a parent has to keep their children safe, why would they ever act otherwise? Something else must be at play, some unseen influence literally driving parents to distraction.
The parent-child protective bond might be the most deep-seated motivator of all, yet even that seems mostly ineffective if statistics are any indication. So how could fleet managers possibly hope to shift an entire company culture towards driving more safely? This seems especially unlikely considering fleet managers aren’t physically present while the driving is taking place. To tackle this issue, we must first unpack how human motivation works. Why do people engage in what they know to be dangerous behavior to begin with, let alone allow that behavior to fester into a full-on bad habit they regularly engage in? When hidden motivators work to influence our behavior as humans, it can sometimes feel as though we are powerless to change. To solve this problem, we must first address the awareness component of habit formation. It’s helpful to remind ourselves of Peter Drucker’s timeless words, “You can’t manage what you can’t measure.”
The hidden forces that drive human habits
For fleet managers, perhaps the biggest hurdle in encouraging safer driving habits is the simple fact that there isn’t any direct supervision of the drivers. In the past, basic data trends at the vehicle cost of operation level could reveal things like routinely poor fuel mileage, but that’s only sometimes an indicator of chronic speeding. Perhaps that driver simply takes off from stops too swiftly but then drives the speed limit? Fortunately, newer telematics tools can provide far greater insight into the totality of fleet driver habits and how they affect the safety metrics of the entire fleet.
Of course, raising awareness through measurement is only the initial step in shifting mindsets to be more safety-oriented when it comes to driving. At the recent Fleet Safety Conference in Henderson, Nev., Kristofer Bush, LeasePlan’s Vice President of product management, gave a presentation on getting to the root of safety. In his presentation, he started by covering the psychological aspects of how driver safety habits are formed, referencing six main sources of influence on human decision-making:
- Personal motivation.
- Social motivation.
- Structural motivation.
- Personal ability.
- Social ability.
- Structural ability.
Let’s cover these in more detail to make sense of how each is applicable to motivating fleet drivers.
While most people’s desire to be a “safe driver” is genuine, the term is generally too vague and distant to affect actual behavior. More often, a driver’s short-term motivation is directed by a variety of factors like reducing drive time, not getting stuck behind slow-moving vehicles, meeting delivery quotas, and motivators personally unique to the individual.
Companies that have a widely distributed network of drivers who infrequently interact with fellow fleet-drivers and managers are faced with a major challenge regarding social motivation. One possibility is creating score-based ranking systems with leaderboards for drivers to drive healthy competition and awareness of the good habits their industry peers engage in.
These can be more direct motivators like tiered compensation plans, bonuses, and other direct rewards for performance. When no link exists between performance and the fulfillment of lower-level needs on Maslow’s hierarchy, motivation becomes nearly impossible.
Without any immediate feedback on driving habits, it’s easy for drivers to fall prey to their less desirable motivators. Providing a method for instant feedback on performance helps enable drivers to take charge of their habits.
Companies that provide only direct one-on-one feedback to drivers miss the enabling power of social recognition. If employees are blind to the performance of co-workers or industry peers, it’s harder for them to see why they need to make changes because they have no reference for what the results of those changes look like.
Creating a work environment that fosters success is key. If drivers must wait until a quarterly performance review to gain feedback on driving performance, they are much more likely to be tempted to engage in bad habits while driving. Tools that provide instant feedback on driving safety, efficiency, and compliance provide a much more hospitable environment for the formation of good habits. Once the underlying influences are identified and addressed to provide full awareness of the situation, the real work of habit formation can begin.
Aptitude is not the same as attitude
When considering providing feedback on driver behavior, it’s important to keep in mind the fact that many drivers self-rate their driving aptitude as good or even superior compared with other drivers. This especially holds true for fleet drivers who log exponentially greater mileage than the average drivers they share the road with. Considering the generally valid rule that time spent doing an activity leads to higher levels of ability, our beloved road warriors aren’t totally off-base, so it’s crucial as fleet managers to be mindful of the high regard many drivers hold for their driving ability. Insulting a person’s intelligence is a sure-fire way to increase resistance, if not trigger total insubordination, and will not help in winning over the minds of employees.
What’s needed is a shift from criticizing driving aptitude to developing the proper driving attitude when crafting better social influence initiatives and communicating performance feedback to fleet drivers. Drivers need to understand fleet managers aren’t denigrating their level of driving skill, but simply addressing the underlying attitudes toward driving, because attitude is what truly dictates the decisions that form habits.
Company culture – the attitude of the whole
Changing company culture is a topic of much debate, and changing the culture of a widely distributed company such as one with a fleet of drivers who may never interact with one another is an especially challenging scenario. First, what is “company culture” even? Ben Horowitz states it boldly in the very title of his new book, “What you do is who you are – how to create your business culture,” Horowitz posits that the very essence of a culture is what people within that culture habitually do, both in companies and outside of them.
To break it down further, company culture starts with an employee’s observations of what other people in the company do on a regular basis, and those observations become the employee’s narrative about what kind of company it is they are working at. If a driver’s peers routinely speed to meet delivery quotas, it’s much more likely a new driver will quickly adopt the same behavior because “that’s how we do it here.” If a company wants to shift the attitude behind the daily actions that make up the culture there, it must find a way to provide universal feedback that makes obvious what habits are acceptable and which are not. Company leadership must make it clear that “we are this type of company because we engage in these habits surrounding our driving.” Fleet drivers should be encouraged to ask themselves questions such as, “What type of company do I want to be associated with? One known for excellence and consideration of society members? Or one known as careless and a menace to society?”
A new paradigm in driver motivation – gamification
So far, this all may sound like companies need to hire a team of psychologists to address the psyches of their fleet drivers, but fortunately, there is a promising alternative for tapping into the innate human desires that motivate real change – gamification. It turns out, games are a nearly irresistible motivator for changing human behavior. As counterintuitive as it may sound, making a game out of driving can have a tremendous impact on driving habits. To be clear, these aren’t games in the traditional sense of the word, but rather a structured way of presenting feedback that taps into the reward systems we all possess.
OneScore – The ultimate driving habits machine
Employees all playing their own driving games may give managers nightmares of having to referee scores of drivers, but fear not, LeasePlan has a gamification tool fleet managers can use that provides real-time feedback to drivers sans supervision by management. We call this feature OneScore, and it is already available in our MyLeasePlan app. The intuitive interface provides a single score with color-coding that provides ever-present awareness of overall fleet member habits. Driver OneScores are comprised of three main categories of performance: safety, efficiency, and compliance. Multiple aspects of each category are tracked primarily by the driver manually entering information like fuel consumption, mileage, maintenance receipts, and registration updates. With this system, social motivating and enabling influences are inherently built-in, as the parameters that go into a driver’s OneScore are based on benchmarking the best drivers. To further concrete habits, social motivators like company leaderboards for OneScore or bonus structures could also be used, along with structural influences like monetary bonuses, rewards, or raises.