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Improving Tech Adoption Among Aging Food and Beverage Fleets

Headshot of a woman with an office in the background By Alexis Reed September 6, 2016

Categories: Technology

Food and beverage fleets are pinched by two significant challenges when introducing driver-facing technology. The first is retention. As reported by Food Logistics, more than four out of five food and beverage fleets have turnover of above 25%. For one-third of fleets, the turnover is at least 50%. High turnover means high rates of driver replacement, and every new driver must be trained on the systems.

The other significant challenge is the age of the industry’s drivers. Also as reported by Food Logistics, virtually every fleet in the food and beverage industry is staffed by drivers who average 40 years old or more. At 11% of fleets, the average age is at least 50. Studies such as “Technology for Adaptive Aging” from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have concluded that older workers can be slower to acquire new technological skills.

You can overcome these challenges and build confidence and trust in the tech solutions you select to run your fleet. Here’s how.

1. Be direct about the reasons you use technology.

There are well-established playbooks for introducing workers of all stripes to crucial enterprise technology. Two crucial steps ensure that your message will be heard in the early steps of training: State your case, and highlight quick wins.

Stating your case means clearly communicating the reasons you are adopting or introducing the technology. Dealing with more seasoned workers, as are typically found in the food and beverage fleet, is actually an advantage here. Older workers have the work and life experience which teaches that everybody has a reason behind their decisions. Be clear and concise about yours. Even if an experienced driver is accustomed to a different solution, your job is to explain why your chosen approach is the best fit for your business.

To highlight quick wins, point out how the solution will improve their working conditions and save them effort. In addition, it may make it easier for them to succeed and grow with the fleet. Don’t lead with threats, and don’t sugarcoat the truth about your need for efficiency and compliance.

2. Start training new hires right away.

The US Department of Labor’s report “Employer Strategies for Responding to an Aging Workforce” recommends easing the introduction of new technology for older workers by integrating training into the recruitment process.

Fleets can apply this strategy by incorporating live simulations of the crucial tools in an interactive browser session or customized smartphone app. Interviews can include hands-on demonstrations and orientation, even before an offer is made. This gives the potential driver time to become acclimated to the system before the first official day at work.

Also keep in mind that candidates are sending signals about their degree of comfort and sophistication with technology in the way they contact and communicate with your firm. Heavy use of email and web-based contacts, or inquiries which come through online job searches, provide clues as to how easily the prospect will adopt and adapt to new technology.

3. Consider whether your approach to technology training might actually be contributing to turnover.

To be sure, turnover is a serious issue on a much larger scale than just tech training. The industry is in at least the third year of a labor shortage and no single fleet can completely address the structural issue of tight labor supply.

But if you challenge yourself to listen to how older drivers respond to technology, you may learn something about your approach. Drivers feel they are spending too much time on log work because they haven’t been adequately trained. Your training program might be designed with the right material but the wrong messengers. If drivers are pushing back because training is coming from someone half their age with less road experience, consider finding peers to do the tutoring.

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