Peach State Truck Centers: 2023 BEST Award Winner, #9
The day that talent development veteran Richard Fletcher was named director of training and development at Peach State Truck Centers, a dealer of medium and heavy-duty commercial vehicles, he could hardly believe his good fortune. This well-run private company with strong leadership and HR traditions that valued its employees lacked a systematic TD approach to using its assets more effectively—a skill set firmly in Fletcher's wheelhouse.
The assignment would even begin with the "holy grail" of TD executives: a coveted seat at the table alongside senior executives asking for his input. What better opportunity, Fletcher mused that day in 2021, than to develop a pull strategy that would emphasize the know-how of managers seeking to upskill Peach State's 700 employees?
Fletcher saw an array of opportunities for his input as the firm's first TD chief. There was an absence of job-specific training, operational inconsistencies among its 12 locations in Georgia and Alabama, staffing challenges, and managers who weren't necessarily driving maximum performance.
Reaching for an apt metaphor, Fletcher likens the scenario to a dependable vehicle that just needed a tune-up to operate more efficiently—a "vehicle" that celebrates its 50th anniversary next year. Its "driver" is a management team fully committed to consistency and operating within systems, he says. "Our leaders cared deeply about outcomes. They just needed a talent strategy to achieve the consistency and performance that management desired," Fletcher shares.
Developing a strategyAssisted by one additional TD hire, training specialist Jazmyne Scott, Fletcher dove into his assignment. He decided that learning at the point of work fit Peach State's situation perfectly. Rather than devote months to developing curriculums, training trainers, and delivering content, Fletcher taught managers how to ensure that personnel could properly perform assigned tasks. That addressed the lack of job-specific training that spawned lack of confidence, inconsistency, and turnover among new employees.
Fletcher worked closely with Bill Garrett, vice president of HR, to ensure that the TD strategy was systematic and aligned with Garrett's vision of an improved employee experience that cast Peach State as an employer of choice. The strategy revamped the company's onboarding procedures and installed new ways to develop more effective managers, including emphasizing their new roles in training and driving performance. It also created a performance management structure.
Today, the manager of every Peach State facility plays a critical role in initiating training for all new hires at their respective locations. "They don't just support it," Fletcher reports. "They are part of the design and delivery of learning content."
Enlisting leadersTo bolster acceptance of the new training process, Fletcher solicited help from top leadership. He found a willing partner in Chief Operating Officer Greg Althardt, who participated in the inaugural staff meeting to help design the training agenda. Althardt regularly speaks at the company's centralized new-employee orientation, which emphasizes his commitment to training.
The logic behind Fletcher's approach was pure pragmatism. "Nothing else matters if we don't have effective leaders in the company," he contends. "They are the ones who drive performance."
That said, the leadership goal of enhancing every employee's experience is a new concept at Peach State. "While we have always cared about employees here, we haven't known how to do it consistently and systematically," Fletcher says.
Training programs are now focused on that principle, and the company carefully measures program effectiveness. Managers have embraced the new mindset, along with the resulting impacts of training in performance and retention, Fletcher reports.
Also popular is a new initiative to meet staffing challenges. While the company has a healthy core of long-tenured employees, it has seen a high turnover rate among newer staff. Peach State attributes the problem to inconsistent interviewing skills, ineffective onboarding, and hiring individuals who weren't good fits for their roles or the company.
The TD team intentionally included that issue as a critical element within several new-manager training and leadership development programs. They include new talent management practices such as annual reviews, feedback, coaching, and formalized employee onboarding. The team also added improved internal communication through initiatives such as workplace huddles, formalized feedback, monthly leadership meetings, and quarterly business reviews.
Effectiveness is keyOther new initiatives seek to improve manager and leader effectiveness. One will emphasize leadership basics and high potentials, building on last year's focus on line-level managers.
Ensuring alignment of TD with the company's business is another new priority. To that end, the TD department meets monthly with senior leaders to grease lines of communication and interacts more frequently with scorecards and training updates. It also meets quarterly with C-level leadership to ensure strategies align with business needs.
As the company's top leaders prepare for Peach State's 50th anniversary, they can enjoy the fruits of the nascent TD initiative. That includes a new-hire retention rate of 75 percent, which averaged only 22 percent during the past five years. It's an important metric for a company with an aging workforce, especially in the current era of labor shortages.
Perhaps that's why CEO Rick Reynolds heaps praise on the young TD department for helping the company change its culture, improve productivity, and develop its employees to be better than ever. "In addition to our vision, mission, and core values, Peach State's why is to make a positive difference in the lives of others," Reynolds shares. "We are committed to investing in talent and development so we can make a positive difference in the lives of our employees, who in turn can make a positive difference in the lives of our customers and their businesses."
View the entire list of 2023 BEST Award winners.