By Jasmine Glasheen
It’s easy to talk about lifelong learning in an abstract sense. Nobody would argue that, as a fleet leader, you should continue educating yourself as the field evolves. Continuing education has proven to boost confidence and credentials in managing a team. A whopping 63% of adults in the U.S. have taken a professional class or training in the past year. Earning and maintaining certification is both a professional responsibility and a personal commitment. With the convenience of online learning platforms, it’s easier than ever to certify and recertify the essential skills needed to lead fleet.
There are many famous people who are lifelong learning advocates. According to the CEU Group “Bill Gates is a proponent of reading more and committing to lifelong learning. He believes the key to learning, to really learning (and remembering), is to create a broad framework to piece together each of the things you’re learning –- a sort of timeline or map –- in order to both understand the foundational principles as well as the details.”
On a more philosophical level, UNESCO believes, “Lifelong learning enables the learner to predict difficult and problematic situations and to cope with them when they occur. Learning to know ourselves, especially about our past, is important. Understanding the past is often the stepping stone to the understanding of the future.” And iconic science fiction writer Isaac Asimov once said, “Self-education is, I firmly believe, the only kind of education there is.”
In furthering your professional fleet education, there are many levels to consider: high-level management and leadership strategy as well as the operational skills of managing assets, finance, information, maintenance, fuel and risk. Mastering all of these areas will enhance your professional development and career; talented leaders are by nature curious, eager to learn more and share their expertise.
The Four Major Auto Industry Trends
Lifelong learning is critical to remain relevant in an evolving industry. When it comes to updating fleet to mobility, there are four industry trends that are major transformation drivers. They’re the focus of the NAFA white paper, The Mobility Revolution. Keeping up to date on these four trends is key to strengthening any manager’s ability to stay ahead of the quickly-changing mobility industry. These trends are referred to as CASE–Connectivity, Automation, Sharing, and Electrification–and will have major effects not only on the direction of the industry but also on each fleet manager’s job.
Connectivity: Optimizing safety, as well as the total cost of vehicle ownership by utilizing technology to create a more connected fleet.
Automation: Taking steps towards implementing partially or fully autonomous vehicles
Sharing: Reducing cost and emissions through shared mobility services such as ridesharing, carsharing, and ride-hailing.
Electrification: Provides an opportunity for fleet leaders to meet increasingly stringent emissions regulations and take advantage of low battery costs through the strategic acquisition of electric vehicles.
The path to becoming a conscientious fleet manager in the midst of unparalleled environmental, societal and technological change can be enhanced by continuous education. This isn’t always an easy goal to achieve for you and your entire team. In fact, a recent report from Deloitte found that learning is the #1 top-rated organizational challenge. To achieve the goal of lifelong learning, it must be embedded into not only the flow of work but the flow of life. In a 2017 article for Forbes.com Sarah Landrum, a career expert says, “Employees value continuous learning not only to develop their careers but also to gain a more fulfilling and healthier life.” It has been reported that ongoing education for fleet delivers provides the ability to respond to changes in technology, remain competitive in the market place and to be more fulfilled in life
As a fleet leader, your team needs to see you as a role model in demonstrating a personal willingness for continued education; they also need high educational standards (yearly recertification benchmarks, educational opportunities, and check-ins) to be in place to guide them on their path. This also includes being a curator of content and creating resources for your team such as checklists, job aids, and webinars. Encouraging coworkers to share their knowledge through communities and social learning can be very effective. Conducting tried and true “lunch-and-learn” sessions with industry experts can also help foster a learning culture where it’s safe to take some risks.
Ruth Alfson, CAFM and Fleet Manager, City of Cincinnati, says that one of the best things someone can do to improve themselves and their career is to constantly forward their education. “As Benjamin Franklin once put it,” she says, “‘An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.’ By continuing your education throughout life, you can build the foundation to succeed in an ever-changing world. Keeping certifications current shows that you are constantly learning and applying your knowledge in your career while leading by example.”
Alfson says recertification is an important element of keeping your education relevant in the fleet industry. NAFA’s CAFM® (Certified Automotive Fleet Manager) program isn’t just a one-and-done proposition. It includes a recertification process that ensures graduates are evolving their advanced fleet education to mirror the changing fleet industry. Recertification is required every five years, since fleet regulations, technology trends and the world at large are moving rapidly.
One of the benefits of achieving a NAFA CAFM certification in the current climate is that fleet leaders can help drivers take their education into their own hands remotely by providing them with digital resources and knowledge opportunities. In fact, being a fleet manager in this day and age isn’t just about data and analytics, coordinating automobile schedules, pickups and deliveries. It also includes curating educational content and building online communities. Fleet professionals say that success comes from delegating responsibility to team members, empowering and giving them the tools and support they need to do their jobs; trusting them to do their jobs without micromanagement; sharing ideas, celebrating team accomplishments, and giving credit where credit is due.
Times of Crisis are Opportunities
There’s no better time to renew your certification than when business as usual is on hold. The benefits are measurable. In a recent Monster report on certifications to boost your salary, NAFA’s CAFM program made the list. Fleet leaders with the CAFM certification through NAFA experienced a 27% percent boost. Katherine M. Vigneau, CAFM and Director of Professional Development at NAFA, maintains that our world, our industry, our lives are all changing so quickly that a commitment to lifelong learning is the only way a professional can keep up.
“As we faced a third month of pandemic lockdown,” she says, “we were learning new things daily -- how to pivot our business strategy, how to care for the mental and physical health of employees working from home and how to use technology to stay connected and challenged. Continuing investment in learning will help us figure out how to successfully reopen and resume our businesses and our lives."
Playbook for the Profession
NAFA’s CAFM study materials include reference materials, a study guide, and practice questions for each of the 8 modules. If you are someone who studies best through visual learning, then consider upgrading to receive the online CAFM Boot Camp webinars to enhance your studies for each of the 8 modules with 3 to 4 hours of additional online recordings. The whole course is online, allowing for self-paced studying to meet your schedule, as well as testing with remote proctoring through artificial intelligence. Fleet professionals can take certification exams remotely, so they can achieve full CAFM certification and begin putting newfound knowledge to work without ever stepping foot in a physical classroom.
Achieving a CAFM certification through NAFA can enable you to unlock your organization’s potential to excel in the arenas of sustainability, automation, and driver safety. But beyond that, a CAFM certification can teach you how to conserve valuable resources in a time when many fleet agencies are strapped for funds. The opportunity to renew your certification every five years means you’ll be able to stay at the forefront of developing fleet trends, so your company is always on the forward side of tomorrow’s technology.
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