Qualified, knowledgeable, and highly-skilled facilities maintenance techs are in short demand these days. And these days (in 2022), that’s all the more true, with very low rates of national unemployment and many workers leaving jobs or changing employers as part of what’s being called The Great Resignation.
In this article, we’re going to provide some tips about things facilities managers should know about training to help facilities maintenance techs develop necessary knowledge, skills, and expertise.
Training your maintenance techs can definitely help you close your skills gap, fill positions, get work done productively and efficiently, and generally have a top-right facility. But it’s not going to be a silver-bullet, one-stop solution for the problems that many facilities are facing.
First, just looking at issues related to the Great Resignation of 2022, there are a number of reasons why this is happening.
One is that older, more experienced workers (the Baby Boomers but even younger workers these days) are retiring. So the secret here is to know it’s happening and see what you can do to capture and distribute that “tribal knowledge” before it’s gone. Another has to do with compensation, and workers leaving for higher-paying jobs. And a final one that comes up in a lot of research on the Great Resignation is a combination of workers not feeling valued or appreciated by their current employers, a toxic work culture, and poor management (of course, some management training can help with that one).
So if all you need is some training to solve the facilities performance problem you’re experiencing, great. But be sure you know what the real cause(s) are so you can find all the right solutions, which might mean training plus other things. Please read our article on Gilbert’s BEM human performance improvement model to learn more on identifying workplace problems, identifying the true causes, and selecting appropriate solutions.
You’ll want to help your maintenance techs pick up and sharpen their technical facilities maintenance skills, for sure, but don’t stop your training efforts there.
So yes, by all means, provide training on electrical work, HVAC work, emergency power, plumbing, and other basics of the facilities maintenance tech/building engineer profession.
But additionally, be sure to train workers on soft skills such as teamwork, communication and problem-solving. These skills have always been important in FM, both when interacting with the FM team but also building occupants, and they’re becoming more important in today’s world.
One challenge facing many workplaces, including facilities, is that the workplace is integrating increasingly advanced technologies. Compare a building from the 1950s with buildings of today and you’ll get our point. Now project 10, 15, or 20 years out in the future and you’ll really see what we’re talking about.
So from working with Building Information Modeling (BIM) softwares and “digital twins” to all the complexities of the smart buildings of today and tomorrow, it’s important to help FM employees build these advanced technological and digital skills as well as more traditional, nuts-and-bolts (pardon the pun!) maintenance skills.
You’ll get the best results from your training program if you use what’s called a blended learning solution.
Simply put, a blended learning solution is one in which you mix-and-match the training delivery methods or media (for example, instructor-led training, elearning courses, etc.) instead of using just one delivery method.
The most common way to blended learning is by having people complete an asynchronous, online learning activity (such as an elearning course) and then follow that up with instructor-led training (either classroom-style or virtual instructor-led training).
Many studies and even many meta-studies have shown that blended learning solutions lead to better learning outcomes than training programs that are all instructor-led or all elearning (see our Blended Learning Solutions Guide or our April 25, 2022 Closing the Facilities Maintenance Skills Gap webinar for the supporting evidence on that data, which comes from learning researcher Dr. Ruth Colvin Clark, learning researcher Dr. Will Thalheimer, and the United States Department of Education).
Workplace training and learning are continuous processes, but if you pay special attention to specific elements, you’ll get a big pay-off. A few of those are listed below:
Onboarding—providing a well-structured onboarding program for employees who are entirely new to your organization as well as existing employees who are moving into new job positions. Onboarding is a great way to support workers as they’re acquiring the knowledge and developing the skills they’ll need to perform their new jobs competently, and it’s one of the places where your training dollars will get their best return-on-investment (ROI). For more tips, check out our recorded Better Onboarding webinar or our downloadable Onboarding Guide.
On-the-Job Training (OJT)—OJT is a common training method and there's a good reason for that. Pairing a newer worker with an experienced, highly skilled worker, and allowing that worker to get hands-on training, is a great way to train that new worker but also capture essential knowledge from the mentor (who may be nearing retirement age and could be leaving your organization soon enough). We offer two tips, though. First, make sure your OJT trainer is familiar with adult learning principles, how we learn, and why we forget things. And second, use a structured OJT program instead of leaving things to chance.
Cross Training—During cross training, you teach an employee with one job how to perform the tasks of a different job role. Employees can enjoy and benefit cross training because it provides variety in their job, helps them develop their skills and careers, and gives them an opportunity to find the jobs they like the most. Facilities can benefit from cross-training because it’s easier to fill vacant shifts when someone is sick or a position is simply open when other cross-trained employees can fill in.
An important caution here is to not cross train a worker on a new job until that worker has his/her own job down first—otherwise you risk creating cognitive overload and an unnecessarily stressful work situation for the worker.
Upskilling and Reskilling—People talk a lot about upskilling and reskilling workers these days, and they’re both very important in today’s job environment.
Upskilling is simply providing training to help employees learn more skills related to their current job position. You can think of this as being the main thrust of all job training you provide to an “average” worker once the onboarding period is over (and not including compliance training). Your organization should have a plan for continually helping to upskill your workers so they keep their job skills current. You can read more about upskilling here.
Reskilling is about teaching a worker the skills of an entirely new job position. Reskilling became increasingly important during the COVID-19 pandemic and continues to be so now during the Great Resignation. Read more about reskilling here.
Informal and Social Learning—In learning and development, we can sometimes focus so much on the formal, assigned training and learning experiences we work so hard to create that we forget about all the other ways people learn at work. It’s good for us to think about and design formal, assigned training, but it’s also good to think about how we can facilitate the methods that people learn from one another at work every day and how we can remove obstacles that prevent that learning as well. For more on this, please check out our articles on the 70/20/10 learning model and learning organizations.
Compliance Training—In this article, we’re focused on training to build skills, but compliance training (including topics such as environment, health, and safety) is an important workplace reality too. For help making compliance training more relevant and engaging for workers, please check out our recorded Creating Better Compliance Training webinar.
Job training for skills and compliance is essential, but don’t forget about supporting workers—facilities managers, maintenance techs, and building engineers—in their continuing education efforts to keep their professional licenses and certifications active and up-to-date as well.
Check here for a list of the accredited courses we offer to help with continuing education needs.
At Vector Solutions, we offer a series of training and continuing education tools for facilities managers, facilities maintenance technicians, and building engineers. And we’ve helped many facilities professionals like you and organizations like yours make improvements in their training programs for maintenance techs and other facilities workers.
The best way to learn how we can help is to listen to our recorded case-study webinar with an employer in the facilities management/maintenance industry who is also our current customer (recorded webinar: developing a maintenance tech training program). This customer came to us because they were having a serious problem with retention of new employees, and the cost of continually attracting, hiring, and onboarding employees only to lose a significant portion was becoming a significant problem for them. They began conducting exit interviews with employees who were leaving the organization and discovered a big reason was that the organization offered no defined training programs and career paths and it seemed to workers that there was no opportunity for professional advancement, career growth, promotions, and better-paying jobs.
As a result, the organization partnered with us to improve their training program (this included traditional “offline” training as well as online training). We worked together with their L&D and maintenance departments to help them design and build a four-level maintenance tech internal certification program (maintenance tech-1, maintenance tech-2, building engineer-1, building engineer-2), tied completion of those training programs to specific promotions, job titles, and pay increases; and communicated that information back to the HR department so they could tell new job applicants.
This co-effort between our customer and ourselves helped the customer retain more of their current maintenance techs; improve worker morale, engagement, and job satisfaction; lower the costs of searching for and hiring talent as well as onboarding new workers; develop a more skilled, capable workforce; and increase the customer-service satisfaction at the facilities they worked to maintain.
We did this in part by providing our customer with our learning management system, a web-based software application for managing and administering training, and online facilities maintenance training courses (plus courses on other topics—we offer a total of more than 3,000 courses).
Take a few minutes to watch the short overview video below of our online facilities maintenance training solutions and then, if you have questions, contact us to set up a demo.
Have a great day and keep in touch!