Employers in many industries are struggling with skills gaps at work, and that’s true in facilities management and facilities maintenance as well.
A skills gap is never really a simple, one-solution issue. And with the global COVID-19 pandemic, a normally complex issue became all the more complex.
So, with the acknowledgement that there’s no simple, single, linear cause for the ongoing and current skills gap in facilities management and facilities maintenance, it’s also true that there’s no single, simple solution. Instead, reducing skills gaps at facilities will be a multi-pronged effort including better, faster hiring practices; more effective employee onboarding; building stronger, more supportive relationships between workers and managers; ongoing upskilling and reskilling of workers and development of maintenance tech training paths and professional development opportunities; working to capture the tribal knowledge of workers preparing to retire to avoid the “brain drain” associated with Baby Boomer retirements; helping workers develop critical new digital skills; changing the perception of facilities work with young workers who may currently view it negatively; and more.
In this article, though, we’ll somewhat artificially focus on one way to close that FM skill gap, and that’s by improving some of the things your organization may be doing when it comes to hiring new facilities maintenance techs, building engineers, and other key staff members. And in particular, we’ll focus on how the training your organization offers to workers can give you a competitive advantage when it comes to hiring the most qualified, most skilled, most job-ready new employees.
We’re a company that focuses on training, learning and development, and performance improvement for facilities management and maintenance (and other industries). As a result, we’ll include some issues on our list that are more the domain of HR specialists, but we won’t go into those items in much detail. Instead, we’ll try to focus more on how building a solid FM training program for your maintenance techs can improve your hiring of new techs (and other FM talent).
Here are the six tips we’ll discuss a little more below:
Let’s take a brief look at each of these below.
Chances are good that there’s a local community college or trade school that’s teaching their employees the kind of skills your FM department needs. These educational institutions can act as a sort of talent “pipeline” for your organization if you develop a relationship with them.
Get to know instructors who can recommend qualified, skilled graduates to your organization for full-time employment or an apprenticeship. Go to their career fairs where you can meet the students looking for jobs directly. Stop in and meet the job placement advisors at the school and let them know about your organization, the jobs you have open, and the type of skills you need. Or even come in and teach classes on a volunteer basis with relevant programs, helping students develop skills you want while also increasing name recognition of your organization with tomorrow’s potential job applicants.
Organizations tend to focus on developing the skills and abilities of their own employees, and that makes sense. But increasingly, some organizations are helping people who are not their own employees develop the kind of skills the organization needs and prepare for the kind of jobs your organization wants to fill.
For example, maybe your organization could work with a local community college or trade school to help create a curriculum that will teach students the job skills you’re looking for from your job applicants. How nice would that be to have people applying for your jobs that were essentially “pre-qualified” on your behalf?
Another option is to create an online academy, allowing non-employees to complete training develop by or for your company at no expense or limited expense. This is sometimes known as creating an “academy,” and an example of this is how Google recently created online learning opportunities for people to learn the kind of marketable, job-ready skills that Google themselves are looking to hire.
You’re more likely to find job applicants and new hires with the maintenance skills you need if (1) you’re looking at a more diverse population of job applicants and (2) you can demonstrate to those job applicants that your workplace is diverse and accepting of diversity.
Part of this is the responsibility of the people in charge of hiring in your HR department, of course. They need to make sure they’re not artificially limiting the job applicants they’re talking to because of where and how they’re advertising open positions.
But part of it, the part about creating an organizational culture that doesn’t just say you value diversity, equity, and inclusion but truly acts on it, is up to everyone in your organization (even if management will play a large role, no doubt).
To learn even more about this, check out our Introduction to Organizational DE&I Improvements webinar.
Here’s where facilities managers and the L&D professionals who help them design, develop, and deliver FM training can work together with their coworkers in the HR department who play a role in hiring facilities maintenance technicians.
It's no secret that job applicants (in all industries) have a lot of leverage right now and a lot of choices. One thing job that job applicants with skills that are highly sought after want is to know that if they sign on with an organization, that organization will make an investment in the new hires career growth and professional development.
If a facilities manager can work with L&D professionals and develop a real maintenance tech training program that creates a real career development path for newly hired maintenance techs, and then rely that information back to the people in HR who do hiring, then the HR department can explain that very-valuable benefit to job applicants.
Seeing that there is a true opportunity for job and career growth within the facilities maintenance field at your organization, and seeing that your organization supports the learning efforts of its employees, will make it easier for your friends in HR to job qualified entry-level maintenance techs for you. So in this case, you and HR would be working hand-in-hand to help close your skills gap.
This is just a follow-up to the previous point. Once you’ve created a maintenance tech/building engineer training program that supports your employees, and once you’ve let HR know about this, do whatever else is necessary so HR can demonstrate this to job applicants.
Do you need to create a PowerPoint slide or two explaining your training program and how it leads to opportunities for career development? Then do so. Would it help if you sat in on job interviews earlier in the process, and if you were prepared to discuss your job training programs to those applicants? Then do it.
For more on this, read our blog article about facilities maintenance training & improving job hiring.
When it comes to motivation on the job, including in job training and professional development, studies show that intrinsic motivation is more important than extrinsic motivation. You can read more about this in our article on Daniel Pink’s book Drive.
But that doesn’t mean extrinsic motivation, including salary and salary increases, isn’t important. Because it is—to all of us. And the same is true of your current maintenance techs and those you want to hire as well.
So while it’s great to show them you have a training program in place, it’s even better if you can explain that as your maintenance techs go through training, work on your equipment, develop skills, and can prove they’ve developed those skills, that there’s a direct linkage between skill development on the one hand and job promotions and pay increases on the other.
Listen to our recorded, on-demand Building a Maintenance Tech Training Program webinar to hear how we worked with a client in the Facilities Maintenance industry build a connection like this between their training programs and employee compensation programs that employees valued a great deal.
This last point is more forward-looking if you’re talking about just technical maintenance skills. But there’s nothing wrong with being proactive, and if you’re taking so-called soft-skills into account, including leadership, these are skills most facilities desperately need today as well as in the future.
Providing leadership training to facilities maintenance techs will help you build the “bench strength” of your management/leadership programs, so as older managers are prepared to retire, you’ll have qualified, skilled leaders ready to fill their place. Even better, they’ll be your own existing employees and they’ll be familiar with workday realities your maintenance techs have to juggle every day, since they’ve done it themselves recently.
At Vector Solutions, we offer a host of learning and training tools to help facilities managers and facilities maintenance departments training maintenance techs quickly, efficiently, and comprehensively.
Our primary offerings are our online facilities management and facilities maintenance training courses, which incorporate 3-D animations and other forms of multimedia. Topics that our FM courses help teach, and that you can use to supercharge your current maintenance training tech programs, include:
Of course, we also offer other types of online training, such as safety and health; lean; quality; and more (we’ve got more than 3,000 courses we offer!).
Additionally, our Vector Solutions Learning Management System (LMS) is custom-built for training and continuing education in the facilities maintenance and AEC industries. If you’re not familiar with learning management systems, an LMS is a cloud-based software application that you can use to more efficiently manage and administer your training program, including training that occurs online and training that occurs offline as well. This includes training importing and creating; assignments; tracking of completions; reporting, and much more.
Please contact us if you’d like to know more about how we can help your organization create a top-of-class facilities maintenance training program. We’re also happy to answer some questions or set up a demo or preview.