Like many sectors of the American economy, Facilities employers, including facilities maintenance, are experiencing a difficult skills gap.
There’s no single, simple solution to create a facilities maintenance team that’s fully skilled and is ready for work challenges today and in the future. For example, your HR department may need to change how they look for job candidates, appealing to a more diverse talent pool; your organization may have to loosen the purse strings, paying new hires more and giving bigger raises to current employees; and you’ll probably need to put some extra work into your training program to help onboard and upskill your workers.
But if you follow research studies and polls that are focusing on the Great Resignation, including why people are leaving employers so often, you’ll see repeated references to toxic workplace cultures, poor management practices, and a sense that employees don’t feel valued by their employers. For example, this March, 2022 Gallup poll shows that only 24% of American workers think their employers care about their well-being. This article at the Harvard Business Review makes a similar argument, and suggests employees will be more likely to stay with their employers if they feel valued. And this article at MIT Sloan Management Review says that “A toxic corporate culture is by far the strongest predictor of industry-adjusted attrition and is 10 times more important than compensation in predicting turnover. Our analysis found that the leading elements contributing to toxic cultures include failure to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion; workers feeling disrespected; and unethical behavior. In an upcoming article, we will dive deeper into each of these factors and examine different ways managers and employees can spot signals of toxic culture.8 For now, the important point is that a toxic culture is the biggest factor pushing employees out the door during the Great Resignation.”
One way to improve organizational culture, improve the level of engagement and job satisfaction with your existing employees, reduce turnover, and combat your maintenance tech skills gap is to provide management training to your current and future managers (in addition to providing job training and continuing education to the maintenance techs themselves.)
We’ll discuss this a little more in this article.
Below, we’ll list a few reasons managers are important when it comes to closing the skills gap with your facilities maintenance techs and give some tips for making some simple improvements.
Organizational culture is a pretty complicated thing and everyone at work plays a role in creating it. So it’s not a simple thing that management can change just by flipping a switch. But by virtue of their roles, managers do play a significant role in creating or perpetuating the existing culture at a workplace and can play a big role in changing the culture as well.
One thing that employees repeatedly say about why they’re leaving their current employers (as explained in the linked articles in the introduction to this article) is that the workplace culture is toxic and that they don’t feel valued. Clearly, this is something that managers should and can work to change.
Yes, some of this has to do with paying workers more money. But it’s not all about the paycheck. People want to be treated with respect at work and not be treated as simply a “resource,” “asset,” or “cog.”
Managers need to spend time developing relationships with workers, and not simply telling workers what they need to do and what they’ve done wrong. Good managers ask questions of workers, listen to the answers (see Edgar Schein’s book on Humble Inquiry for more on this), consider the worker’s ideas, and act on their concerns when possible.
Developing a real, human-based relationship like this between managers and workers improves trust and psychological safety at the workplace. If you’re not familiar with the concept of psychological safety, it’s the one characteristic that researchers at Google (and at other workplaces) have found that consistently creates high-performing teams.
As we explained in the section above, managers can play a significant role in the everyday work experience of a worker and in the overall organizational culture—for better or for worse.
But in addition, managers can play a significant role in the learning and development efforts—and therefore the professional development—of the workers who report to the manager. They can do this by assisting the worker in developing their unique learning and professional development goals; by providing helpful feedback on job performance and ongoing learning efforts; by being familiar with what trainers cover with the workers in job training and then following through with and supporting the training when the worker’s left the training room and is back on the job; and in many other ways.
Knowing a few things about HOW a manager can assist a worker with his or her professional development and career growth is important. But perhaps it’s even more important for a manager to know this is something he or she should do as part of being a manager.
There may be some people out there who are naturally good managers, but it’s our guess this is overstated. Most good managers have probably given some thought to what their role is in relation to the employees they supervise, how they can help those workers, and how to create supportive, human-based relationships as well. And maybe have had some training to help them out as well.
It’s fair to note that managers are often placed in a difficult situation. In many cases, people are promoted to a management position not because they’ve demonstrated that they are effective managers, but rather because they were good at a different job that required different skills. Then in many cases, they were placed into a management position with little or no management training. And they’re often caught in-between or have their time and attention pulled from both “above” (their own managers, etc.) and below (the workers they supervise). And in at least some cases, if you were to read their job descriptions, “supporting worker career development” probably isn’t listed and it’s likely the organization isn’t telling them that’s a key job part of their management position.
But if your organization wants to turn around the negative consequences of the Great Resignation and wants to (1) attract more qualified new hires and (2) retain the qualified maintenance techs you have on staff now, it may well be worth it for you to reconsider how you currently think of management and to have managers work more closely, in a more supportive role, with workers.
And so we suggest you give your current facilities & maintenance managers some training to help them out with their role.
Your goal might be, in part, to implement the characteristics of a learning organization and to create a culture of excellence for maintainability and reliability. Partly just by helping your workers be satisfied and engaged; by making them feel supported and valued; and by helping their productivity and professional development.
While you’re thinking of giving management training to your current facilities managers, don’t forget about your future managers, too.
Many of them should currently be working in your organization in non-management roles. If you begin giving them management training (and even management experience) now, you’ll begin developing the kind of management bench strength (and an internal management pipeline) that will power your organization to success in the future.
At Vector, we’re well-known for providing online facilities maintenance training courses (that incorporate 3D-animations, no less!). But we don’t stop with facilities maintenance training.
We also offer facilities management training, which includes courses on key issues such as management; leadership; HR-issues (such as diversity, equity & inclusion); and more.
So yes, you can use our online facilities maintenance training courses to help develop a more skilled maintenance workforce, but you can also use our facilities management training courses to more effectively manage those workers and keep them with your organization longer.
Contact us to learn more about our learning management system (LMS), our online facilities maintenance training courses, our online facilities management training courses, or our other helpful workplace solutions for safety and risk management.