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The global labour market is in a tremendous state of flux. Between July and September 2021, a record high of 979,000 Brits opted for job-to-job moves, according to the Office for National Statistics. The so-called “Great Resignation” continues well into 2022, with all the allied costs and loss of skills that resignations incur for any organisation.

This is as true of the maintenance field as any other, perhaps more so, given the technical and diverse skill sets often required of maintenance professionals. Employee retention has become critically important.

This article will focus on how an effective industrial maintenance program can help positively impact employee retention.

The Training-Retention Link

There is a direct correlation between offering employees effective training and better rates of employee retention. Employees leave their jobs for a variety of different reasons, of course, but a lack of engagement can be a leading reason why they do so. Training is an excellent way of demonstrating that an employee is valued and should therefore be integral to an organisation’s employee retention efforts. Employees realise that training is an investment in them, both financial and logistical, which could be an additional reason to remain in the organisation.

“Fundamental” training such as safe work procedures or lock-out/tag-out, is important for the development of needed skills in maintenance workers. However, it is important to stress that maintenance-related training should not only be technical or directly job- or equipment-related. Management must ensure that personal development training is also encouraged and made available. Examples of this “soft skills” training could include communication skills, speaking with confidence in public or presentation skills, management principles, customer service skills and so forth.

Different forms of maintenance training: courtesy of Limble CMMS

Effective Training Usually Means…

Firstly, where there is good training, there tends to be good communication, which results in employees who feel good where they are. In the opinion of Washington State University: “Good communication is the foundation of any successful business. When the communication between manager and employee is positive, everyone is on the same page about objectives, tasks, and expectations.”

Secondly, where there is good training, there is a culture of respect for employees, their needs and opinions. This kind of positive culture doesn’t occur overnight, it’s something management must be committed to over time. Many executives understand that learning is integral to a company’s culture – and 80% of CEOs in a PwC survey citing new skills as being their biggest business challenge. 

Maintenance departments have a tendency to suffer from what is known as “the denial syndrome”, whereby maintenance issues are either denied or rationalised away – which can be frustrating and demotivating for maintenance technicians.

Thirdly, where there is good training, the workplace will be safer and healthier, and employees will want to continue working there. Mental health is an example of an important (and too often overlooked) aspect of employee wellness in the workplace. 

A 2020 report published by Statistics Canada found that 30% of short and long-term disability employees’ claims are mental health-related. The report concluded that “Much like other risk mitigation, a supportive workplace can reduce the onset, severity, impact and the duration of mental illness”. Undoubtedly, it also improves retention rates, especially when one considers how stressful maintenance work can be.

Learning and Improved Employee Morale

It is a logical assumption that employee morale should improve when companies invest in them, such as with training.  Unfortunately, a 2021 McKinsey Global Survey conducted during the pandemic found that only a small minority of business leaders were equipped to deal with the challenge of morale (or “psychological safety”) in their workplaces.

Investments in training and up-skilling can help promote good morale. However, outdated legacy training programs and platforms are not the answer – they are often boring and disengage employees. Training needs to be modernised, preferably app-based and hyper-practical. 

The focus on practicality is especially relevant to maintenance workers, since they tend to have practical mindsets, and should be the focus for their acquisition of soft skills. Forbes even advocates that each employee be allocated a “Learning Budget” which allows them to pursue whatever online training they wish.

Hallmarks of a good maintenance program: courtesy of Limble CMMS

Summing Up

To conclude, consider this: of the estimated two million British workers who were looking to change their employment in October 2021, it was estimated that 38% cited a wish to develop their skill-sets as the primary reason for wishing to move on. Like all workers, maintenance workers want to develop their skills and work for organisations that respect and foster that wish. Maintenance and HR managers must heed that trend if they want to retain them.

Author’s bio: 

After earning a Bachelor’s degree in Communications, Erin built the custom social media analysis division for the world’s largest PR measurement firm working directly with clients like Boeing, Johnson & Johnson, and GLOCK. From there, Erin landed in computer vision startups working on products like facial recognition for loss prevention and breath detection for medically-fragile newborns. As VP of Marketing for Limble CMMS, Erin and her team get to share with maintenance teams around the world the good news that there is an easier way to manage–and get credit for–their amazing work.

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