Why it is important to upskill your maintenance workforce

Upskilling can be beneficial across all industries – maintenance is a great example, says Bryan Christiansen. 

Most maintenance teams are a combination of different skills – while one person may excel at electrical works – another would be skilled at plumbing, and so on.

How upskilling works

Upskilling is the process of equipping people with additional skills and knowledge. Sometimes those skills are needed just to be better at their current job. Other times, that is done to expand their capabilities so they can handle additional responsibilities.

When employees upskill, they are better positioned to become more relevant at their current position and better prepared to occupy higher positions within their organisation later in their career.

As an organisation grows it will inevitably require newer knowledge and skills, especially with the technological advancements in recent decades. Rather than going out to search for and recruit better-skilled talent, the company can choose to train their current employees. Thus, upskilling provides a practical option for employers to combat skills gaps while retaining their existing workforce.

Benefits of upskilling your maintenance workforce

As a result of automation and digitisation, physical assets have evolved tremendously over the last few years. For asset-intensive organisations, your maintenance department will need to upgrade to remain relevant. Here are the major benefits of upskilling your maintenance team.

Lower employee turnover

Upskilling is a smaller investment compared to the resources and time required to find, hire and train new workers. A report published by Gallup states that replacing an employee can cost from one and a half to two times the employee’s annual salary.

Upskilling provides a practical option for employers to combat skills gaps while retaining their existing workforce.

And that does not factor in other consequences like losing your best and most reliable people and the negative impact this can have on overall team morale.

By investing in upskilling, your company demonstrates to your maintenance staff that they have a future in the company and this gesture can help reduce employee turnover. This is extremely important in the maintenance space as research shows that finding skilled maintenance workers is the biggest challenge maintenance managers are currently dealing with.

Improve business performance

Upskilling your maintenance team helps create a more well-rounded, cross-trained workforce and increases their overall effectiveness. According to McKinsey, empowering employees with new skills is now a necessity for companies to remain relevant and competitive considering recent economic challenges, especially in the post-pandemic era.

Enhanced maintenance management

In essence, upskilling is a form of targeted training with specific goals. Such precision training can significantly improve your team’s performance as it puts them in better alignment with your company’s long and short-term maintenance management objectives.

With time, and with every staff member playing their part, your maintenance management structure will become more streamlined, more efficient, and will run like a well-oiled machine to deliver ROI like better equipment reliability, better safety performance, minimal productivity losses, better customer service, higher customer retention, and more.


How to upskill your maintenance workforce

Let’s consider specific steps you can take right away to start the process of upskilling your maintenance workforce.

Understand your team’s shortfalls

Start with a skills gap analysis. The primary goal at this stage is planning – you want to lay a solid foundation by identifying where you want to go and what is missing to get you to the desired destination. Take some time to forecast future talents and skill sets you’ll need to grow your organisation, then check for existing gaps in your team’s abilities.

For instance, if your company currently runs fully on a planned maintenance program but you are interested in incorporating condition-based monitoring or predictive analytics within a year, it’s advisable that you begin training your staff on those technologies.

Make training easy

The most effective training strategies present content to trainees using several techniques to gain the commitment and trust of current staff. No one should be left behind or overlooked. You can avoid alienating people by making training available in several formats and mediums.

This way, all team members can access and understand training content regardless of differences in age, educational level, etc.

Also, presenting training this way helps lessen the inevitable fear of change that some staff will have. While planning your training, it’s important to have standardised training procedures in place. Standardised training promotes consistency and minimises errors; it fosters better trainee engagement and makes it easier to train more people quickly. 

Encourage some healthy competition in your company by providing different kinds of incentives for staff that commit to upskilling.

The benefits of standardised training cannot be overemphasised, particularly during the onboarding process because a well-planned and structured training process often sets the tone for the future of your company’s relationship with individual staff.

Ultimately, in view of the large workloads and packed schedules that maintenance crews often have, aim for a mix of bite-sized online and offline training modules that your staff can access at a flexible pace.

Another angle to explore are mentorship programs where staff who already have the skills help to spread the knowledge by providing guidance to other staff. Mentoring programs are becoming increasingly popular, and Forbes reports that up to 70% of Fortune 500 companies have a mentorship program in place.

Reward upskilling efforts

Encourage some healthy competition in your company by providing different kinds of incentives for staff that commit to upskilling. Incentives may not necessarily be monetary; they can include awards, prizes, reduced shift hours, time off, etc.

Important areas to upskill your maintenance workforce

With the continuous technological innovations and improvements in maintenance management, below are a few key areas where upskilling will be particularly beneficial to achieve a well-trained and modern maintenance team:

  • Train staff in the use of maintenance software, especially computerised maintenance management systems (CMMS). Every solution is a little different, so training will happen after you implement the software.
  • Upskill staff on equipment maintenance training by exposing them to best practices for the operation and daily upkeep of critical equipment and machinery.
  • You can send experienced technicians to get specific training for specialised equipment so you do not have to outsource this type of work to expensive contractors.
  • Train mid-level staff like supervisors and coordinators on maintenance planning and scheduling. You want to have an organised maintenance department? This is how you do it.

One last thing you might look into is training machine operators to take over basic maintenance tasks from maintenance techs and mechanics. This practice is called autonomous maintenance and could be helpful to organisations that are battling a maintenance labor shortage.

In conclusion

As companies continue to tackle the problems of maintenance workforce skills gap and rapid innovations in physical assets, upskilling may represent a less disruptive, affordable, and manageable avenue to keep their operations running well into the future.


About the author

Bryan Christiansen is the founder and CEO of Limble CMMS


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