2) Master Planning for Staff Improvement
After assessment has started, move on to the planning phase. Having the benchmark of your staff’s test results makes it easier to set realistic, obtainable goals, Cowley explains.
“Once you know where you are, you can set a goal and continue to raise the bar until you can’t get any better,” says Cowley. “Don’t get carried away. If you’re not doing any preventive maintenance now, don’t say ‘I’m going to be 100% compliant by the end of the quarter’ – it’s not going to happen. Maybe your goal for the next quarter is to do preventive maintenance on 25% of your assets, and then maybe the next quarter is the next 25%, and so forth so that by the end of the year you’re 100% compliant. Slowly raise the bar as time, energy, and resources allow.”
3) Make Incentives Count
A long-term goal for improvement requires a deep commitment from each team member expected to complete training. In most cases, the carrot approach is more effective than the stick in incentivizing employees to participate, says Cowley.
“Forward-thinking companies will tie in a small salary increase to completing skill-building courses,” recommends Goebel. “You need senior management – not only HR, but also the plant manager – to understand that this is a long-term investment.”
It can be difficult to find room for such incentives in the age of doing less with more. However, as Cowley points out, the alternative – leaving the skill gap to grow – will only exacerbate the problem over time.
“I just did an assessment of a large casino, and one of the comments was ‘What if we train these people and then they leave?’” Cowley explains. “To that, I say ‘What if you don’t train them and they stay here for five years?’”
Formal annual performance appraisals can also be counted among incentives, as part of their function is to reward positive outcomes and discourage negative ones.
“Management appraisals would include things like what their performance is like and their team skills. You can even have sections on there that talk about their potential,” Cowley says. “If you have someone that’s in charge of project management for new construction and renovations, you’d look at the performance of his projects, the timeliness, the accuracy, and attention to detail. Consider how well they plan, whether their scheduling process is neat and organized, and how well they know what’s going on when you ask where a project stands. Use some of your customer satisfaction surveys to give you an idea of where problems may exist.”
Non-management personnel may have additional measurements reflected on their appraisals. This could include things like tardiness, attendance, technical skills, and safety performance (as measured by the frequency of incidents you have to record for OSHA), as well as interpersonal items like “going above and beyond the call of duty, willing to work overtime, and having a can-do attitude,” says Cowley.
Also take a look at the job descriptions for your department. Are you giving feedback on every responsibility? What about the indirect qualities that distinguish good employees from great ones? Tie all appraisals – both the routine annual one and the one you should be giving any individual whose performance has changed significantly, good or bad – to promotions and raises, Cowley suggests.
“The hard part is sitting down and discussing that written appraisal with the employee. Do it honestly and in a timely manner,” Cowley recommends. “You don’t want to be saying ‘I didn’t like what you did last year.’ It will be meaningless by then.”
4) Assemble Resources
What’s available in your area to boost your employees’ training? Before incurring the cost of bringing in a consultant, check with your local community college. Many offer courses and certifications in FM-related disciplines, such as HVAC, LEAN, and electrical work.
Some, like the North Carolina Community College System, can even help with your master planning by determining what skills are necessary for each job on your team and crafting a customized program.
“North Carolina developed a program called customized industrial training, where they ask what skills you need to work at each facility. You might list things like Microsoft Word and Excel, safety, first aid, management, and maintenance training,” Goebel says. “Then the college will put together a program for you and say ‘Here’s what you asked for and here’s how we’ll address it. The company, the community college, and third-party providers all work together to identify the skill gap and come up with the plan that’s best for the company. That’s the holy grail of getting things done efficiently.”
Vendors can also be a rich source of knowledge. Approach a vendor you have an existing contract with and request a seminar related to their expertise – for example, a two-hour HVAC 101 class from the vendor that conducts annual preventive maintenance on your chillers. “I guarantee every one of them will do it for free,” explains Cowley. “Make those mandatory classes, especially in HVAC and electrical.”
As you build up your FM crew from all four sides, also pay attention to a fifth requirement for improvement – attitude. You’re the head of your FM crew, so be ready to lead.
“Be confident. Even if you’re going to make mistakes, you have to go full-force,” says Cowley. “If you make mistakes, say you made them, then turn around and fix it. You have to understand the process and what your people are doing, because if you can’t understand it, you can’t help them fix it. You’ve got to set the vision.”
Janelle Penny firstname.lastname@example.org is associate editor of BUILDINGS.