Improve communication with your maintenance team
Communication is an important component of every facility or plant manager’s job description. The trick is providing helpful and thoughtful feedback that encourages their employees to succeed. The following tips describe communication strategies to better motivate your maintenance department.
16. Frequent Performance Appraisals
Continuous feedback in a structured environment is priceless for your maintenance team. Make sure you take the time to have formal performance appraisals with each team member to discuss their work performance, work challenges, attitude, etc. Allocate an adequate amount of time for the discussion (up to an hour) and make sure you spend most of the time listening instead of talking. Start the meeting off with questions posed to them such as “How do you think you’ve been doing?”, “What are the challenges you face?” and “How can I help?”. By turning the meeting into a conversation rather than a lecture or interrogation, employees will feel more open to discussing important issues or provide in-depth feedback for the organization. The key is to have regular appraisals on a quarterly or semi-annual basis so that issues are discovered early on or positive reinforcement can be given on a timely basis. If the appraisal isn’t going to have a wage or salary boost associated with it, let them know ahead of time so they’re prepared.
17. Share Feedback In The Moment
Pats on the back and well wishes of a job well done are important feedback tools for your employees to receive. Another important component of this feedback is the frequency in which it occurs. It is important to provide continuous feedback, but also to make it relevant for the employee. Provide feedback in a reasonable timeframe of its occurrence so positive feedback is rewarded on a timely basis and also to ensure employee issues or challenges that can be resolved quickly once mentioned. Sharing in the moment doesn’t necessarily have to be face-to-face (although you should consider this one of the best forms of communication), emails, texts, and news boards are all good communication channels depending on the content of the message.
18. Share Feedback From Other Sources Than Yourself
Although feedback from a direct manager is important, when positive feedback comes from vendors, customers, or their own team it can be even more motivating. Peer-to-peer motivation helps others feel supported by a team and shows them that their work is recognized and valued. One facility manager we spoke with collects comments from customers and co-workers each month and shares these messages over a mass email to the entire group. Their successes are highlighted to their peers by their peers, making the email both anticipated and thoughtful.
19. Get The Help From Automated Processes To Improve Communication
Maintenance management software offers an integrated platform for facility and plant managers to inform one another about work order statuses and important tasks. Work order input fields, such as open text comment sections to communicate challenges a technician is experiencing with a work order, task checklists to provide a step-by-step guide of how to approach a given project, and the work order status dropdown to easily tell managers the current stage of a specific work order, integrate together to send real-time information to a facility manager. Web-based maintenance software allows for information to be updated and relayed across the entire system immediately, so managers and maintenance technicians are alerted of work order progress immediately. This provides a non-invasive way for managers to check in on their team without having to dig for the information.
20. Mediate Change In The Maintenance Department
Change can be scary for anyone, be it a change in job description or a new complicated process that an employee is “forced” to use. Often times, change is a top down approach and the people who make the decisions aren’t the same people affected by these new policies. In an aging maintenance workforce, change often takes the form of new technological processes that are unfamiliar to a team used to working with manual methods. If new methods are pushed through without a team consultation, interest may decrease and user uptake reduced. The point here is not that new processes should be avoided by departments, nor that every strategic decision be run past an entire team, but rather your maintenance team should be alerted in advance. In the case of CMMS, successful implementation of the software starts with buy-in from an entire team as maintenance management software is only as good as the data inputted. It is important to communicate the various benefits of a system such as a mobile app allowing maintenance workers to access their work orders in the field without having to shuffle through paper. It also keeps them more organized and reduces downtime between jobs. Remember to mitigate fears about departmental change by explaining the benefits of any decision made. Your team has important insight into features that a CMMS should have, so don’t disregard their objections.
21. Make An Investment In Continuous Learning
Knowledge is the key to success. An informed maintenance staff can do their jobs more efficiently and feel more invested in their organization. This helps to increase employee retention and creates an environment where employees shift from maintenance workers to specialists in their field. Invest in training sessions on current industry practices, encourage workers to read articles, blogs and forums about new machine processes, and allocate some money in the budget for employees to take evening or distance education courses. Education should be continuous, as employees can always use a refresher on best practices. Make sure courses are aligned with job roles and that they provide value to both the employee and employer.
22. Introduce A Team Mentality
As mentioned in motivator #18, peer-to-peer evaluation is an important feedback loop to have. Additionally, instilling a team mentality amongst your workers will create a more unified department. When your employees collaborate on projects and feed off of peer-to-peer expertise, you will find yourself doing less “managing” and more mentoring. One facility manager we spoke with empowers their employees to work together by giving the department full control on different projects within a team framework. They provide the group with a report of all the machinery that needs to be fixed and a supplemental task checklist. It is the group’s responsibility to divide and conquer the listed tasks. If an employee isn’t sure how best to approach their task, they are to work with the group to come up with a viable solution. The manager is always there to provide insight or guidance, but the team completes the bulk of decision-making. They find this gets the job done much faster and the team enjoys the control they have over their own work.
23. Get To Know Your Employees
This tip may not be a very original one, but you would be surprised by how many facility managers fail to truly get to know the members of their maintenance team. Many teams are smaller in size and the people on them work quite independently of one another, providing a less than ideal place to learn about an individual’s life outside of the facility. Getting to know your team doesn’t have to include weekend work retreats, but rather simple small talk over their family, friends, and hobbies. Connecting with the people that you manage builds trust and strengthens your work relationships. These aspects are important in improving workplace communication.
Written by Margeaux Girardin
Originally posted on hippocmms.com