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As soon as an asset fails, there's a negative ripple effect spreading across departments. Labor stands idle, and supply chains choke while you divert resources to make up for lost opportunities. 

Because your maintenance team ensures assets stay online, everything depends on them. They make productivity possible. 

So, when you find new ways to motivate the maintenance department, you create organization-wide benefits. 

First, let's quickly review the reasons why a motivated maintenance department is so important. 

Why is the maintenance department so important? 

Other departments have traditionally seen maintenance as a cost center, but your maintenance techs produce a lot of value for the organization by ensuring assets and equipment are up and running. 

Across industries, maintenance departments are the oxygen every other department breathes. In fleet, maintenance techs ensure vehicles stay on the road. In manufacturing, they keep the production line online. In health care, maintenance techs ensure the comfort and safety of staff and patients. Without maintenance techs, expensive labor remains idle, leading to missed deadlines followed by damaged reputations and lost opportunities. 

Why does motivating the maintenance department matter? 

A report by the Incentive Research Foundation shows alarming statistics on overall employee motivation. According to the report, disengaged workers cost the US economy $300 billion annually. In addition, the report explains that organizations with above-average levels of employee engagement enjoy: 

  • 27% higher profits 
  • 50% higher sales 
  • 38% higher productivity 

 

A motivated employee is also more likely to stick around, which directly impacts profits. A 5% increase in employee retention generates a 25% to 85% increase in profitability.  

But those good numbers don't come automatically. And for a lot of organizations, a lot is standing between them and a happy maintenance department. 

Why is the maintenance department unmotivated? 

Just like most things in business, many different causes can create the same effect. Here are three common culprits. 

The maintenance department is often one of the most under-appreciated and overlooked departments in an organization. Traditionally, organizations view the role of the maintenance department as static -  maintenance activities aren’t innovative or changing. They instead stick to the status quo and cost the company money. This maintenance-as-a-necessary-burden mentality is both false and can hurt overall maintenance department morale.

The size and level of autonomy of a maintenance department vary by industry, organization size, and business model. When your maintenance department is small, team-building exercises or even attempts at creating camaraderie can be challenging or near impossible. Small teams are often over-worked and under-appreciated.

Although it's best to avoid making blanket statements, there is a percentage of older maintenance professionals who fear losing their jobs to technology, making implementing CMMS software more challenging for their departments. Recognizing this fear and understanding that many people don’t take well to change, is an important first step to better motivating employees both generally and specifically with new projects.

How can I manage the maintenance department so everyone is motivated? 

You could fill entire libraries with the research and studies on leadership styles and motivational strategies, but Hippo reached out to our customers to collect the specific tactics they find most helpful. 

Listen to your employees 

More often than not, people want their opinions heard. Make sure your employees feel comfortable coming to you with issues and suggestions by assuring them their contributions are important. Ask for their opinions frequently, and try to implement employee suggestions whenever possible. Once employees see real change due to their feedback, they are more likely to come forward with issues or suggestions. Remember that opening up communication channels is more than a feel-good exercise; often, the people who do the work have more insight into current problems and potential improvements. For example, your maintenance techs have informed opinions on which maintenance strategies work best on your assets. 

Reward good performance instead of pointing out the bad 

In every department, managers are busy people, and when issues arise, the first reaction is to discipline employees for mistakes. Change the conversation by pointing out the positive more frequently. The last thing you want is to foster a company culture where employees are afraid of approaching you, so make sure to give positive feedback often and "without warning" instead of scheduling meetings to review lists of complaints. 

And you don't have to limit yourself to verbal praise. Many organizations have seen a lot of success with larger, more formalized reward programs. But you can also always start small. 

Give simple gift cards 

An assortment of gift cards in small amounts can go a long way to rewarding a job well done. Gift cards for Starbucks or the local coffee shop provide both a good incentive a caffeine boost as well. Some organizations provide larger sums on pre-paid credit cards so that employees can choose exactly where they want to spend their reward. Always make sure to choose cards based on the location's popularity with the maintenance department. 

Create a more involved reward program 

This one can get a little complicated, but by laying out a program framework, you can generate a lot of interest from the technicians. The basic idea of these programs is that your employees earn points for a job well done, each point is added to the employee’s total, and when they accumulate enough points, they receive a prize. It's exactly like the air miles model, except you award "miles" based on tasks, not purchases. 

 

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You must determine criteria for receiving points such as completing all assigned work orders on time over the course of a month or jumping in and helping other techs complete a complicated task. Some organizations allow you to save up points over a long period of time to eventually cash in for a bigger prize, such as a new set of golf clubs or a BBQ. If it seems a bit too involved, you can always limit rewards to simple gift cards. 

Help techs solve their own problems 

A maintenance technician is automatically more invested in their workplace if they develop a sense of ownership over their job. Encourage employees to solve problems on their own so that when a task is completed they are the ones who receive the proper credit. Creating a sense of ownership signals that you trust your employees enough to make decisions and carry out projects without micro-managing them. 

Invest in safety gear for maintenance technicians 

Your employees work hard and experience a lot of wear and tear on their safety gear, including goggles, steel-toed boots, and gloves. If your company doesn’t already do this, make sure you include money in the budget so techs can upgrade these items annually. Provide each employee with a budget to spend on work gear that needs replacing. The incentive is two-fold. First, it creates a safer environment for your maintenance department. Second, by being able to purchase new items that they chose themselves, employees feel empowered to make decisions. 

Perform regular performance reviews 

Continuous feedback in a structured environment is invaluable for your maintenance team. Make sure there are formal performance reviews for each team member to discuss their work performance, attitude, and challenges. 

Ensure there is an adequate amount of time, and make sure managers spend most of the time listening instead of talking. By turning the meeting into a conversation rather than an interrogation or lecture, employees feel more open to discussing important issues or provide in-depth feedback for the organization. The key is to have frequent reviews on a quarterly or semi-annual basis so that managers can discover issues early on and give positive reinforcement. If a review isn’t going to have a wage or salary increase associated with it, let technicians know ahead of time so they’re prepared. 

Also, make sure to share feedback in the moment 

Pats on the back and congratulations for a job well done are important feedback for technicians. People need to know that their efforts are appreciated. An important component is the timing. Provide positive feedback in a reasonable timeframe so techs now that you're actively paying attention.

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And 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 internal company newsletters are all good communication channels, depending on the content of the message. 

Always praise publicly but keep negative feedback to small, private venues. 

Create a sense of team 

Promoting a sense of teamwork brings the department together. One Hippo customer explains how they empower employees to work together by giving the maintenance department full control on different projects. 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 projects. If an employee isn’t sure how best to approach their task, they 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 the decision-making. The team gets the job done much faster because they have control over their own work. 

Do lunch 

Some of our customers like to take the team out for lunch a few times a year. But they don't allow "shop talk" so technicians never feel they're at a mandatory meeting. Getting out of the facilities and exploring new public spaces can break up an otherwise average workday. If lunch seems like too a large commitment, try an afternoon coffee break. The focus should be on bringing people together over universal touchstones, like lunch and coffee. 

Do more than just lunch with lunch-and-learn 

On the other hand, lunch-and-learns are a great way to educate your techs on a specific topic such as safety standards or how to stay in compliance with government regulations. And not to patronize your team or trivialize an important meeting, but employees are more likely to be interested in a topic or look forward to a meeting if there is free food involved. As long as you have a clear agenda, leave some time at the beginning for techs to sit down and serve themselves, and at the end for cleanup, these meetings aren’t a burden to host or distracting to the team. 

Invest 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, helping increase employee retention and create 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 processes, and add resources in the budget for techs 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 technician and the organization. 

Play the maintenance game 

Harness everyone's competitive side and take an everyday work task and make it into a game. Competitions such as the first one to complete the task checklist on the air handler unit or the first team to complete the most work orders for the week win prizes good old-fashioned bragging rights. 

The science behind "gamification" is extensive, and organizations across industries now use it. Teachers award points for correct answers, and diet apps let you "level up" after maintaining set calorie counts.

 

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Make life easier for techs with preventive maintenance software 

Preventive maintenance software helps techs standardize, schedule, and track tasks, making the entire maintenance department more efficient. In addition to streamlining communication between your maintenance department and management, it also delivers time-saving functions that reduce unscheduled downtime.

With maintenance management software, techs stop wasting time on slow, error-prone manual data entry and can finally focus on completing maintenance tasks. 

Next steps 

Ready to learn more about building buy-in for a successful CMMS implementation? Or, are you still early in the process and want a basic overview of your options, including features and prices? 

Regardless of how far along you are in the process, Hippo is here to help. Contact us and we can answer your questions, help you book a live software demo, or even set you up with a free trial. 

CEO's summary

As soon as an asset is down, you're losing money. The maintenance department is critical to the organization's success because they keep assets up and running. Therefore, anything you can do to support and motivate the maintenance team pays dividends across departments. Hippo reached out to customers and asked them how they motivate their technicians. Many of the answers focus on empowering techs to take more control over their work by opening lines of communication and granting more autonomy. Also, it's important to supply techs with the right opportunities and tools, including bringing them into the decision-making process and seeking out their informed opinions. Organizations should also find ways to seek out and reward good work. They can, for example, set up reward programs starting with simple gift cards.  Implementing preventive maintenance software shows you support the maintenance department and makes life easier for the team.

About The Author

Jonathan Davis

Jonathan has been covering asset management, maintenance software, and SaaS solutions since joining Hippo CMMS. Prior to that, he wrote for textbooks and video games.
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