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How To Recruit And Retain Skilled Maintenance Workers

How To Recruit And Retain Skilled Maintenance Workers
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Summary: This article has explored five ways in which employers can recruit and retain skilled maintenance workers. Simply providing a job and telling employees to "get on with it" just won’t suffice in today’s maintenance market.

5 Ways To Recruit And Retain Maintenance Workers

The global maintenance market is enormous—it’s expected to reach a value of $1.548 trillion with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7% by 2023. An industry as large and diverse in its scope as maintenance clearly requires a significant amount of skilled talent. However, securing skilled maintenance personnel is becoming increasingly challenging due to factors beyond the control of any single maintenance department. Increasingly as difficult is the companies’ ability to retain this much-needed talent. This article will explore five ways to recruit and retain skilled maintenance workers that management across all industry sectors will need to consider.

1. Accept The New Labor Market

The global skilled worker market is experiencing severe shortages, including in the maintenance sphere. This is already having direct impacts on productivity and related cost efficiencies. Employers have to accept that it is currently an employee market, and is set to be so for the foreseeable future. Beyond the so-called post-COVID "new normal," which has witnessed a paradigm change in labor with more demanding and "fluid" employees, there are three other reasons usually cited for the global shortage of skilled maintenance workers, namely:

  • Older employees have retired from the workforce or are soon to do so
  • The maintenance industry is finding it difficult to attract younger generations
  • Emerging technologies are demanding employees with more diversified skillsets not formerly typical of the maintenance industry

Therefore, the labor market has become tight and hyper-competitive, and so employers now have to make jobs appealing for potential recruits into maintenance positions.

2. Recruit Like It Is 2022

As stated, the maintenance job market has become more skewed in favor of job seekers; therefore employers need to become smarter in the way they recruit applicants. Simple old-school job postings no longer suffice—being more creative in advertising jobs is essential in 2022.

One way to achieve this is by means of social recruiting, whereby recruitment is done via social media platforms. Also referred to as social media recruiting, social hiring, or social recruitment, this form of job advertising ensures that companies reach out to prospective employees via communication channels that define both the contemporary job market and modern society.

A huge plus for any company using social media recruitment tactics is that it is an excellent branding vehicle for the employer. Social media channels can help boost the online profile of a company and, in turn, help to raise the company’s value proposition with potential recruits—yes, that includes a more "traditional" and "conservative" industry such as maintenance.

Consider the fact that nearly 75% of employees across the board in the 18–34 age demographic found their most recent job via social media. That makes social recruiting the most accessible way to reach millennials (those born from 1980 to 1996) and Gen Z (those born from 1997 to 2014). It also means that a company can better boast about in-house benefits, such as eLearning initiatives that foster personal growth, to those generations that actively care about such offerings by employers.

3. Focus On Learning

Increasingly, employees want more than just "a job that pays" in exchange for their labor. They want work that is fulfilling and in which they can achieve personal growth. This is especially true of millennials and Gen Z, and even true of older generations (i.e., those considered to be Gen X or baby boomers). Once again, this is increasingly true even in a more "nuts and bolts" industry such as maintenance.

Employees want to feel valued, and one way to achieve that is by fostering a learning environment within a maintenance department. As such, continuous learning should be the bedrock and focus of your Learning Management System (LMS). This upskilling of employees on an ongoing basis is not only great recruitment "sell," but also a tried and proven way of improving employee retention rates.

eLearning is an excellent way of ensuring that employees are able to keep learning new skills and acquire knowledge in their work. There are multiple benefits to eLearning, including:

  • Time flexibility for busy employees
  • Ease with when and where learning can take place
  • More cost-effective for employers and employees alike
  • Allows employees to learn at their own pace
  • Linked to performance-related incentives or promotions

4. Foster A Growth Culture

In order to retain skilled workers, the workers need to feel that their growth within the organization is taken seriously and their labor is more than simply a zero-sum "mere job" in exchange for a salary. Inclusive leadership ensures that employees’ growth is fostered and even championed by the organization.

The importance of a growth mindset and culture within an organization cannot be underestimated. A growth mindset is predicated on the idea of all employees being "lifelong learners" (i.e., learning should be a constant throughout any employee’s career). The Learning and Development (L&D) function within an organization should play a pivotal role in enabling and developing this growth mindset for all. This mindset has multiple benefits for any maintenance employee, including:

  • Appreciating that maintenance skills don’t magically occur, they require learning and practical application
  • Ensuring that any maintenance skill or competency is not "set in stone" and can always be attained with proper learning and dedication
  • Allowing the employee to realize their full potential, both professionally and personally

5. Demand Standards

Even in an "employee market" an employer must insist on high standards from employees, in both the recruitment and employment phases. The culture within a discerning maintenance department requires certain standards and skills. Without predetermined and stringent standards, how can skilled maintenance professionals be properly recruited?

One way of ensuring and assessing the skills of maintenance workers is via maintenance-related certifications. These formally-recognized credentials can ensure that a recruit or employee has the legitimacy and required competence to perform a certain job in maintenance. There are various certifications in the industry, including:

  • Building Owners and Managers Institute International, Inc (BOMI)
  • American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE)
  • The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
  • Society for Maintenance & Reliability ‎Professionals (SMRP)
  • City and Guilds (for UK maintenance professionals)

A demanding attitude by those representing the employer will ensure that the most skilled maintenance workers are recruited and the most competent professionals retained. How so? Because recruits or employees who are skilled have inevitably accomplished that through hard work, learning, and perseverance. Truly skilled people invariably respond well to high standards because it affords them the ability to shine and improve their skillset.

Final Thoughts

One thing is certain: the ability to attract and retain skilled maintenance personnel has become more challenging than ever. Finding and attracting the needed skilled maintenance workers is difficult enough in a global market afflicted by a massive skilled labor shortage. The retention of talent is made even more difficult in an employee-focused market.

More than ever, maintenance management needs to be smart about how it both attracts and retains skilled maintenance talent. Initiatives such as eLearning must be actively pursued in order to stimulate personal growth, thereby fostering employee loyalty to the company. Simply providing a job and telling employees to "get on with it" just won’t suffice in today’s maintenance market.