Human Resources, Maintenance and Operations, Training

Can Online Training Help Build and Retain Top-Notch Maintenance Teams?

It’s hard for a resource-strapped business to watch a once-eager new hire walk out the door. Yet, despite knowing the familiar pain of employee turnover all too well, most businesses consistently report ongoing challenges related to the training and retention of maintenance teams.

To combat turnover of top performers, many companies strategically invest in training for their employees. What should be a straightforward panacea for curing unhealthy attrition comes with its own obstacles. These companies often find that even after investing in training, the most common roadblocks come up when attempting to implement a successful training program that engages employees and builds loyalty.

How can organizations overcome the most common training challenges to build top maintenance technician teams?

Turn Training Challenges into Opportunities

Transforming your organization’s training starts with adopting the right mindset. The most-cited challenges to implementing a successful training program include cost, time, competition for skilled labor, ineffective training, and a lack of business ROI.

  • Cost: “I don’t have the shop space or the staff to build and run a training center.”
  • Time: “I don’t have the time to implement training.”
  • Labor: “I am not going to train my employees; they will leave and work for someone else.”
  • Lack of results: “Manufacturer training is costly and ineffective for a lot of my technicians.”
  • ROI: “I don’t have the budget for training because I can’t quantify its impact.”

Turning those challenges around opens opportunities for engaging and empowering employees. With the right mindset, organizations can do the following:

  • Reduce costs: “I can reduce the need to build and run my own training lab if I invest in online, digital training for my technicians.”
  • Save time: “There are several resources that I can tap into, whether it’s online, outsourced, or in-house training.”
  • Increase retention: “Implementing training that is engaging and aligns to my technicians’ personal growth goals will help with retention.”
  • Implement ongoing training: “Having a training culture that is consistent and ongoing will make manufacturer training more effective.”
  • Improve ROI: “The cost of not implementing a training program can be even higher for companies than actually building one out if you factor in the list of potential direct and indirect costs associated with ineffective or non-existent training.”

Effectively Engage the Workforce

More and more workers consider their own opportunities for career advancement in their job search. In general, they’re more likely to leave a job without meaningful investment in training for one at an organization known to support skills development and career pathways.

Therefore, building an engaged workforce is critical for recruiting and retaining top skilled talent. Investing in flexible digital training can reduce the cost and time required for traditional training, while supporting the personal and career growth of technicians to increase retention.

These investments act as the foundation for a consistent culture of training that measurably reduces turnover. Otherwise, in the long run, not implementing a proven skills training program could cost companies much more through direct and indirect losses attributable to poor performance and continued churn. They will have to be prepared to endure these losses indefinitely.

Some of the measurable benefits of a training culture that directly raises retention rates include:

  • Improved job satisfaction: Employees know your organization is committed to employee development.
  • Enhanced productivity: Teams become equipped to handle a wider range of tasks and projects.
  • Greater flexibility: Employees have a voice about their future.
  • Increased collaboration: An increased understanding of skills can promote collaboration and communication.
  • Safety and risk management: Teams feel confident that they can address safety issues that may arise.

Implement the Right Training Program

Traditional methods, when organizations bring in experts or set up on-the-job shadowing, are expensive and may no longer serve as the only training options in an evolving workplace with changing employee expectations. Training leaders should consider innovative training tools that can drive meaningful results.

Innovative, immersive learning platforms for skilled workers present an ideal solution, with features that include:

  • Learning management: An effective learning management system streamlines the administrative side of a training program. Ideally, the learning management system will allow you to track the progress of all employees, look at their last activity, and see how often they are interacting with the training program.
  • Field-like assessments: Managers can benefit from training that offers built-in assessments, which help them understand where employees’ skills are versus where managers want them to be.
  • Customized learning paths: Because different employees bring different skill sets to the table, the most efficient training is training that allows managers to customize pathways for each learner.
  • Cross-training opportunities: A program with broad offerings creates a one-stop shop that can offer greater value and increased efficiency. Learners can take advantage of a wide variety of courses while utilizing the same platform, enabling them to gain new skills and learn new equipment types.

One of a program’s biggest and most important success factors is the employees’ experiences with it. A good training program is only as effective as how often the learners are using and adopting it, so it is important to consider learners’ satisfaction and listen to their feedback.

Empowering employees can enhance every aspect of business, leading to higher rates of retention as well as immediate and long-term gains in efficiency and productivity.

Training itself is not a magic bullet for building the best team. But effective, targeted training that accelerates ramp time and improves performance is one of the most powerful tools facilities management professionals can employ to meet the challenges they face. Of the training options available, digital learning platforms provide unique flexibility. The customized online training opportunities they offer are an efficient way to match educational content with a range of experience and learning styles, and a critical tool for connecting with young talent and efficiently preparing techs for the job.

Dan Clapper is the commercial HVAC and facilities maintenance market director for Interplay Learning, a provider of online and VR training for the essential skilled trades. He has more than 25 years of experience in HVAC service and installation, wholesale sales and distribution, and manufacturer training.

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