Batting against the “half-life” of maintenance training

Effective maintenance training is not a one-time thing. It’s an always thing. Understanding and practicing this idea is one of the keys to success with using a modern CMMS to improve maintenance operations.

By Smartware Group June 17, 2016

Spring has arrived throughout much of the United States, and many people are hurrying to ballparks to play and watch baseball. America’s favorite pastime can remind everyone how a good player who masters the fundamentals during spring training can raise the performance level of an entire team.

Spring training is an essential part of a team’s preparation for the season. We would never expect a player who hasn’t previously gotten into the right physical and mental shape to perform his or her tasks well during a game. Unprepared players make costly errors, resulting in injury and disappointing losses.

These same principles apply to maintenance organizations as well. Moreover, effective maintenance training is not a one-time thing. It’s an always thing. Understanding and practicing this idea is one of the keys to success with using a modern CMMS to improve maintenance operations.

Training has a "half-life"

Of course, every maintenance manager wishes they could simply train their staff once, and everyone would be set for life, but that sadly isn’t the case. Sam McNair, a senior consultant with Life Cycle Engineering, told Maintenance Technology that eventually, the lessons you teach your staff begin to wear off.

McNair noted that the decline is measurable. He approximated that within about 30 months of training, the level of maintenance expertise among his staff tends to fall by about 50%.

"As a consultant to industry, I like to remind my clients of this important fact," he explained. "When planning for their operations, they need to remember that training has a ‘half-life.’ The length of this half-life is a mere two to three years."

When you look at it this way, it becomes clear that more emphasis on training is a must.

Investing in a skilled workforce

Training isn’t easy. It takes time and money to get your staff up-to-speed on anything, and those are resources that you might be tempted to allocate somewhere else. It’s an investment. You put resources toward training your staff now so their productivity and efficiency will increase later.

"If you train to obtain a measurable improvement in performance, unless you provide for refresher training in about a two-year time frame, you will measurably lose half or more of what you gained through the initial training," McNair cautioned. "If you want to retain the gains, you must plan for ongoing refresher training."

Close the knowledge gap

In light of these knowledge losses, here are five coaching tips to help your maintenance team bring more wins to projects:

1. Anticipate unforeseen situations. Great players always look ahead at what they need to do for the next play. Great employees, likewise, prepare for changing priorities, client demands, and mechanical challenges. Training for effective management of work orders, preventive maintenance, and safety concerns creates an environment where employees are rarely caught unaware.

2. Focus on the fundamentals. Great ball players practice the basics of throwing and catching every day. Similarly, great employees focus on performing their tasks and recording their results, consistently and accurately. Regular training provides an opportunity for employees to make sure fundamentals are sharp and effective for each and every shift.

3. Bring new players into the system. Whenever new players join the team, they go through an orientation that introduces the key players and their strengths and weaknesses, as well as the top plays that the team relies upon for success. Employees need that same, consistent orientation to the company and their jobs so they are best able to quickly and effectively fill their roles. A well-designed onboarding process avoids many of the pitfalls that come with the misunderstanding of policies and procedures.

4. Develop a team approach to problem-solving. While a player may hit a home run to win a game or make a spectacular catch to stop an opponent’s rally, no one player can be the hero every time. Employee turnover, PTO, and reassignments create gaps that can prove hard to fill on a day-to-day basis. Providing opportunities to train together to know the full range of tools and techniques available can provide the backup needed when a challenging situation arises.

5. Encourage continual personal improvement. A 20-year-old fastball pitcher or a strong pull hitter will have to develop varied techniques if he hopes to be effective when he hits 30. Changes in workplace procedures and technologies will also require employees to constantly develop new skills to grow with a company. Regular advanced training opportunities-leading to certificates and credentials-motivate employees to make themselves more innovative in their approach to problem-solving while making them more effective at enhancing the company’s profitability.

The creation of a winning team is obviously not just for those on the ball field. By applying spring training principles to your organization, you can form the basis for creating a high-achieving team that can effectively adapt to changing workplace demands. Provide a winning training strategy in the workplace today and watch your maintenance team surpass expectations.

This article originally appeared on Smartware Group blog. Smartware Group is a CFE Media content partner.

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