Three tips to train a multigenerational workforce

Managing a generationally-diverse maintenance staff can be challenging at times, but the wide range of skills and experiences gained from a multigenerational workforce can drive high productivity once reigned in.

By Paul Lachance, president, Smartware Group December 9, 2016

Today’s maintenance world spans many generations. From baby boomers with decades of experience to millennials just entering the workforce, the average maintenance team is more diverse than ever before. While this diversity is useful for companies, it can make it difficult to keep all employees working together seamlessly for maximum operational efficiency.

Training a multi-generational workforce requires a dual perspective on maintenance. While seasoned employees can educate new personnel on existing systems and processes, younger maintenance professionals have much to offer when it comes to new technologies, especially mobile. Finding operational success with limited downtime demands training that caters to employees of all ages and creates opportunities for team members to share their specific strengths company-wide.

Why is training so important? While many companies struggle to overcome issues with their existing maintenance management systems, training is an opportunity to shore up profits with existing resources and team members.

Likewise, proper training can help companies improve the performance of their maintenance programs over time. Training must happen often because, not only do maintenance teams lose skills and expertise over time, but maintenance solutions are also constantly evolving, and workers must adapt to meet those changes. Consistent training programs keep maintenance professionals up up-to to-date and balances fundamentals with new competencies to ensure that maintenance teams never encounter a scenario they’re unequipped to handle.

Training should include:

  • Skill swapping: Training should facilitate the exchange of skills between young and old employees. A maintenance professional who has worked for a manufacturer for decades has much to teach a new hire about company processes or machine particularities. For example, there may be a best route to assess a certain belt that has a tricky fix for maximum life that new employees will be unaware of.
    • Likewise, that new hire with strong mobile fluency can help his or her older counterpart learn how to use mobile solutions in the warehouse. Although many companies still collect data through manual systems, or not at all, this is quickly changing as more manufacturers embrace digital solutions like mobile computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) apps for iOS and Android smartphones and tablets.
    • Millennial-aged workers are often also comfortable using mobile features to expedite maintenance efforts, such as taking pictures of assets for work orders or scanning a machine’s QR code to access related manuals, parts, safety notes, and other information.
    • Through skill swapping and collaborative training programs, companies will develop a maintenance team that works together to problem-solve. All knowledge becomes valuable, and maintenance professionals can provide easy backup for one another knowing that all members of the team share the same skills and understanding of maintenance tools and solutions.
  • On-site and virtual offerings: People have different learning styles, and this holds true at the plant level. As such, companies should offer a range of training programs to best engage all personnel. For instance, some may respond better to on-site CMMS training where individuals can escape the distractions of the day while others may enjoy virtual training sessions (webinars) that offer a bit more flexibility to complete.
  • Professional services: Leading CMMS providers can help connect maintenance professionals with training and certifications to better handle their daily responsibilities, as well as manage a host of other tasks including data migration and consulting.
    • Senior-level consultants with years of industry-specific experience will be able to facilitate knowledge sharing in the process of tailoring CMMS to specific operations. Whether the industry is gas and oil, food and beverage, etc., consultants with this kind of long-term, technical experience will know which information is most critical to operational efficiency in said industry. Therefore, it should be shared between generations.
    • Additionally, in-house consulting services can leverage best practices to help maintenance workers overcome general maintenance obstacles no matter their age. For instance, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is a key area of interest for many companies with just 25% of manufacturing leaders saying their current IIoT usage is more advanced than competitors. CMMS consultants are well aware of these hurdles (which are really opportunities to stand out from competitors) and can help maintenance workers become more comfortable with modern maintenance systems and the powerful functionalities behind them.
    • For companies that do not have an existing CMMS and are implementing from scratch, support from industry-leading CMMS consultants can make the implementation process easier and ensure that all voices are heard throughout engagements.

When training comes first, operational efficiency soon follows.

Managing a generationally- diverse maintenance staff can be challenging at times, but the wide range of skills and experiences gained from a multi-generational workforce can drive high productivity once reigned in. Generational diversity will only continue as aging maintenance professionals retire and younger employees take their place – while technology continues to advance by leaps and bounds. To stay in line with this rapid pace, proactive companies must re-invest in training and seek out CMMS partners that have also prioritized training as a pillar of their business models. 

-Paul Lachance is the president of Smartware Group. Smartware Group is a CFE Media content partner.

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