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Maintenance and engineering management is continuing its transition from job to full-fledged profession. In the process, managers are having to rethink almost everything they do, from specifying products and setting budgets to communicating with top management and getting involved in renovations and new construction projects.
One especially important change is taking place in the way managers approach training and education for front-line technicians who maintain facilities: Increasingly, they are offering incentives. This evolving strategy is likely to improve the long-term performance of institutional and commercial facilities, but it also is likely to have a major impact on the maintenance and engineering management profession.
The traditional approach had been to rely largely on on-the-job training to fill any skills gaps for new and existing workers. If they needed an update on a new technology or system, the manager found a training resource, dipped into the budget, and sent a group for training. Then, managers had to hope technicians would return with enhanced skills, thereby justifying the investment.
But facilities have become increasingly complex in the recent decades, and organizations are watching the bottom line more closely than ever. One result of this changing landscape is that managers are under greater pressure to make sure they allocate finances effectively. They have to be absolutely sure — instead of just hopeful — that workers actually come back with knowledge and skills that will help the organization.
Here's where the change is occurring: In addition to devoting some funds to upfront training, a growing number of maintenance and engineering departments are offering incentives to workers who earn certifications, licenses, and degrees related to their specific area of responsibility.
In some departments, the incentive programs are fairly specific and comprehensive. They award bonuses for, among other accomplishments, earning a bachelor's or master's degree, a journeyman's license, or a certification for asbestos removal or mold remediation.
The programs are likely to affect technicians' decisions to participate in training and education. They also are apt to ensure these activities translate into benefits for the organization. In addition, the programs identify the skills, certifications, and educational achievements that managers and organizations believe are important in being effective technicians. But their impact is even greater than that. In the process of formalizing training and education for technicians, the programs also are defining the goals and mission of the entire profession.
Dan Hounsell offers observations about trends in maintenance and engineering management and the evolving role of managers in facilities.
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