Tips on Making the Case for Maintenance Investments
Part one of a 2-part article by Andrew Gager on maintenance investments
When I was a plant manager years ago, my operations manager asked me for permission to hire four new workers to help keep up with demand. He said he could not keep up with the work and needed the extra help to manage the workload. I denied his request.
Why? Because he came to me with an emotional request rather than a fact-based, data-driven business case as to why we needed to add workers. Leaders cannot make business decisions based on emotions. Adding staff or equipment only makes sense if it increases the value to the organization and offsets the additional financial burden. The challenge for managers is successfully creating and presenting such a request.
The human element
Making the financial case for hiring new workers requires that maintenance and engineering managers gather, analyze, present and support their request in terms that financial types and top executives can understand and buy into. These suggestions can help managers build the business case for adding new employees.
Document needs. Put down in writing what is not getting done as a result of a shortage of technicians. A strong case might be as simple as noting the percentage of overtime technicians currently average. In some cases, the premium dollars spent on overtime covers the cost of an additional employee.
Focus on dollars. Managers should note the amount of money the company is losing by not having a fully staffed team. Make sure to include tasks not getting done that a new person could do, as well as the anticipated short- and long-term benefits to the department and company.
Assess the impact. List the total cost, including benefits, of the new position. Focus on the way the benefits will outweigh the costs. For example, how soon can the organization expect the new positions to pay for themselves? Also, give details on reporting structure for the position and the way it will interact with existing positions. Top executives must be crystal clear as to the benefits and emphasis placed on communicating with current staff to maintain morale. Bringing in a new resource at higher pay, grade or position can cause morale problems.
Plan for pushback. Anticipate and address objections and resistance. When building the business case to add workers, managers must ask themselves the same questions they expect executives and staff to ask. By preparing for this type of pushback or objections, managers will be ready to answer them intelligently and confidently.
Keep it simple. The request should be two pages at the most — ideally, with bullet points. Make it easy to skim, and be sure critical points standout. Do not assume everyone will read a long dissertation. This is an executive summary of the request to add resources. With luck, the time will come to discuss the request in greater detail. At first, keep it simple.
Follow up. It amazes me how many managers give up when the initial answer is no. If the need is real, keep pushing forward. The first go-around apparently did not show enough need or stress the pain points. Reformulate the request to gain support.