The Ultimate Maintenance Manager’s Training Guide: Part 1

A variety of tools on a wooden surface

As a maintenance manager in the multi-family maintenance industry, you face many daily challenges. You may not have enough techs, and the techs you do have may not be trained with all the skills needed to handle day-to-day business.

Managing an underskilled and understaffed workforce is stressful, and you’re realizing that growing your own skilled workforce from the ground up is your responsibility.

High Costs for Multi-Family Maintenance Managers

If you don’t take measures to adequately recruit, onboard and train new techs, the resulting skills gap issues are damaging to your business. The following are just some of the costs reported by multi-family managers:

  • Excessive outsourcing and increased third-party calls
  • Increased callbacks
  • Increasing MRO (maintenance, repair and operating) costs
  • Increased ticket wait times
  • Negative tenant reviews and higher tenant turnover rates
  • On-the-job accidents
  • Equipment failures resulting from technician errors
  • High technician turnover

So, where do you begin a plan to hire and lead a highly skilled maintenance team that reduces costs, helps increase capacity and keeps tenants adequately served? The answer lies in building an effective training program that attracts the right talent, trains them efficiently and encourages their career growth, so you can keep them on board for the long haul.

The practical steps outlined in part 1 of this four-phase guide will give you the insight and direction you need to start building your maintenance technician dream team today.

Phase 1: Attracting New Maintenance Talent

Building a team of highly skilled maintenance techs starts with hiring the right people. However, it’s no secret how competitive the landscape is for finding skilled workers. With Baby Boomers retiring in droves, and fewer young people entering the trades, the maintenance industry is competing with the construction, engineering and manufacturing industries for new hires out of the same dwindling talent pool.

The kind of talent you want scarcely exists anymore. That’s why it’s time to turn your focus towards hiring for attitude and training for aptitude. Pursuing candidates with soft skills, like dependability and motivation, is more valuable to the success of building a maintenance dream team you can count on, rather than on technical skills alone. From there, you can focus your attention on investing in comprehensive, quality training content that covers foundational skills, so you can onboard your green techs as rapidly as possible.

Offer Career Advancement

To attract next-generation talent, the training you offer must support opportunities for career advancement as today’s workforce values training more than ever before.

As people from many industries seek new lines of work, offering reskilling opportunities gives you a hiring advantage. Millennials, for example, make up more than 42% of the U.S. workforce and 71% say they are unlikely to stay more than two years in a job where their leadership skills are not being developed. A recent survey found that for this generation, “sufficient training” outranks company culture, flexibility and even salary.

Your Training is a Marketing Tool

When Andy Fuchs, Training Coordinator for UA Local 137, noticed that union apprenticeship numbers were starting to fall, he turned to VR training technology to help recruit a new wave of HVAC professionals.

By setting up a VR training lab at career fairs across Central Illinois, he was able to demonstrate to the next generation that learning a trade like HVAC can be fun and interactive. Not only did he successfully attract long lines of highschoolers to his booth, but Andy proved he could use VR training as a marketing tool to recruit digital natives into the trades.

What Andy’s story teaches us is that to attract and retain the next generation of skilled maintenance technicians, you’ll have to consider the ways that they prefer to learn and consume content.

Gone are the days of traditional training methods like PowerPoint presentations and classroom lectures. If you’re going to build the majority of your workforce with digital natives, then you’ll have to appeal to them with digital-first training methods that make them want to work for you.

Phase 1 Summary:

  • The skilled talent you seek doesn’t exist anymore
  • You have to develop the skills of your own workforce from scratch
  • Make career development a priority in your training program
  • Look for talent with hungry, coachable attitudes and soft skills like dependability
  • To attract the new generation, offer the flexible, digital training options they want

Phase 2: Invest in a Digital-First Training Approach

What digital training options are available to help attract and engage your maintenance dream team?

Online, On-Demand Maintenance Training Content

Digital transformation has touched every part of our lives, including how we learn. With the rise of online catalog learning like Udemy™ and LinkedIn Learning, limitless course content has become widely available to help us hone in on just about any skill, on any device. Now, this concept of catalog learning is available to maintenance workers too.

From foundational video courses on electrical concepts to interactive toilet troubleshooting simulations, online catalog learning means you can deliver hundreds of hours of skilled trades training content to the homes and service trucks of your maintenance technicians. By providing online multi-family maintenance training courses, you empower your techs to learn wherever and whenever they prefer, giving them the flexibility and convenience they want and the skills they need to perform for you. This frees up your time to help them develop their careers instead of spending endless hours as a content machine. With digital catalogs, you can build a technician development program using existing content as a foundation.

When Tom Spall, CEO of T.E. Spall and Son decided to place more emphasis on formal training for his HVAC technicians, he assumed that he would be creating original training content from scratch. Instead, he was introduced to an online course catalog, and immediately realized he could build a fortified training structure with digital classes at the core. He founded T.E. University using digital catalog content, which freed up his time to create a strong culture of learning and development within his team.

Another benefit of digital catalog content is that it represents decades of industry knowledge consolidated into bits and bytes. Gone are the days of relying on seasoned technicians to pass on industry knowledge through classroom learning, weekend training courses or in-person mentorship.

The multi-family maintenance industry can now defer to automated, digital mentors to scale job shadowing in a way that has never been possible. While in-person mentorship is unquestionably the most valuable way to learn, you know firsthand how inefficient this method has become for multi-family enterprises with thousands of technicians spread out nationally.

Scale Hands-On Practice with Digital Experiential Learning

The path to building your dream team must include safe, repetitive and supervised hands-on practice. Yet, creating in-the-field teaching opportunities can be both time and resource-intensive and tough to scale. That’s why Digital Experiential Learning (DExL) methods, such as 3D simulations or virtual reality (VR), are revolutionizing the way the skilled trades gain hands-on experience. VR, for example, is capable of providing limitless opportunities for on-the-job training, replicating endless field scenarios from the safety of your own home.

While training with simulations is relatively new to the skilled trades, this technology has been used for many decades in aviation, the military and surgical sciences. One of the greatest advantages offered by simulation-based training is that it gives learners the opportunity to cross-train. Digital Experiential Learning (DExL) allows learners with specific skills to explore and expand their knowledge and responsibilities by cross-training in a risk-free environment.

Phase 2 Summary:

  • Online catalog courses offer on-demand skilled trades training anytime, anywhere
  • Catalog courses bring decades of expert knowledge to your fingertips
  • Providing digital learning opportunities lets you focus on developing your teams’ careers
  • Digital mentorship is efficient and scalable, unlike in-person mentorship
  • Simulations offer the same hands-on practice of field work without resource constraints
  • Practicing in a risk-free digital environment removes barriers to hands-on learning

Once you’ve attracted your new talent and settled on your digital training content, it’s time to move on to part 2 of the Ultimate Maintenance Manager’s Training Guide. In phases 3 and 4, we cover assessing the skills of your new talent to set them on the best learning paths. Then, we introduce the importance of incentivizing learning, tracking progress and integrating digital training into your learning management system (LMS).