Workplace Safety Culture: Wallick Communities Invests in Engaging Online Training for Maintenance Teams

A collage of pictures of employees with masks from Wallick Communities

Wallick Communities develops, builds, manages, and oversees affordable multi-family housing and senior-assisted living in over 2,000 communities across 9 states, with 14,000 units under management. Setting the bar high in the industry for building and encouraging a company-wide safety culture, Wallick integrates highly engaging virtual courses into its onboarding and maintenance training program for its 120+ associates in partnership with Interplay Learning. 

Fostering a Safety Training Culture

Safety training accounts for 56% of all workforce investments, making it the top line item in many training budgets. On a practical level, a large safety training investment is required for compliance and to lower insurance premiums; however, Wallick Communities goes beyond compliance, weaving ongoing safety training into the fabric of its special company culture.

Nikki Pannell serves as Wallick’s Learning & Development Manager. Having been in various L&D roles throughout her career, Nikki cares deeply for people’s well-being and actively champions putting safety at the forefront of learning.  

“We just love and adore our residents— they are our priority. Since we’re focusing on low-income housing, they’re a special group. They already have needs that regularly go unfulfilled, so we want to ensure that we provide them with everything they need to feel safe and secure in their homes.

There’s nothing worse than when you feel like the world’s already against you, and then your toilet stops working. The smallest things can be a deal-breaker to our residents on any given day. That is why maintenance and safety training is so important to us. We want to make sure that all of our Wallick associates are giving our residents top-tier, quality customer service all the time because our residents are the heart of why we’re doing what we’re doing.”

The High Cost of Safety Training Inertia

Every multi-family organization offers safety training, but whether employees are engaged and retaining what it means to work safely is another matter. 

It’s no secret that traditional safety training is often characterized as boring and uninteresting, serving more as a compliance formality than effective lessons in safety.  However, the role safety training plays in tackling rising workers comp claims, increasing protection from liability lawsuits, and the costs associated with employee injuries and illnesses is significant.

  • 1 worker is injured every 7 seconds in the US 
  • Employee safety programs can reduce costs related to injury and workplace illness by as much as 40%, according to OSHA.
  • For every $1 invested in safety programs, $4-$6 can be saved. These savings can add up to thousands of dollars annually. 

When multi-family organizations are already struggling to fill open maintenance roles, they can’t afford to keep offering the same old, passive safety training videos to the associates at the highest risk of taking leave from injuries and illnesses. Nikki explains the negative impact that safety training inertia can have on operations, 

“Maintenance staff being out on sick leave or disability is a huge opportunity cost that has a detrimental impact on the organization. We are already short-staffed, and it’s very hard to attract and retain maintenance people. We have several communities sharing maintenance techs, so if somebody’s out sick or injured, and that person is responsible for two or three properties, that could lead to twenty to thirty residents with outstanding work orders. The well-being of our associates is huge, and we want our people to be well-versed in safety protocols so they’re fit to work.” 

Nikki continues, “One of the biggest things that we want to focus on is the proper use of tools and how to lift and pull things. Even though it sounds basic, these things have a huge impact and can prevent back injuries, which is the #1 workers comp claim.”

Five Reasons Safety in the Workplace Pays

For multi-family companies like Wallick Communities that have taken a strong position on safety, it was important for them to invest in interactive, scalable technical training for their 120+ maintenance staff that would align with their safety mission and support their associates’ career development. 

It All starts with Engagement

Before using Interplay, Wallick relied on various e-courses offered through their property management platform and LMS. In tandem with vendor training, they pieced together a package of courses that they would assign to their new hires and maintenance staff to be completed annually. As their need to hire and fill entry-level maintenance roles grew more critical, they began searching for a modern, comprehensive solution to scale and support learning retention. Nikki shares, 

“We have a bunch of maintenance staff all over the place, so we needed to find a way to address our training needs in a scalable manner. It’s not feasible to send vendors out to our communities and have consistent training across the board. When we came across Interplay, we were excited because it is modern training and conducive to our safety culture and business needs.”

What they found in Interplay was a scalable, one-stop solution that not only delivered an entire online trades catalog for maintenance training at all levels but an upgraded suite of interactive safety courses aligned with their culture and compliance requirements. In fact, the addition of Interplay’s safety catalog enabled Wallick to replace its LMS courses. 

“With Interplay, our training is now more engaging; it’s more feasible for our associates to get the information they need and learn effectively because of how the courses are structured.

It’s not like the old-school e-courses where you read some stuff, and there’s a picture as you click next. It’s active, more engaging, and resonates with them, so they’re retaining the information better because they want to keep using it.”

Nikki continues, “I remember showing Interplay to a young maintenance tech when we first got it. I pulled up one of the courses, and we were walking through it, and his eyes were so big; he was so excited about it. He’s like, ‘this is super cool. I can’t wait to use it!’ which made me so happy because I knew we had made the right decision to upgrade our training.”

Achieving Training Adoption, Compliance, and Retention

At Wallick Communities, Safety training begins on day one. All maintenance associates are assigned an onboarding learning path frontloaded with mandatory safety courses regardless of position. Course completions are then diligently tracked for compliance and skills inventory. 

Of all the Interplay courses available to Wallick’s associates, the top 6 courses completed are from the Safety catalog.

Course Name % Average Completion
HVAC Safety Basics 95%
Ladder and Fall Safety 95%
Lockout/Tagout 99%
Electrical Safety 97%
Plumbing Safety 96%
Electrical Panels: Components and Safety 99%

Associates are given dedicated time on the clock to complete their safety training courses and have access to Wallick-issued smartphones and laptops. Since a safety mindset is present at each level of the organization, they feel supported by their managers to use this time.

Additionally, courses are available on-demand if a refresh in specific safety lessons is required at any point. 

The upside of cultivating a safety-first company culture is the secure environment it creates for associates to grow and upskill. Nikki explains, “It’s like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: If you feel you’re working in a safe space, and trust the people around you to follow proper protocols and procedures, then you’re motivated to focus your attention on next-level things like improving your finances and career. I think that helps lead to happier and healthier employees who want to work for us, so it’s also been an important step in helping us with retention.” 

Jason Sawyer, Wallick’s Regional Maintenance Manager for Affordable Housing, adds,  

“Interplay’s classes have revolutionized how maintenance professionals learn and get on-the-job experience through a very interactive platform. This platform has changed how I view maintenance roles and the possibilities for career advancements within property management.”

When it comes to Wallick’s low-income housing and senior living facilities, there is nothing more important than creating a secure environment for residents and employees to thrive. With a strong dedication to company-wide safety training culture, Wallick is not only mitigating costs associated with accidents but improving lives and careers. 

Learn More About Safety Training