How to Speed Up the Onboarding Process for New Maintenance Technicians
Are your maintenance responsibilities growing due to company expansion, or perhaps your senior tech is retiring soon? Sooner or later, every maintenance manager must hire new technicians.
Since downtime is an unwanted consequence of the onboarding process, managers are continuously looking for ways to decrease the loss of productivity and shorten the time it takes to ramp up their new hire and get their productivity level up to par.
There are several ways to circumvent the inevitable loss of time and output, and it starts with knowing your company’s own processes, understanding your training policies and assessing the quality of current staff. New team members will rely on getting the information they need to understand their new role and being set on a path to success.
Even if the new member is coming from a similar position, there are still procedures and expectations and that are unique to your organization that can make or break your onboarding process and it could be the difference between setting up your new techs for success or NOT.
Once hired, the new team members should be introduced to how things are done in the company and taught the various procedures and processes within the company. The faster this can happen, the sooner these new members can become productive and start actually adding value to the organization.
In this article, we’ll discuss a few strategies you can use to speed up the process of onboarding new maintenance technicians.
The mentor system - Each One Teach One
It is best to keep current staff well versed, up to speed and properly trained on policies, procedures and their own job requirements and responsibilities. This is especially true when current employees are tasked with helping new ones settle in.
Senior technicians are typically assigned to take new techs under their wings to show them the ropes. The best way to impart best practices to a newly hired technician is to have them witness policies, procedures and the job itself in full action.
When learning opportunities are created in an environment that is forgiving of mistakes, new techs will be able to grasp a full understanding and adopt the correct way to handle situations in the future. This will quickly bring new technicians up to speed with their roles while also helping them forge new relationships that will assist in their professional growth, instill confidence in their ability to perform their job and allow them to flourish into full functioning technicians.
By pairing newly arrived techs with senior ones, managers also reduce their liability and minimize loss of productivity typically experienced when training new staff. This is also an opportunity to review company practices and its effectiveness. If there are holes in the way tasks are being executed, what better way to audit this than while new staff is being instructed on how and what to do within a task.
Updating existing written procedures or even developing instructions for inclusion in an operating manual may be the last thing on someone’s mind but training new technicians will expose areas that can benefit from being written and formed into training documents for future technical onboarding. To take it a step further, these documents will become valuable tools when deciding to automate staff trainings and onboarding process.
When pairing is done correctly, the level of productivity from the newly hired tech will increase exponentially. What it means to execute a mentor/mentee pairing correctly will differ from industry to industry, but a few main areas are a cornerstone to implementing a great onboarding foundation:
- Senior technicians should have demonstrated knowledge of his/her role and a history of carrying out tasks efficiently and to completion.
- Ensure the senior technician is a willing teacher capable of exercising the patience to explain processes in detail.
- Written procedures are updated or can be produced to be provided as reference materials so new technician can always go back to review. This is a critical step to self-sufficiency.
The mentor is the new hire’s go-to person for understanding the company values, culture and their way of doing things. By ensuring that the new employee does not feel lost or overlooked, you set them up for success early on and reduce the chance of losing them to other companies.
When implementing the mentor system in your team, you should include a formally documented set of responsibilities for the mentor, as well as the topics that they should cover over the first few weeks or months. It should be interactive, allowing both the employees to exchange tips and knowledge, as the new employee may also have ideas and techniques that are useful.
The new employee can also give their feedback on how their onboarding process is going.
Done right, this system can greatly speed up how quickly a new employee gets to the point where they can work without a special supervision.
For any onboarding strategy to be effective, let alone accelerated, it is essential to have clearly defined Standard Operating Procedures, including a detailed procedure for maintenance. The documentation should outline the who, where, what and why of daily operations. This document should answer questions, provide clarity and lay the framework of every employees experience at work. This should serve as a reference guide that reduces mistakes, eliminates redundant questions and provides an opportunity for the technician to operate independent of others.
To keep current, add the operational manual review to an annual schedule. As companies grow and evolve, especially with the introduction of advanced technology, the way things and people operate will change.
For the newcomer, learning how things should be done becomes a piece of cake when the right set of rules and boundaries are clearly defined. Additionally, the new team members will learn the level of quality and performance expected of them.
Having simple to use maintenance software
If you are a step above the rest and you have taken steps to fully automate your operation or you are just thinking about it, ensure that your software can provide you with the functions needed to run your full operation.
The software that your company uses for maintenance, whether it is developed in-house, or an off-the-shelf product, is central to your company’s operations. Over time, it becomes a repository of not just maintenance data, but can be moulded to reflect the business processes.
Since your team members will be using this software on a daily basis, it is essential that they learn how to use it properly.
If you are using a CMMS, ensure that it is intuitive, user-friendly and simple to use, so that your new technicians will have an easier time learning it. You do not want to end up in a situation where your new technicians spend more time logging their work or finding asset information than they are doing actual maintenance work.
Good maintenance software should follow industry standard terminology, have an easy to use User Interface, a few helpful tutorials, and fast and flexible customer support. That is why it is worth taking your time to find a system that is a good fit for your organization.
One of the most effective methods to accelerating your technician’s onboarding is to offer them on-the-job training. This not only makes them more productive faster, they also feel more valued, and remain engaged with the company.
The training can either be provided by professional third-party trainers or by an experienced member of your maintenance team. This can also be a good time to assess your team’s learning needs and update the training curriculum as required.
In the world of industrial construction and maintenance, the new technologies of Augmented Reality are helping to upskill and retrain employees in new technologies quickly and effectively. By utilizing AR training tools, employees have to spend less time in recalling instructions and to get live guidance from software, allowing them to learn in an interesting and engaging way. Augmented Reality training is proven to make trainees more efficient and accurate at their work, leading to improved outcomes in the company’s product quality and more cost savings.
Building a team of high-quality maintenance technicians is no easy feat. Delivering consistent performance and keeping employees motivated starts with an effective onboarding process that sets your maintenance technician on a path to success. To stay competitive in the current market, new maintenance technicians need to be brought up to speed and made productive as soon as possible. To ensure equipment is properly inspected and maintained, and failure rates are kept low, the new technicians need to understand the company policies and maintenance processes.
To foster a better learning environment and boost the pace of learning the ropes for your new maintenance techs, you can utilize the strategies outlined in this article, such as on the job training, having a simple to learn Maintenance Software, documenting well-defined processes and implementing a mentor system.
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