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All Things Maintenance By: Mark Cukro

Why should I train my service team?

If you want to hire better technicians, keep the great ones and operate more profitably, there are some great ways to do so.

Having an asset-minded service team that makes sound decisions and operates efficiently is what every owner or manager wants. For the past 15 years, I have been in the industry building, developing and main- taining teams that effectively deliver timely, impressive services while continually creating new ways to operate more efficiently.

Successful companies and owners understand that training service personnel is critical and necessary to generate revenue through lease re- newals and to keep maintenance, repair and operating (MRO) expenses and employee turnover at a minimum. They have made a commitment to continuous training and the results are immediate.

Companies often face a tremendous challenge filling and maintaining personnel in technical positions, such as service managers and service technicians, that possess the desired technical and managerial skills. Yet for many, their process of hiring talent and retaining great associates rarely changes.

Often times when a service team member is hired, it is for their techni- cal qualifications, but when they are fired, it is due to behavior and/or performance issues, such as consistently being late or unable to work well with his or her teammates. In order to make positive changes, we need to assess hard and soft skills and offer training in both areas.

Hard and soft skills

Hard skills are based on a person’s technical ability to perform a task or make repairs in response to service requests, such as HVAC and appliance repairs. Soft skills are a person’s ability to work well with other people, such as being a good communicator to internal and external customers, as well as a mentor to their associates. Great employees don’t leave great companies with a great culture; they usually leave companies due to a poor environment created by the people within that company.

Here are some statistics I have gathered over the past few years through surveys and interviews within our industry that reinforce the importance of training.

• 40% of all HVAC systems replaced were misdiagnosed and did not need to be replaced. That means for every ten units replaced, four of them could have been saved.

• 80% of all new technicians, before they have received job-specific training, replace components until a system begins to work rather than troubleshooting to determine

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the actual problem. That means many technicians replace more parts than necessary on every service call until they are trained to troubleshoot instead of relying on guesswork.

• 92% of all service team members have never seen their property budget on a consistent weekly or monthly basis.

About 81 percent of the interviews I have conducted have been with managers and regional managers, and the most common concerns when hiring a new service manager are that the new hire must be able to project a professional appearance, make sound asset minded deci- sions and lead a team effectively.

Training service associates will help cultivate the hard and soft skills that we desire our associates to possess, such as electrical and HVAC troubleshooting, pool operation, customer service, effective leadership, effective communication, how to coach and counsel and any other training resulting in a work force that maintains a long, productive term of employment.

The cost of not training

A comment I hear often is, “Well if we train them or get them certifica- tions, they may leave or get recruited.” I remember being in a meeting where this comment was made, and before I could even reply, someone said, “Well, what if we never train them, and they stay with us for 30 years? What will that cost us?”

Another common question I have been asked in interviews is, “Will you send me to training so I can get better at my job?” This is an important topic to the new and growing work force, and we must address it or we are going to lose candidates with great potential to other service industries.

Keeping higher caliber personnel

Historically, the training for operations has been inversely proportional to the training provided to service teams, and the results are inefficiency, high turnover and a shallow talent pool. A service manager who only receives technical or managerial training may lack other skills, such as leading a team effectively, that cause him or her to struggle to make changes critical to the success of a property or portfolio.

Send your associates to training! For less than a few hundred dollars and a couple of days away from the property, an associate may begin to make changes based on what they have learned simply due to the fact that before training they just didn’t know how to implement or execute something.

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