Take a minute to think about your organization’s culture as it relates to asset maintenance:
- Is your team constantly reacting to breakdowns or more proactive in its approach to maintenance?
- Is there tension between operations and maintenance or is there a good working relationship?
- Do employees feel like their contributions make a difference?
- Are employees motivated to perform quality maintenance work?
Based on your responses, it should be clear whether the maintenance culture at your organization needs work. This article discusses how to change your maintenance culture for the better.
What is Maintenance Culture?
Maintenance culture is the set of values, behaviors, attitudes, perceptions, practices and underlying assumptions use to guide maintenance activities performed to prevent assets from failing and keep them in proper working order.
Why should you care about maintenance culture? For better or worse, maintenance culture drives the behavior of maintenance employees, which trickles down to the quality of asset maintenance. A poor maintenance culture causes employees to operate reactively, neglect their work, and make careless mistakes, ultimately lowering asset reliability. On the other hand, a good maintenance culture inspires employees to do good work and seek to improve asset health.
Components of Maintenance Culture
According to social science researchers, maintenance culture is comprised of 10 key factors:
- Rewards and recognition
- Training and education
- Policy systems, strategy, and work planning
- Organizational structure
A good leader is someone who can influence others to understand and agree about what needs to be done, how to do it, and why it matters. However, this is often difficult to accomplish alone. Changing the maintenance culture requires stakeholders to possess strong leadership skills as well as the support of upper management. Top-down commitment to improving maintenance culture can quickly change the attitudes of employees. Part of this commitment comes from hiring the right people who will be best suited to manage change.
Part of changing maintenance culture is getting all personnel on the same page about the importance of asset maintenance. Maintenance employees should have a shared understanding of the mission, vision, goals, and responsibilities of the maintenance department.
Rewards and Recognition
Everyone likes to be acknowledged for a job well done. Public recognition for high-level performance and high-quality results makes team members feel appreciated for their work. This can be especially powerful for maintenance teams who are often blamed when equipment breaks down, but never thanked for keeping it up and running. If possible, rewards such as pay bumps, bonuses, and promotions are powerful motivators as well.
Teamwork involves multiple people working together towards a common mission or goal. While each individual on the team may have a specific role, all contribute to overarching maintenance goals. Teamwork can be viewed as internal to the maintenance department, or expand to other departments who depend on the work of the maintenance team, such as the operations and production department. When working together, individuals or departments feel more comfortable sharing thoughts and opinions about improvements to maintenance operations.
Training and Education
Maintenance work requires in-depth technical knowledge of assets and their related systems. Especially in times where there is a maintenance technician shortage, ongoing technical training can help retain and motivate employees. As the knowledgebase of your staff grows, the quality and effectiveness of maintenance work should also increase.
Along with training comes the implementation of tools that enable employees to do their jobs better. This includes inspection tools, condition-monitoring sensors, and computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) software.
A lack of motivation affects many aspects of an employee’s performance. Individuals who aren’t motivated may leave the company, neglect job responsibilities, communicate poorly, or work without urgency. All of these can negatively impact asset performance.
Maintenance personnel can be motivated by some of the factors already discussed, such as commitment from upper management, recognition, and training opportunities. When employees are adequately motivated, high quality maintenance work naturally follows.
Changing the maintenance culture is an organization-wide effort. Involvement means that everyone is included in the changes to maintenance culture, not just certain employees. Maintenance staff should perform, or at the very least, be trained on how to perform all maintenance activities so that they fully understand what each task entails. Upper management should emphasize and advocate for the importance of maintenance within the organization.
Empowerment means to delegate a certain level of decision-making power to lower-level staff. Depending on the organization, this may mean upper management giving more authority to maintenance managers, or maintenance managers giving more autonomy to maintenance technicians. Entrusting the maintenance team to carry out work without requiring instruction from higher levels of management builds trust, engages employees, and removes some bottlenecks that get in the way of efficient maintenance.
Policy Systems, Strategy, and Work Planning
Organizations with a good maintenance culture have well-defined rules and procedures that provide structure to maintenance operations. Little progress will be made if employees go about performing and documenting maintenance work in a haphazard manner. Detailed maintenance procedures that are easy to understand are vital to changing behaviors and motivating employees.
The organization structure outlines the hierarchy of employees and management in the organization, communicating the power dynamics that exist between them. Understanding the organizational structure shows how roles within the organization support one another, and how they work together to achieve maintenance goals. It also helps define who in each role is responsible to certain tasks and duties.
Signs of a Poor Maintenance Culture
Maintenance culture differs from one organization to the next. Some organizations may exhibit multiple signs of a poor maintenance culture, while other may only recognize one or two areas for improvement. Generally speaking, poor maintenance culture is characterized by the following factors:
- Indifference or feelings of distrust among staff members
- High staff turnover
- Wasted time and resources
- Lack of trust, credibility, or respect from people in charge
- Lack of proper data entry
- Unscheduled preventive maintenance work
- Slow responses to critical failures
- Low task completion
- Aging work order backlog
- Excessive mistakes and errors
- Finger-pointing instead of taking accountability
The list goes on and on. What’s important is that once you identify these symptoms of poor maintenance culture, you can work towards making changes.
How to Change the Culture of the Maintenance Department
When employee’s attitudes are positive, a good maintenance culture is developed and maintained. Think about what type of maintenance culture you would like to see for years to come. Drawing from the components of maintenance culture described earlier, here are ten steps you can take to positively change your maintenance department culture:
- Hire the right people.
- Create a vision for a better maintenance culture and communicate that vision to others.
- Recognize and reward superior performance.
- Work together to achieve goals.
- Provide ongoing training and learning opportunities; encourage professional development.
- Inspire others to perform quality work.
- Involve employees in the process.
- Give others authority and control over their work.
- Create clear, defined rules, procedures, and standards.
- Communicate organizational roles and responsibilities.
Keep in mind that having all of the things above would create an ideal maintenance culture, but that is often far from reality. Implementing as many of these as possible will create a positive maintenance culture.
Using CMMS as a Catalyst for Change
Computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) software is a tool that can be used to positively change maintenance department culture. A CMMS is a centralized platform for documenting, tracking, organizing, and managing maintenance activities. Implementing a CMMS provides a method of holding others accountable for changing their behavior and attitudes towards asset maintenance.
When properly utilized, a CMMS serves as a single, shared source of communication about maintenance work, maintenance procedures, and documentation. Further, maintenance management software holds maintenance personnel accountable for following new maintenance processes or documentation requirements.
Further Reading: Creating a Culture of Accountability with CMMS
Even though implementing a CMMS will positively impact maintenance culture, there may still be some resistance from staff. Some may see using CMMS software as yet one more thing to do that disrupts the usual workflow, or as a way for management to watch over technicians. Therefore, you must also manage change as it relates to CMMS implementation.
To encourage buy-in from the maintenance team, introduce any new software or processes in phases so that it’s not overwhelming. Demonstrate that the data collected in the CMMS such as tool lists, part locations, and descriptions of repairs can make their jobs easier. In the process, be sure to remain open to feedback and ideas from technicians. People are more accepting of new processes when they have some control over them rather than feeling like it’s being forced upon them.
Further Reading: How to Increase CMMS User Adoption
Improve Maintenance Culture with FTMaintenance Select
Maintenance culture is not easy to develop or change, but it is not impossible either. It takes time for employees to change their behaviors, embrace their responsibilities in making the change, and follow through. CMMS software like FTMaintenance Select can help you transform your maintenance culture from bad to good – or good to great! Request a demo to learn more about FTMaintenance Select.