Track the right metrics to engage staff around preventative maintenance

Expert Insight

Track the right metrics to engage staff around preventative maintenance

By Lauren Burakowski

While preventive maintenance has a clear return on investment for the institution, moving away from reactive tasks is often difficult because it requires asking staff to do new and different things. Oftentimes, staff view preventive maintenance tasks as less engaging than reactive work.

Reactive needs, like responding to service calls and campus-wide crises, can feel more exciting and rewarding. By comparison, staff members sometimes describe preventive maintenance tasks, like oiling ball bearings and checking motor belts, as thankless and hidden.

Importantly, research consistently shows that staff engagement impacts productivity and the bottom line. At the individual level, highly engaged employees display 57% more effort than disengaged colleagues and are 87% less likely to turn over. At the institutional level, companies in the top quartile of engagement are 17% more productive, 70% safer, and have clients who are 10% happier than those in the bottom quartile.

Facilities units that engage staff in the transition to a more preventive shop are more likely to ensure work is completed in a timely fashion and to a higher standard. One strategy to engage staff in the transition is to better leverage metrics and data.

Unintentionally incentivizing the wrong behaviors

There is strong signal value in tracking and publicly sharing a select number of metrics. They help staff understand current performance and where they should be focusing their improvement efforts. While most facilities leaders currently track and communicate a few metrics, some may unintentionally incentivize the wrong behaviors and reduce staff engagement with preventive maintenance tasks. Four metrics that unintentionally incentivize the wrong behaviors are:

  • Response time to service calls: Institutions track this metric to help improve customer service. However, publicly posting this metric sends the signal to staff that responding to service calls is more critical than scheduled work. As a result, staff prioritize service calls over preventive maintenance tasks.
  • Preventive maintenance completion rates: This metric is intended to encourage staff to complete all of their assigned preventive work orders. However, asking staff to focus on this metric can lead to artificially high completion rates. Some institutions report staff close out tasks that are not fully resolved.
  • Time to close work orders: This metric aims to minimize the number of open work orders and maximize the volume of work completed across all staff. However, staff often close work orders before they are finished and open new ones, duplicating the work to reduce their time to close.
  • Cost per work order: The purpose of tracking cost per work order is to minimize costs. But asking staff to manage this metric often leads to staff completing only the cheapest fixes and re-logging more expensive work for later.

Select operational metrics that incentivize desired behaviors

To combat unintentional bad habits, facilities leaders are turning to preventive maintenance-focused metrics. The Facilities Forum has identified 12 metrics that more effectively engage staff and incentivize desired behaviors. They’re organized into two categories: operational and strategic metrics.

Operational metrics help track the volume and type of preventive maintenance work so facilities leaders understand what and how staff are doing. Our six recommended operational metrics, including definitions and the direction facilities leaders should aim to move the metric, are listed below.

Recommended Operational Metrics

Metrics like follow-up work orders per 100 preventive maintenance checks are effective in encouraging staff to align behavior with departmental priorities. They signal the importance of preventive maintenance work to staff, providing tangible feedback of how their preventive maintenance work is essential to the success of the department and broader university.

Select strategic metrics that incentivize desired behaviors

Strategic metrics are designed to gauge progress toward becoming a less reactive preventive maintenance program. Importantly, these metrics are designed to help guide intervention efforts, if necessary.

Recommended Strategic Metrics

Tracking and communicating strategic metrics like proactive maintenance signal to staff that their work matters because they have clear opportunities to improve asset condition and personal performance simultaneously by documenting observations in the field. Staff can observe small, positive changes taking place and see how their performance directly contributes to departmental success. Ultimately, these metrics help staff understand not just departmental performance, but also the importance their role has in the outcome.

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