Maintenance 101: Understanding executive-maintenance relationships

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David Richardson
David Richardson

As the senior living housing market continues to expand and competition heats up, a strategic team effort has never been more important to achieve greater operational efficiencies, improved resident satisfaction and increased revenues. An important player in delivering on all three of these goals is the maintenance department.

Maintenance management reaches and impacts every area of a community. It's why communication and having ownership in the organization's strategies and goals are vital to the department's ability to perform at a top level. Here are five best practices executive directors can implement to improve communication and build a strong working relationship that contributes to the organization's overall strength and success.

Give maintenance a seat at the table

The maintenance department plays a role in how well every other department carries out their responsibilities. That's why executive directors need to enable maintenance to become a strategic partner and part of the executive management team.

Giving your maintenance director a seat at the table leverages expertise and a perspective that provides insight into the overall success of the organization.  Some great opportunities for this input are: including maintenance in the annual planning process and the early stages of a capital project, the regularly scheduled senior management meetings and the one-on-one meetings.

Provide the kind of support maintenance manager's care about

A seat at the table is more than a matter of being included in meetings – they should have a voice as well. Communication at that level may be new for a maintenance manager. It's up to the executive director to encourage interaction – both give and take – so the maintenance manager knows his or her point of view and contributions are heard, important and necessary. Not only does participation build an allegiance to the overall mission, but it also provides a perspective other areas may not have previously seen or understood.

Spending time focused on the core maintenance mission is vital. Maintenance managers are often dealing with problems caused and fed by other departments (repeated dishwasher repair due to incorrect use, for example), not to mention regular and preventative maintenance responsibilities. Maintenance managers need the time, along with the systems, to streamline and organize the administration of their work to improve efficiencies.

Link maintenance team goals to overall business objectives

Aligning the maintenance team's goals with the community's strategic objectives can yield big benefits.  The maintenance team has limited resources. When they are able to prioritize these in line with other community plans, you are able to reduce waste and reduce conflict due to competing requirements.  Business objectives can include:

  • Resident acquisition/retention — Delivery of maintenance services impacts resident satisfaction and how well residents are cared for, ultimately impacting census goals
  • Revenue generation—Improving tracking and charging of maintenance fee-for-services can increase revenues, allowing for additional staff to better meet needs
  • Risk mitigation — Prioritizing and managing compliance-related work impacts immediate and long-term resident care
  • Cost management — Effectively tracking, managing and aligning departmental costs impacts overall costs and budget

Track key performance indicators

If key performance indicators (KPIs) are new for the maintenance department, the team may be resistant at first. However, KPIs help align the team to the business goals and strategy. KPIs that align well with business objectives while measuring department efficiencies and effectiveness include work order response times, tracking fee-for-service work, resident satisfaction on work order response and more.

Including maintenance management in strategy and goal setting and keeping communication flowing adjusts the focus from feeling micro-managed to feeling inspired to contribute to the team's effort to achieve goals.

Provide the right tools to achieve goals

Communication, aligned vision and goals are great, but they're for naught if the maintenance team isn't equipped to do their part in achieving goals. Like every other industry in today's world, technology such as mobile devices, CMMS systems, smart building systems and equipment, is the name of the game when it comes to working smarter and more efficiently to achieve success. For example, paper-based time tracking can be tedious and painful, but time tracking that is seamlessly included in your mobile CMMS request workflows can remove this barrier and results in more accurate productivity data.

Making it happen

By implementing these best practices, you will quickly start to see a more engaged maintenance team that is providing actionable data and is engaged with providing greater insight to the day-to-day realities of keeping a senior living residence running at top efficiency.  This data empowers the maintenance and executive management team to make more informed decisions about needs and capabilities of maintenance staff to work efficiently and effectively toward the organization's goals.

David Richardson is a senior consultant at TheWorxHub by Dude Solutions.

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