Are You Rewarding Preventative or Reactive Maintenance Care?

As facility managers, we often believe that we plan for preventative maintenance. We set maintenance goals for the quarter or year, and at least attempt to put those strategies into place. We make maintenance checklists and schedule repairs when we need them, but there is still oftentimes a disconnect between our goals and the maintenance department’s reality. What could be going on that makes our maintenance goals never reach their potential? 

One possibility is that you’re planning for preventative care, but are actually rewarding reactive maintenance. You may think, “How is that possible? We plan for preventative maintenance all the time.” But, you may want to take a closer look at how you reward and motivate your maintenance team to find the issue. 

Surveys report that approximately 30% or more of a maintenance technician’s income comes from overtime pay. Emergency services that are required on nights, weekends, or holidays are what help these technicians make the salaries they do. You may plan for preventative care, but when you provide double the compensation for emergency repairs, that’s what you’ll get. 

This positive reinforcement is furthered the next day when the maintenance technician is given recognition throughout the facility for saving the day. They are then receiving social praise and feel good about their contribution to the workforce, which is undoubtedly deserved, but rewards the emergency repair that you’re trying to avoid. It is not the technician’s fault if they don’t take preventative maintenance seriously, when every sign is pointing them toward reactive maintenance. 

The only way to change this is by changing the reward system for preventative maintenance. It is first necessary to pay maintenance technician’s a highly competitive salary, so that they don’t need overtime to afford vacations or leisure. They should be able to live a comfortable lifestyle on their basic salary, without having to compete for double time. This will lessen the tendency to put off repairs until they become emergencies. 

This can also be achieved by providing comp time, where the employee receives time off for overtime hours worked instead of overtime pay. This may not be popular at first, but it can eventually boost morale as long as the pay is based on performance and substantial to accommodate their current salaries.

However, changes in the pay structure are not enough. You must reward maintenance technicians with intrinsic rewards on the job when performing preventative care. They must see how their contributions are working within greater company goals, and be rewarded for hard work even if it doesn’t “save the day.” Preventative care saves the day now, and it saves the day in the future, which is even more important than fixing an emergency leak or system breakdown. Providing employee of the month rewards, performance meetings, and other rewards for preventative maintenance work will go a long way toward building a strong maintenance team.


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