Recruiting, training and retaining skilled laborers can be challenging for an organization. This is particularly true for plant operators, who require specialized skills with continuous education to adapt to evolving technology and code changes. The health care facilities field has an aging workforce because students are often discouraged from skilled trades, despite the numerous benefits these careers offer. Consequently, plant operators are retiring at a higher rate than they’re being replaced, and their intellectual capital leaves with them.

Many facilities resort to outsourcing because the local workforce isn’t responding to open positions. Human resources departments should start by identifying where qualified candidates are performing job searches and develop a presence there. Additionally, they should establish a new-hire pipeline with local trade schools and colleges. They can build awareness with these students by offering facility tours and describing how plant operation affects the healing environment, giving it a sense of purpose, which increasingly resonates with younger generations. Recruiting efforts should emphasize professional development benefits to qualified candidates. 

Facilities managers should integrate training into everyday operation so that it’s part of the work culture. They should encourage staff to seek out opportunities to teach and learn. They also should document lessons in the field with photos, videos and how-to guides, and then share them during team huddles. Facilities managers should provide resources needed to succeed, offer them a means to give managers constructive feedback and reinforce their value by celebrating their achievements.

New hires must receive proper training. Facilities managers should consider something as simple as recording a video of their best boiler operator explaining the various components and how they function. To acclimate new employees to the pressures of acting quickly in an emergency situation, they can be provided with resources like shut-off valve locations and be assessed  through hands-on scenarios. Facilities managers should reevaluate them using different scenarios at least annually.

An effective way to retain employees is by providing them a voice and opportunity to be heard and perform their best at work. Facilities managers should set aside time each month to hear their thoughts, and practice active listening and affirmation.

Recruitment, training and retention of skilled trades is possible by developing a process. To assist, the American Society for Health Care Engineering has created a checklist to consider when implementing a new process. Members can access this tool through the link in the box above.