Recently I had the pleasure of presenting this topic at LMS at Jiminy Peak in Hancock, MA and was to also do so at RMLA in Grand Junction, CO but back issues kept me grounded. My apology to the folks at RMLA and any who signed up for the session. I feel strongly enough about the subject that I thought I’d share a summary here.
Metrics and staff engagement don’t often get linked formally but when you research both, you find the links are very strong. Metrics is measuring something that relates to how you do your job or a task. One of the keys to engagement is having a feedback on how well you do your job, a very simple link between the two. For the sake of this conversation, the metrics being discussed relate to lift maintenance but the concept can relate to vehicle maintenance, snowmaking maintenance and just about any type work.
The key to a maintenance program is a maintenance strategy. This is simply the philosophy the company takes towards maintenance. The basic examples of a maintenance philosophy are:
- No maintenance plan
- Run to failure – run it till it breaks and then fix
- Preventive maintenance – scheduled – this can also be called usage – as the schedule is usually set by time or usage, # hours or some other data point indicating use
- Predictive Maintenance – inspections, vibration analysis, a set trigger
- Reliability centered maintenance – run time versus downtime analysis predicting maintenance needs – too complicated for our consideration
- Risk based plan – these are typically condition based and very similar to Reliability centered maintenance
In many ways the Risk based plan represents much of how we think relating to lifts. Data is collected via our dailies, weekly and monthly inspections and service, there is constant evaluation mentally on how a lift is performing, the risks are assessed, a service plan is created when needed, and the cycle continues.
Many of the other strategies listed are in play at ski area as well. Well managed mountains certainly subscribe to a preventive maintenance strategy where lift maintenance performs needed and recommended maintenance on a time or usage based schedule, typically set by the lift manufacturer.
There are triggers which fit into the strategy, the classic examples are:
- Breakdown – Lift is repaired as needed when this happens
- Time based – as per the schedule
- Event based – much the same as breakdown
- Usage based – this would be based on time, hours run
- Condition based – this would be based on feedback from techs and service records
The key to any metric is that it needs to be compared to a baseline. For ski areas that have been tracking data on lift performance, they are all set but those that haven’t need to establish a baseline.
More importantly, what metric do you consider important? I’ll share a few examples here to provide some place to start the thinking process. The important thing is that whatever you chose as a metric or metrics, it/they need to have meaning to what you do and be reflective of how you do your work.
For purposes of this discussion I am suggesting that for a start the downtime be tracked as your first metric. This graphic says downtime/month but I’d do by day and summarize and report by week. Here is a simple spreadsheet that will enable you to track each lift’s downtime, I am sure many do this already, but I have been surprised by those who don’t.
On the bottom rows each lift’s stops are recorded and summarized for the day and the total downtime minutes are inserted into the top part of the worksheet to calculate the percentage of downtime by lift. This should be done for every operating day and summarized for the week and eventually for the season.
The base line establishment is a good summer project – taking last season logs and recording this information and establishing the baseline for the upcoming season – boring work but only needs to be done once.
The other challenge is to establish how you will collect this information for the future. For those with dispatch, it should be fairly straight forward as a lift down is called into dispatch, the lift name, time going down and then time reloading is recorded by dispatch and then input to the worksheet daily. For those using logs in the lift shack, the same information has to be collected and input to the worksheet.
The other metrics shared above depend on having a system in place that collects this information including the financial information on a weekly basis. Weekly is encouraged as it is always fresh in everyone’s mind and meaningful discussions can happen around the information.
Whatever you chose the suggestion is to keep it as simple as possible. If it gets too complicated it won’t be done and you will have no useful information to measure your work.
So we have a metric or metrics in place, how are they used to engage staff?
What is staff engagement?
Here’s a definition from Wikipedia:
“Employee engagement is a property of the relationship between an organization and its employees. An “engaged employee” is one who is fully absorbed by and enthusiastic about their work and so takes positive action to further the organization’s reputation and interests.”
Some defined drivers of engagement:
- Employee perceptions of job importance – “…an employee’s attitude toward the job’s importance and the company had the greatest impact on loyalty and customer service than all other employee factors combined.”
- Employee clarity of job expectations – “If expectations are not clear and basic materials and equipment are not provided, negative emotions such as boredom or resentment may result, and the employee may then become focused on surviving more than thinking about how he can help the organization succeed.”
- Career advancement / improvement opportunities – “Plant supervisors and managers indicated that many plant improvements were being made outside the suggestion system, where employees initiated changes in order to reap the bonuses generated by the subsequent cost savings.”
- Regular feedback and dialogue with superiors – “Feedback is the key to giving employees a sense of where they’re going, but many organizations are remarkably bad at giving it. “What I really wanted to hear was ‘Thanks. You did a good job.’ But all my boss did was hand me a check.'”
- Quality of working relationships with peers, superiors, and subordinates – “…if employees’ relationship with their managers is fractured, then no amount of perks will persuade the employees to perform at top levels. Employee engagement is a direct reflection of how employees feel about their relationship with the boss.”
- Perceptions of the ethos and values of the organization – “‘Inspiration and values’ is the most important of the six drivers in our Engaged Performance model. Inspirational leadership is the ultimate perk. In its absence, [it] is unlikely to engage employees.”
- Effective internal employee communications – which convey a clear description of “what’s going on”. “‘
MY definition of staff engagement – staff who are excited to come to work almost every day, who participate in the mission of the department willingly and with a sense of accountability to the mission and their coworkers.
How do we improve or create staff engagement from the use of metrics?
In my travels I have had the good fortune to visit a lot of lift maintenance and vehicle maintenance shops. I have seen totally engaged staff and those who could care less and all in between.
The differences between the engaged and disconnected are the elements of:
Metrics are the tools to measure and develop:
- Accountability – metrics assigned to individual/team – accountability is visible – it is definitive
- Involvement – by having an open review of how individual/team is doing encourages dialog – not always pleasant but establishes an ongoing relationship
- Transparency – metrics keep performance open to all – everybody knows what is happening
- Trust – by having accountability and transparency, a trust begins to develop. The process eliminates blame and trust grows.
Having metrics keeps us all up to date, there is no hiding.
The weekly meeting is where this all comes together. You hold a meeting each week the same day the same time religiously with your lift maintenance team. You discuss:
- Metrics for week and Season to date are reviewed
- Exceptions are noted – either from standard or change from previous week
- Assume a certain lift that is having issues – have technician responsible speak to what his diagnosis was and what he has done – if there are pictures or diagrams, display so that all can see. Have an open discussion, not being negative, gather input from all.
- It is often good to have each team member speak up and share something of value, either a technical detail that he/she wants help on or an issue they have had, parts issues, tool issues, whatever. Don’t let it become a whining session
- Set goals for next week – share any operational relevant changes or issues that team needs to know about
The metrics become the center of the conversation – talking about the performance of the team and the issues that affecting the performance if any becomes the engagement. Congratulations should be passed out as appropriate, don’t make a fuss but recognition is always appreciated.
The steps are straight forward with the keys of being consistent, measure,communicate, build trust and understanding and improve performance.