Recognizing that change is necessary has taken a long time for me. With 40 years managing highly skilled hands on mechanics, welders, carpenters, fabricators, electricians and painters from a senior level, you wouldn’t think it has only been in the later stages of my career that I have come to the realization that these professions are critical to our society even in this explosive world of growing technology. These skills are significantly in demand without an adequate supply of talent.
In my MountainOffice efforts I have had the opportunity to talk with lift maintenance managers across North American, and the one consistent challenge faced is finding and keeping good staff. Be sure that I have met many very good lift technicians and have had some work with me. However, the issue of training and retention is a universal problem within the industry. So in the interest of establishing a base line, what are the issues from your perspective?
Please click here and answer five (5) questions, answers are anonymous. Appreciate you taking the time to provide meaningful input.
Fully recognize that lift maintenance is not alone in this challenge, vehicle maintenance mechanics, snowmaking techs, and ski patrollers professions are subject to similar challenges. Your input on these is welcome as well. I will share the baseline established from this input in next month’s Steep Management Newsletter.
Having a base line can help identify where change is needed. Here is some input on change from a 2005 article from Harvard Business Review written by Harold L. Sirkin, Perry Keenan and Alan Jackson:
“Managing change is tough, but part of the problem is that there is little agreement on what factors most influence transformation initiatives. Ask five executives to name the one factor critical for the success of these programs, and you’ll probably get five different answers. That’s because each manager looks at an initiative from his or her viewpoint and, based on personal experience, focuses on different success factors. Those ideas have a lot to offer, but taken together, they force companies to tackle many priorities simultaneously, which spreads resources and skills thin. Moreover, executives use different approaches in different parts of the organization, which compounds the turmoil that usually accompanies change.
In recent years, many change management gurus have focused on soft issues, such as culture, leadership, and motivation. (My opinion is that these are important once you have the implemented the change.) Such elements are important for success, but managing these aspects alone isn’t sufficient to implement transformation projects. Soft factors don’t directly influence the outcomes of many change programs. For instance, visionary leadership is often vital for transformation projects, but not always. The same can be said about communication with employees. Moreover, it isn’t easy to change attitudes or relationships; they’re deeply ingrained in organizations and people. And although changes in, say, culture or motivation levels can be indirectly gauged through surveys and interviews, it’s tough to get reliable data on soft factors.
What’s missing, we believe, is a focus on the not-so-fashionable aspects of change management: the hard factors. These factors bear three distinct characteristics. First, companies are able to measure them in direct or indirect ways. Second, companies can easily communicate their importance, both within and outside organizations. Third, and perhaps most important, businesses are capable of influencing those elements quickly. Some of the hard factors that affect a transformation initiative are the time necessary to complete it, the number of people required to execute it, and the financial results that intended actions are expected to achieve.Our research shows that change projects fail to get off the ground when companies neglect the hard factors. That doesn’t mean that executives can ignore the soft elements; that would be a grave mistake. However, if companies don’t pay attention to the hard issues first, transformation programs will break down before the soft elements come into play.” (Note: bold/underline is my emphasis)
These factors determine the outcome of any transformation initiative.
D. The duration of time until the change program is completed if it has a short life span; if not short, the amount of time between reviews of milestones.
I. The project team’s performance integrity; that is, its ability to complete the initiative on time. That depends on members’ skills and traits relative to the project’s requirements.
C. The commitment to change that top management (C1) and employees affected by the change (C2) display.
E. The effort over and above the usual work that the change initiative demands of employees.
I share this excerpt to lay the foundation for making change – whatever that change may be. Baseline of concerns from questions asked of you will indicate the areas of change needed to begin raising the bar within Mountain Ops for well-trained staff with strong retention. My belief is that if this isn’t addressed mountain by mountain it will not happened.
Understanding what is required to make change happen is important, and a part of the process in making the change. What needs to change will be identified from the establishment of the baseline. I will be sharing the results of what the baseline tells us in next month’s Steep Management Newsletter. I’m sure we all have ideas what needs to take place but let’s wait and see what the data tells us.
Mountains spend millions upon millions of dollars for lifts, snowmaking systems and groomers. Having skilled staff to operate and maintain those systems with commitment to the mountains is critical to success but I believe the change can and will happen.