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Tips and Tricks to Building a Thriving Maintenance Team

Mark Cukro with Adrian on AppWorks Podcast

Summary written based on the 2nd episode of Masters of Multifamily Maintenance where host Adrian Danila discusses maintenance with guest Mark Cukro

Meet Mark Cukro

Mark Cukro shares his journey, starting as a technician and progressing through various roles in the multifamily industry. With over two decades of experience, Mark's expertise spans service team development to speaking and consulting. He provides insights into his recent venture of building a commercial building and shares personal anecdotes about his family life.

Challenges in Maintenance Leadership

Mark discusses key challenges maintenance teams face, emphasizing treatment, resources, and pay. He underscores the need for empathy and understanding from management regarding the daily struggles of technicians. Mark highlights the importance of providing adequate resources and support for maintenance staff.

Developing Maintenance Leaders

When asked about the most crucial skill for developing maintenance leaders, Mark emphasizes the importance of unwavering commitment to training. He stresses the value of hard and soft skills and encourages companies to prioritize continuous training despite challenges or pressures.

Attracting Talent to the Industry

Mark addresses the shrinking talent pool in the industry and suggests strategies for attracting new talent. He urges companies to identify their unique value propositions and market them effectively to prospective employees. Mark emphasizes transparency in job advertisements, particularly regarding pay and location, to attract qualified candidates.

The Multifaceted Nature of Maintenance Leadership

Mark Cukro's insights shed light on the multifaceted nature of maintenance leadership and the challenges and opportunities in the multifamily industry. His experience underscores the importance of empathy, continuous training, and strategic recruitment efforts in fostering a thriving maintenance workforce.
Strategies for Attracting Talent and Improving Recruitment

Mark emphasizes the importance of reevaluating recruitment strategies to attract talent to the industry. He suggests a shift in focus from traditional job advertisements to addressing candidates' primary concerns upfront. By highlighting factors such as pay and job location at the beginning of job postings, companies can immediately capture the attention of potential candidates. Mark also advocates using language that resonates with technicians and aligns with their search habits and phrases.

Furthermore, Mark encourages companies to explore unconventional recruitment methods by researching industries with comparable skill sets. By expanding their search beyond traditional channels, companies can tap into a wider pool of potential candidates and mitigate the effects of a shrinking talent pool.

Developing Maintenance Leaders

In response to a question about skill development for maintenance leaders, Mark emphasizes the need for a comprehensive approach to training and development. He introduces the concept of the "regional maintenance director" as a crucial leadership position within organizations.

Mark highlights the importance of identifying the specific skills and competencies required for this role, which often extend beyond technical proficiencies, including leadership, communication, coaching, and time management skills.

Mark shares insights from his experience working with clients who have implemented leadership development programs tailored specifically for the service department. These programs focus on enhancing soft skills and managerial competencies among maintenance leaders, resulting in lower turnover rates, improved response times, and better business decisions.
Career Progression in the Maintenance Industry

Mark reflects on the need for a shift in perspective regarding career progression within the maintenance industry. He emphasizes the importance of providing opportunities for growth and advancement to individuals seeking long-term careers rather than just jobs. Mark underscores the significance of creating a career path that instills a sense of pride and fulfillment in employees, thereby fostering a culture of loyalty and commitment.

He challenges managers and property owners to consider whether they genuinely value the maintenance industry enough to envision it as a viable career path for future generations. Mark suggests investing in the career development of maintenance staff can yield long-term benefits for individuals and organizations, ultimately contributing to a more skilled and dedicated workforce.

Transitioning from Reactive to Proactive Maintenance

Addressing the prevalent issue of reactive maintenance practices, Mark proposes a paradigm shift towards proactive maintenance strategies. He emphasizes moving from reactive to proactive, preventative, and predictive maintenance approaches to minimize unexpected expenses and maximize asset value.

Mark highlights the benefits of proactive maintenance, such as reduced capital expenses, fewer emergencies, and improved operational efficiency. He encourages property owners and managers to consider the long-term ramifications of their maintenance practices, saying they should prioritize investments in preventative measures.

Mark demonstrates the potential cost savings and operational improvements associated with proactive maintenance, and he suggests that organizations can persuade stakeholders to embrace change and adopt a more forward-thinking approach to maintenance management.

Retention Strategies for Top Talent

Mark delves into the critical topic of retention, acknowledging the industry's struggle with high turnover rates and the consequent negative impact on operations. He identifies key factors in employee retention, emphasizing the importance of leadership, communication, and resource allocation. Mark underscores the significance of providing technicians with the tools and support needed to excel in their roles.

By investing in resources such as quality tools and efficient workflow management systems, companies can empower their technicians and enhance their job satisfaction. Mark challenges the idea that providing technicians with adequate resources increases the risk of theft, emphasizing the importance of trust and accountability in fostering a positive work environment.

Furthermore, Mark addresses the unrealistic expectations often placed on technicians by office staff and management. He advocates for realistic workload management and time estimation, highlighting the detrimental effects of micromanagement on employee morale and retention. Mark emphasizes the need for mutual respect and dignity in the workplace, stressing that top talent values appreciation and fair compensation.

Differentiation in Maintenance Workflow Apps

The conversation briefly shifts to Sean Landsberg, co-founder of AppWork, who discusses the unique features and benefits of AppWork. Sean emphasizes the comprehensive nature of their product, which goes beyond basic maintenance management to include features such as data analytics, gamification, and data integrity safeguards.

AppWork aims to streamline maintenance, enhance technician efficiency, and improve customer service, ultimately contributing to higher resident retention rates. By addressing the specific pain points of maintenance teams, AppWork sets itself apart from other maintenance workflow apps on the market.

Centralization vs. Decentralization in Maintenance Operations

Returning to operational efficiency, Mark and Adrian discuss the concept of centralization in maintenance operations. While centralization may seem appealing in theory, Mark challenges its practicality and effectiveness within maintenance work.

He argues that centralization often leads to increased travel time for technicians, reducing their overall efficiency and productivity. Mark advocates for a decentralized approach, with maintenance shops located closer to the properties they serve. He emphasizes the importance of considering travel time and workload distribution when evaluating centralization strategies.

Adrian shares his skepticism regarding the feasibility of centralization, highlighting the disconnect between theoretical models and real-world operational challenges. He emphasizes the importance of practicality and basic math in assessing the viability of centralization initiatives.

Optimizing Maintenance Operations with Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

Mark transitions to discussing key performance indicators (KPIs) for measuring the success of maintenance team members. He offers valuable insights into identifying and prioritizing KPIs that align with operational goals and drive positive outcomes.

First and foremost, Mark advises against tying bonuses to preventative maintenance expenditures, as this may inadvertently discourage necessary maintenance actions to meet financial targets. He stresses the importance of aligning incentives with long-term maintenance objectives rather than short-term cost-saving measures.

Mark introduces the concept of critical and key success factors, emphasizing the need to focus on importance and behavior-based metrics. He highlights several essential KPIs, including the callback percentage, complete versus pending service request ratio, outstanding work orders, and employee turnover rate.

Moreover, Mark underscores the significance of measuring average resolution time and overall service performance ratings for technicians and properties. By implementing a comprehensive set of KPIs, maintenance teams can effectively monitor performance, identify areas for improvement, and drive operational excellence.

Emerging Trends in Maintenance Technology

As the discussion shifts to technology in maintenance operations, Mark and Adrian explore the evolving landscape of property technology (PropTech) and its impact on maintenance workflows. While acknowledging the benefits of specialized platforms tailored to multifamily housing, Mark cautions against over-reliance on technology at the expense of field presence and effectiveness.

Mark shares insights into a novel remote video conferencing solution for emergency service requests, highlighting its potential to enhance efficiency and customer service while reducing after-hours labor costs. He emphasizes the importance of technology complementing rather than replacing essential maintenance skills and fieldwork.

Adrian echoes Mark's sentiments, emphasizing the need for PropTech companies to prioritize end-user experience and engagement in product development. He advocates for more end-user representation in the design and implementation process to ensure that technological solutions meet their needs.

Mark and Adrian underscore the importance of balancing technological innovation and practicality in maintenance operations. By leveraging technology to enhance rather than replace essential maintenance skills, teams can optimize efficiency, improve service quality, and drive long-term success in multifamily housing maintenance.

Elevating Multifamily Maintenance Training in 2024

Mark delves into multifamily maintenance training in 2024, outlining a comprehensive approach to enhancing skill development and knowledge acquisition within maintenance teams. He emphasizes the importance of benchmarking training hours between 40-120 annually and integrating soft and hard skill training modules.

Mark advocates for a customized training curriculum based on the specific service requests encountered at each property. By identifying and prioritizing the top maintenance categories, such as plumbing, electrical, HVAC, and carpentry, teams can focus on addressing efficiently the most prevalent issues.

Mark stresses the significance of mentorship and on-the-job training, highlighting the value of pairing junior technicians with experienced mentors to facilitate skill transfer and proficiency development. He underscores the role of supervisors in ensuring compliance with training requirements and holding accountability for training participation.

Additionally, Mark challenges the notion of a "working supervisor," advocating for a clear distinction between supervisory responsibilities and hands-on maintenance tasks. By empowering supervisors to prioritize leadership and mentorship, organizations can foster a culture of continuous learning and professional growth within their maintenance teams.

Maximizing Personal Growth in Multifamily Maintenance

In response to a query about personal growth within the multifamily maintenance field, Mark offers insightful advice on self-improvement and leadership development. He encourages individuals to reflect on their weaknesses and prioritize areas for growth, emphasizing the importance of self-awareness and proactive skill development.

Moreover, Mark underscores the role of managers and leaders in facilitating personal growth among team members. He emphasizes creating a supportive and nurturing environment where individuals are empowered to reach their full potential.

Mark challenges leaders to assess their impact on those around them and strive to uplift and empower their team members. By fostering a culture of collaboration, continuous learning, and mutual support, organizations can cultivate a high-performing maintenance workforce capable of overcoming challenges and driving innovation.

A Call to Action

Mark expresses the collective goal of making a positive difference in the multifamily housing industry. He encourages individuals to embrace change and innovation, recognizing that progress often entails overcoming resistance and skepticism.

Mark urges leaders to lead by example, championing a culture of continuous improvement and adaptability. He invites individuals to connect with him through his website, ServiceTeamTraining.com, and explore the resources available for enhancing maintenance operations and professional development.

Mark's insights underscore the transformative potential of proactive training, collaborative leadership, and a steadfast commitment to personal and professional growth within the multifamily maintenance sector. By embracing these principles, organizations can navigate challenges, seize opportunities, and thrive in an ever-evolving industry landscape.

Continued Engagement and Future Conversations

As the discussion draws to a close, Mark expresses his gratitude for the opportunity to share insights and engage in meaningful dialogue about multifamily maintenance. He extends an invitation for further collaboration and encourages individuals to reach out via email for additional support or guidance.

Recognizing the importance of such discussions in the multifamily housing industry, Adrian emphasizes the value of continued engagement and knowledge sharing.

Adrian extends his gratitude to Mark for his valuable contributions and looks forward to future episodes of the podcast series, where he will continue to explore new insights, share best practices, and empower multifamily professionals to thrive in a dynamic and ever-changing industry landscape.