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A Reliability Approach to the Modern Industrial Worker: How to Recruit and Train the Best

Adrian Messer believes that recruiting and retaining the best people comes down to a culture of effective communication.
Adrian Messer believes that recruiting and retaining the best people comes down to a culture of effective communication.

After spending nearly two decades helping people solve problems related to physical assets and asset reliability, earlier this year, I decided it was time for a change and stepped into the maintenance and reliability talent acquisition and staff augmentation field. In my initial conversations, too many, that seemed like a major change, but when it's further looked into, not really. When it comes to maintenance & reliability talent and staffing, it's still working with companies to find solutions to their problems. In this case, it's the problem of talent, staffing, and people.

Improve Hiring Processes Now

Recent studies have shown that there is a coming resurgence of manufacturing back to North America. Industrial and manufacturing facilities should act now to improve upon their hiring processes. The same tactics and negotiations that have been used over the last several decades can no longer be used in the current job market.

When it comes to reliability, an organization can't just say that "we do reliability." Reliability must become engrained in the culture just as safety and quality. The responsibility of reliability within an organization doesn't just lie within maintenance & reliability, it belongs to all levels of the organization.

Quality of Life and Culture Matter

When it comes to the industrial workforce, it helps to understand the era of the industrial worker that we are in now. The Industrial Revolution brought about the first era of the "modern" industrial worker when individuals took a job for survival and had fewer opportunities. Then came the Informational Revolution where people worked to maintain a certain standard of living, and workers became less loyal to the companies that they worked for. Now, we're in what is considered to be the Social Revolution, where workers aren't as concerned with maintaining a certain level of standard of living but are more interested in the quality of life, work/life balance, and the quality of culture within their workplace.

Communication Plays a Major Role

I can attest that, for many seeking employment, culture is a far bigger issue than pay. In many of my discussions with candidates who are seeking to make a change, almost inevitably, the conversation turns to the status of the culture of their current employer. Regardless of industry, the complaints range from lack of work/life balance, leadership who doesn't listen, no support for reliability initiatives, changes for the sake of making change with no coaching or planning, and some who have mentioned unsafe work environments.

People who are passionate about reliability, continuous improvement, and know that there's a better way want to be heard and they want to make a positive impact on operations and the overall reliability of the facility. If they feel like they're not being heard or have no support, they have no choice but to make a change. On a positive note, they have choices, and people who are making moves, are seeing up to 20% increases in pay on average. So, not only are they improving their work/life balance, but they are being rewarded for making the move.

Self-Reflection Is Needed

With professionals that I talk to on a daily basis, the feeling that I get is that job security is at an all-time high, but job satisfaction is at an all-time low. Because this is a job seekers market, there are plenty of options for potential candidates, and they know that they can wait to make a choice for an opportunity that best suits their needs, wants, and qualifications. Because job satisfaction is low, leaders and managers must have a moment of self-reflection to improve their leadership styles in order to help retain highly qualified and valuable candidates to keep them from leaving.

Better Communication Is Needed to Recruit and Retain

So, when you have good people leave, as a manager and leader, what do you do to try to understand why they left? Similar to the way that we use defect elimination to prevent asset failures from happening again, what are we doing to try to retain good people in our place of work?

Understanding the needs of the modern industrial worker, communicating to them and giving them good job plans and directions towards a clear goal that the company has set forth, making sure that all levels of the organization are in alignment with those goals, and communicating the same message can go a long way in improving the worker's experience and culture. Combine that with taking time to listen to the worker's feedback when situations arise, taking an interest in what they have to say, and maintaining and understanding the importance of emotional intelligence when communicating (and listening) to people.


Adrian Messer has worked in the maintenance & reliability field for nearly 20 years. During that time, he has worked with manufacturing & distribution facilities across multiple industries, helping to improve their plant's asset reliability through improved condition monitoring.

As Vice President of Executive Services at Proreli, Adrian focuses on finding and placing high-level maintenance & reliability professionals in jobs that are the right fit based on their needs, wants, and qualifications. He also works with companies to fill upper-level M&R positions. In addition to identifying and vetting maintenance & reliability talent, he also advises companies when they have a need for a subject matter expert to work with them on a contract basis for special reliability-focused projects.

Adrian is a graduate of Clemson University with a Bachelor of Science in Management with a concentration in Human Resources. He is a Certified Maintenance and Reliability Professional (CMRP) through the Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals (SMRP) and is actively involved with SMRP on a local and national level. Adrian also serves as a senior resource for The Maintenance Community (TMC). He resides in Anderson, South Carolina.


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