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Growing worker shortages and higher-than-usual turnover of junior workers have perplexed almost every business sector in America since early 2021. While shortages of qualified employees can be geographic and/or business-centered, one huge variable that affects reliability is talent, i.e., reliability-related skill sets. Although trainable, these skill sets require more than mere training.

While we’ve discussed a variety of influencers, factors, and approaches to employee training in columns and articles for The RAM Review, there must be more to employee development than training, especially now.

Reliability-related skill sets require an aptitude for figuring things out. For example, many of today’s RAM professionals were puzzle-solvers long before the path to improving equipment reliability was opened to them. Curiosity is another personal characteristic that greatly enables a person’s success in areas of reliability improvement. And of course, a mechanical aptitude along with a working knowledge of electricity, sound, and light go a long way in RAM-career success.

My May 16, 2022, column (see link here and below) addressed the topic of recruiting and coaching within your organization as the most effective means of growing your own talent. But there’s one more approach to growing that talent, regardless of job type. It’s career-development planning.

Career-development plans can have a double benefit. First, these plans and follow-up actions can encourage employee retention; Second, although once considered useful only for senior management, career-development planning can help spot diamonds in the rough on the plant floor. So, how would this play out?

Look For The Right Aptitude And Attitude: Spread the word about possible opportunities in your RAM group for new team members. Discuss the type of work and talents that would be considered success factors, i.e., puzzle-solving, curiosity, mechanical aptitude, and the like. Answer questions and show some of the reliability tools at work.

Conduct Career-Planning Discussions: Explore a prospective RAM recruit’s background and career goals when interest in reliability work emerges. Show potential career steps in reliability, not only within your plant, but in the overall profession as well. Discuss the Certified Maintenance & Reliability Technician (CMRT) body of knowledge from the Society of Maintenance & Reliability Professionals (SMRP).

Encourage Job Shadowing: Invite RAM recruits to shadow some of your team members for a “day in the life of” experience. Schedule these shadow days (when convenient) over a period of several weeks. Make sure the RAM team members explain what they’re doing, where the information comes from, and the problem-solving processes involved.

Formalize A Plan: All of these efforts, from start to finish, should be sanctioned by the organization’s human resources department. Begin with a career goal in mind. Be specific on the initial job-transition steps when formalizing a career-development plan. Map out, in detail, the first few weeks and months. The balance of the first year should be approached with a quarter-by-quarter plan. Assign a job coach (or coaches). Specify skills to be explored, learned, and mastered.

Commit To A Plan: Put the career-development plan in writing and have both parties sign it. Try not to make it a legal contract, but clearly state the intents of both the RAM team leader and the RAM recruit.

Train And Qualify: Every step of the way, be sure to follow a formal training and qualification process. Employ a formal job duty-task analysis of the targeted skills and knowledge based on current RAM employees’ skill sets and future skill sets. For more information, check out my previous RAM-training-related pieces in the links below.

There’s an adage that rings true at this point: “Plan your work and work your plan.” Career-development planning is a worthwhile tool for growing your own RAM pros.TRR

Click The Following Links To Read Bob’s Previous Training-Related Posts

“Once Candle Can Light Others: Looking Within During The Storm”

“Let’s Make Industrial Training Work”

“Make On-Job Training (OJT) Effective and Efficient”

“Develop A Skills-Training & Qualification Checklist”

“Skills-Training Quick Start”

“Ensure ‘On-Job Training’ Is ‘On-Job Learning’'”

Bob Williamson is a long-time contributor to the “people-side” of the world-class-maintenance and manufacturing body of knowledge across dozens of industry types. His vast background in maintenance, machine and tool design, and teaching has positioned his work with over 500 companies and plants, facilities, and equipment-oriented organizations. Contact him directly at 512-800-6031 or

Tagsreliability, availability, maintenance, RAM, asset management, skills development, on-the-job training, supply-chain issues, training and qualification, professional development