We are living in a world where engineers need to be continually deepening and widening their skills to meet the demands of an industry that is changing quickly. Performance monitoring has always been important to employers but companies in building services, HVAC manufacturing and the broader construction sector now need to be quick off the mark when it comes to understanding where skills gaps and training requirements exist.
There are different ways to measure performance and lots of methods for identifying key performance indicators (KPIs). The important thing is to measure what you need and communicate this to your engineers with complete transparency. Ideally, you want them to engage in the process so that they can help you identify what matters to the people they deal with every day – your customers.
Instead of focusing attention on activity-based metrics like the time taken for each task to be completed, you might want to consider focusing on the value delivered by completing the task in a timely way. The value of delivery can be seen where the engineer spends the most time and effort. This can even be broken down into categories, such as new product development, maintenance, product enhancement and “the voice of the customer” (or service).
Again, this works best if it is a collaborative process. Engineers are most likely to buy into goals if they have had a role in defining them. Technical goals should mirror your business goals and when engineers are conscious of this, they will better understand the reasoning behind them. Some goals will be task related and others will be more about the process. Make sure you include a balance of both so that you are measuring how things are done as well as what has been achieved.
In technical engineering, projects can take a long time to complete. With this in mind, review progress in stages whilst measuring it against the longer-term objectives. This is why both team goals and objectives work well in technical engineering performance management. Product development is not a solitary process, after all, and teamwork is essential to success.
By having project performance reviews, you can involve the whole team and gain buy-in for your overall outcomes. A project timeline will enable you to check progress and identify which engineers have been working on what elements. This is an excellent way to identify any skills gaps or training needs. If the project is not progressing as quickly as expected, it could be because some or all of the team need to be upskilled in a certain area.
If performance is below target, what other factors were at play? Was the task more complex than originally thought? Do skills from another team need to be brought across to support this project? Are the engineers aware of what is required of them or what role they are expected to play? Are there cultural blocks within the organisation or systems that prevent some team members from doing their job as efficiently as they might? All knowledge will help to evaluate not just each technical engineer’s performance but also the conditions that support them to do their job to the best of their ability.
It is easy to focus entirely on technical skills when assessing the performance of engineers. Other qualities impact on the outcome of a project too and these can be more difficult to measure. Attendance, the ability to plan, communication skills, initiative and work quality all affect the end result and are an important part of any assessment process. These skills can be observed in the field but it is also useful to have a question in any review process which asks what soft skills were implemented or how some of these qualities could have made things run more smoothly. By asking the question, you are also informing your engineers that soft skills are a vital part of a project’s success and that they are recognised and valued.
Finally, along with all the measures mentioned above, throughput and lead time are always going to be key metrics. From a business perspective, these are what impact time to market and therefore profit and revenue.