Should I Hire or Build an RE with Bill Leahy
I’m excited to have Bill Leahy with us for a deep dive into whether organizations should build an RE internally, or they should hire externally to fill those roles. Bill has worked at Eruditio for the past three years and is currently a senior instructor there.
Today, we’re tackling important points such as:
- What an RE is
- The educational and professional qualifications that an RE needs to have
- The pros and cons of internal versus external hires
- How to train candidates for the role
… and so much more!
What is a reliability engineer?
An RE is someone that focuses on the future of strategy and physical asset management. They’re looking to improve the maintenance program continuously, and how we get the most out of production assets.
The RE looks at the data and is in constant communication with people on the floor. They need to understand what is happening. The RE liaises between the various positions in the organization. That enables them to execute plans on the floor and get feedback. They also look at the data to identify trends, reevaluate maintenance plans they had, optimizing PMs, working with the planner’s schedule, etc. They ensure everyone stays within the boundaries set for them.
What educational background do REs have?
There’s no real prerequisite for that title. So it could be someone that came up through the trades. It doesn’t need any rankings through formal education. But, they should have attributes and motivation to do the job. Or you could have people that have come through the ranks of typical academia. They could be people with Degrees or Master’s Degrees in Mechanical Engineering. You’d just need a solid understanding of how these things work. But that’s something you can get from a variety of sources.
So hiring internally has more benefits since it doesn’t limit your talent pool. Having people from different backgrounds, working together, creates a more robust result.
Where can you get reliability engineering training?
Ideally, you’d want a mentor and a group of trained individuals to help prepare your candidate. But a lot of times, it’s a solitary pursuit. The individual pushes themself to learn more within the field. Most RE candidates come from such people. Then there are those traditional learners who seek out schools. But with reliability engineering, there’s no set way to learn. It’s unique.
Should companies hire externally or build up internally?
There are costs and benefits to both these methods, making it difficult to land on an answer. When hiring someone, you look at:
- What will their performance be?
- How much are they going to cost?
If you can look at both of those and see them as being beneficial, then you’re set.
But, the benefits with an internal hire are more significant. A study showed that external hires have a higher voluntary and involuntary separation rate by close to 61%. They’re more likely to either leave or get fired.
You’ll also need up to 18% more in salary to pay for them, than with internal hires. The higher salary relies on the current culture surrounding this field. The accessibility to a vast talent pool now cannot compare to what was available in the past. So if you’re pulling someone from another company, you need an incentive to get them to join you.
Workers promoted internally have better performance evaluations for the first two years. That study also includes those leaving at a higher rate, the external hires. So you can expect performance to get better with internal hires. That’s regardless of their experience.
What are the benefits of hiring internally?
- It’s cost-effective
- There are also cultural aspects, such as raising morale within the company. Giving people advancement opportunities and even training them, shows that you’re invested in them
- It makes management look good. That’s by helping the company develop its workforce. It also shows that management is doing an excellent job of developing its people
- It provides incentives for people to get excited and seek more training in positions of greater responsibility
With internal hires, you would need to expose them to external influences. That could be through conferences or external training. They’ll get awareness on other methods to get things done that could benefit the company. Without that exposure, you would have workers that do not bring new ideas to the table. That’s because they’ve always been a part of the company and its culture.
How do you build up an internal RE?
Start by knowing what your objectives are. Their success rate is dependant on management and the things they have in place to develop their candidate. Knowing where the company’s headed helps you to prepare the candidate for the role better. You can then provide adequate support to help them fit into the plan.
There also needs to be a development plan in place with specific performance goals. It should define the training and development of that person.
What are some of the limitations of hiring internally?
- Without a good development plan, young engineering talent may leave
- In some instances, the role isn’t defined. So there’s no one to train the person on what to expect. That could waste time and lead to setbacks
- You may have to fight a lot of cultural resistance because it’s a change. People tend to steer away from change even if it’s to progress them
What makes the most significant difference in growing REs internally?
The most noted factor is having a defined plan. Knowing how you’re going to nurture your candidates to develop them into the contributors you need. You should have a management strategy that’s not just looking at the immediate needs. But one that looks at the retention and performance as well for the company’s future.
Before you decide to create a reliability engineering role, have a plan. That will help to prevent false starts, frustration, and gradual change. Have a vision for it that goes 10-15 years into the future. Provide your candidates with the training to develop their knowledge, skills, and abilities. Have resources open to them, as well as an action plan for the interim. Finally, have in place a great way to measure their performance. That way, they’ll know if they’re doing great, or what they need to improve on.
Bill Leahy Links:
- Bill Leahy LinkedIn
- iBL Training.com
- Laws of Leadership with Bill Leahy
- MainWorld article (coauthored with Shon Isenhour): Developing Leadership in Maintenance and Reliability
- Recommended Books: John Wooden books
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