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People-centric approach ensures speed, quality for MSU maintenance

March 15, 2023
Photo illustration by Aryanna Dorsey and Madison Echlin
Photo illustration by Aryanna Dorsey and Madison Echlin —

Students know Michigan State University’s maintenance team is fast. After submitting a maintenance request online, it doesn’t take long for a technician to show up at your room.

The question remains, though: How do they do it?

It all starts with the online maintenance request system, Associate Director for Communications of MSU's Residence Education and Housing Services, or REHS, Bethany Balks said. REHS’s system is useful to the team, as it assists in tracking a project through to completion and gets as much information as possible from the resident, she said.

“From there, it goes to our dedicated facilities and maintenance team in housing, and the staff works in a neighborhood model,” Balks said. “Our team works really hard to address them as quickly as possible.” 

Balks said that students should never hesitate to share when there is something wrong in their room. Many times, for example, a simple drip from the ceiling can mean a broken pipe.

“We'd rather have the opportunity to get into that room and look at the situation and help before it becomes a bigger thing,” Balks said.

There are 16,430 work orders total for REHS Buildings on average for a fall semester. Of those, 76% of residents are "satisfied" or "very satisfied" with the timeliness of the service they received, based on a 10% response rate of the Facilities Maintenance Request Survey that is emailed to residents who submitted a request within the past week.

“Our facilities team really prides itself on the way they get to support the university through supporting our students and their needs while they’re on their campus home,” Balks said. “We know this is their home away from home.” 

Balks said it’s important to make sure, from a student success standpoint, that a maintenance issue isn’t distracting students from why they are on campus.

“Students are here to learn and grow in their college years,” Balks said. “I think that's where our team finds its purpose and sees the value in supporting students, and they take pride in that.”

The team that makes this happen isn't massive. Marque Black, Associate Director of Apartments and Central Services for Student Leadership and Engagement, said the team is made up of 17 technicians, covering a wide range of skills. 

Balks said the leadership team wants to make every effort to ensure employees are cared for as well as the students they serve.

“We want to provide a good working environment and our team members want to provide a good living environment,” Balks said. 

Associate Director of Residence Hall Services for REHS Charles Stephens  said  part of the maintenance team’s efficiency has to do with the investment into being people-centric, especially around working conditions for the team.

“That includes adding more people to our staff, and then also adding a second shift in terms of coverage,” Stephens said. 

Originally, crews would only work from 6 p.m. to 3:30 a.m. Now, there are also additional crews working from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m., allowing for the management of more work orders during the course of the day.

“Our staff, custodial and maintenance, are part of the community,” Stephens said. “We encourage students to get to know those members of the community as they maintain, clean and make sure that the environment is a safe, healthy and clean environment for them to brighten.”

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