By Ryan Wilkinson, Chief Technology Officer, IntelliShift
The United States is undergoing a top-to-bottom transformation of its labor market. As recently as January, key indicators revealed a shrinking total unemployment rate, while certain industries are struggling to attract and retain a robust workforce. This gap is particularly pronounced across field service organizations, that had been tackling demographic evolutions and generational divides among prospective workers well before COVID-19 spurred further challenges. The cultural shift away from trade careers combined with health-related fears is leaving leaders with fewer and fewer options as they seek new employees to grow their business.
This trend, however, is not insurmountable. In fact, in looking at how other industries have leveraged technology to digitize fleet efficiency, field services leaders may find an answer to their own labor problems. Not only can a digitally-powered fleet make field service positions more attractive to prospective hires, but it offers much-needed insight to optimize operational policies and workflows, effectively enabling teams to accomplish more with the same resources, and also provides a roadmap for working with existing staff to develop their skills to achieve and maintain an acceptable level of performance.
Here’s just a few ways fleet management and safety solutions can create a buffer against ongoing talent disruption:
Employee Experience Matters
In enticing in the next generation of field service professionals, most employers are at a disadvantage. Despite the traditional reliability and stability of trades, they cannot always compete with more digitally advanced peers who have been able to leverage technology and automation to improve the employee experience – a key consideration for Millennials and Gen Z. For example, an incorrect manual timesheet can cost a technician a day’s pay, a semi-common occurrence given the amount of paperwork required for simple procedures such as clocking in and out for breaks. One mistake, even to the tune of 15 minutes, results in loss of pay, which can add up over time. Another example: accidents. One accident out on the road could potentially cost them their job, even if the incident wasn’t their fault. In the absence of the right technology, these sorts of occurrences leave technicians vulnerable and make an operation less attractive to new recruits.
Fleet management solutions are a vital step forward in modernizing and optimizing the employee experience for new and existing staff. From payroll to productivity to safety, by automating key areas of the field business, technicians are relieved from outdated processes that take time away from focusing on what’s important: customers. Further, the integration of in-cab video solutions provides a powerful safeguard against accidents and fraudulent accident claims. With a video record, technicians can rest assured that there’s a proven record of their safe driving, eliminating risk toward their careers.
Ongoing Training Solutions
With such a slowdown in hiring, every existing employee can have an outsized impact on the organization. In a perfect world, a fleet management solution can help optimize the schedule and efficiency of the entire team. From mapping the most direct routes to delivering alerts well in advance of potential vehicle hiccups – those employees are able to deliver much more in a single day. That said, fewer hiring opportunities means that managers need to rethink how they approach those among staff who struggle to deliver the same level of service. If 25 years ago these individuals could easily be replaced, that is certainly not the case today.
The result is a greater onus on training and development, and how managers can work with employees to grow their skills to fit the needs of the organization. Fleet management solutions have proven to be effective tools in this area, particularly in countering little mistakes that can add up. Fuel is a great example of this. If a technician regularly engages high waste behaviors like heavy braking or acceleration, that’s burning through fuel at a much higher rate than necessary. Over time, that can cost a business significantly.
Modern solutions can proactively identify and alert these behaviors as they happen in real-time and offer technicians pointers and recommendations, thus saving money and improving their contribution to company growth. One of the most impactful examples is that of safety – low performance is often linked to behaviors such as following too close, distracted driving or even phone usage. Through automated in-cab technology, drivers can be empowered with real-time reminders of these behaviors, protecting them while measurably improving their experience on the road.
Protecting the Fleet
In addition to technicians themselves, key to wholesale optimization is how the vehicles themselves are managed and maintained. As commercial assets, a single broken headlight can have cascading financial consequences for ensuring effective service – rearranging existing schedules and pushing back appointments unnecessarily. Especially from a customer service standpoint, many organizations simply cannot afford the consequences of unexpected downtime.
By integrating a fleet management system across core areas of the business, both technicians and managers alike have a much more transparent and contextual look into the health of their vehicles and assets. Through analytics, these solutions can track and identify how wear and tear develops over time, and which type of driving behaviors are the most significant contributing factors. Importantly, this information is delivered via a seamless and direct interface, eliminating any type of special training needed. This type of predictive maintenance can eliminate significant variables in fleet repair, allowing for a much tighter forecasting for organizational resources. Together, managers and technicians can partner to strategically time scheduled maintenance and repair for minimal total disruption.
Building a Digital Workforce
The most effective technological solutions augment the human experience – easing traditional challenges so innovation has room to develop. As field services organizations seek to usher in the next generation of workers, their approach to fleet and safety management is going to have a profound impact on the industry at large. By competing on the basis of creating the best employee experience, as well as providing technology that supports professional skills development, there is tremendous potential to attract prospective employees, without sacrificing the bottom line. Digitalization is coming, and it’s an opportunity field services business leaders don’t want to miss.