Guest Column | February 26, 2019

‘People Roadmap' For Field Service – Root Of All Success

By Bruce Breeden, President, Field Service Resources, LLC

Field Service Leadership

Product-oriented businesses review and value their “product roadmap”. The vitality of a product-based company depends on the on-going development of a product roadmap and continuous innovation.  Future market growth and company valuation are, in part, determined by this roadmap. 

That said (and recognizing field service as its own line of business), the people of the organization are the “product” for field service.  Did you ever have a conversation about your service business, and the other party quickly asks about your “people roadmap?” This usually is not the case.  Service-based companies, or operations of blended product-service businesses, also have a product: an organization of field service engineers, technicians, coordinators, support personnel, and managers.  One could argue that the organizational or people roadmap is of equal or even greater importance for a field service business than a product roadmap is for a product-based business. I’ve always said as a field service leader that I’m in the “people” business and, as such, the business needs a clear, vibrant “people roadmap.” This roadmap must include all roles in the organization, including service managers and their ability to lead and develop business.

But do we talk earnestly of our people roadmap? Are there regular human resource reviews, succession plans, coaching, mentoring, variable project assignments, training, and skills inventory for our current and future needs? When is the last time the organizational roles were updated to match the business strategy? Is customer satisfaction survey data incorporated into this review? If a human resource review process is in place, is it done in the context of the specific field service business dynamics of revenue creation and workforce development? 

In my career, I’ve experienced some outstanding practices addressing the areas above. I would recommend, however, that any human resource review process should address powerful drivers such as digital transformation, workforce generational styles and differences, technician soft-skills, and the ability to advance. The degree and pace of change in the field service industry have increased due to technology, consumer experiences, and new employee talent. These rapid changes underscore the leadership action required to update roles, proficiency requirements, and development plans, and to institute human resource reviews.

There’s a high knowledge level in our community when it comes to the benefits of digital solutions and transforming businesses. Together with transferring knowledge to new service employees and effective on-boarding, having a people roadmap provides direction and resources for our workforce. 

Service organization leaders must plan, act, and communicate both internally and externally about their career roadmap. A simple but effective practice, as an example, is to provide a brochure of all of the job roles that exist within a field service organization. The brochure helps in both recruiting conversations and current workforce development conversations. 

What should a people roadmap look like? Here are five key summary points for a field service roadmap: 

  1. Field service roles have changed and will continue to change with workforce retirements, new talent shortages, technology, and company business strategy changes.  Deliberate and engineered job roles work in sync with business process and technology to maximize business outcomes. Service leaders must prioritize job role updates and supporting skill requirements.
  2. Recruitment and effective on-boarding require the job roles be defined and coupled with targeted training and job tools, proficiency level definition, and opportunities for advancement.  Additionally, to address the knowledge transfer challenge, both technology and role assignments for senior personnel are necessary.
  3. Setting performance expectations and metrics for these new roles aligns the field service engineers and technicians with company goals and outcomes to ensure strong performance and financial results. 
  4. A career roadmap directs training, coaching, and professional development.  A field service organization must have an on-going commitment to the skills and behaviors necessary for service performance. Ask yourself: Is there energy around my people roadmap, both at the employee and management levels?
  5. A people roadmap energizes the organization around a company mission that is focused on both products and services. The roadmap and directional mission foster more engagement with a simple, clear message for the employees to follow.

FSO leaders are maximizing the people roadmap and partnering with HR to affect change, growth, and organizational engagement. The field service people roadmap is prioritized as an elevator pitch for both internal and external communications.

Bruce Breeden is the founder of Field Service Resources, LLC and author of the book, The Intentional Field Service Engineer.  Bruce works with FSO leaders to improve operational performance, lead digital transformation programs, conduct FSE and manager training, and implement mobile technology.