Guest Column | March 25, 2020

Sustaining Workforce Development

By Bruce Breeden, Field Service Resources


Experience proves that in a services business, the capability and adaptability of the service organization or workforce produce business results: growth, brand, profit, safety, and market share.  Workforce capabilities are the product for service. 

I once held a service marketing position and my role was not just developing and marketing service programs but working within the service organization who was our “product”. 

Most service organizations are challenged with recruiting and retention of top service talent to make their organization capable and adaptable.  Successful leaders and organizations have a system to sustain their workforce development beyond traditional levers of pay and training.

These are seven critical steps to build your service organization sustaining workforce system.

  1. Updated Field Service Technician/Engineer Roles And Objectives: To address the need for brand ambassadorship, lead generation, and other relationship elements to field service.  There may be a pressing problem such as safety compliance or a new product launch that requires organizational change or technical skills.  Don’t lose sight of the opportunity to recruit based on the broadness and degree of responsibility the new technician role has today in field service.
  2. Tools And Metrics: Providing the I.T./app solutions to perform the changing role and measuring the updated role, not just historical field service metrics.  Metrics can be damaging if not balanced and updated.  A client of mine determined in their new business model, that reducing service productive time would generate millions of lead opportunity dollars while the tech was on-site.  A far better investment than advertising and the organization appreciated their new role and importance to the overall commercial process. 
  3. Messaging The Vision: Said often as part of a company business system, tell the story of the field service industry, its benefits and career opportunities, your vision, the why behind the vision and incite a call for action.  How well is your organization messaging the vision to the technician level?  Over time, culture is formed around a growing, energetic, and rewarding workplace that will help not just to develop talent but to retain top talent.  There is a large inventory of service organization initiatives and improvements that are not supported by effective messaging.
  4. Habits And Coaching: Successful people form habits to achieve performance levels especially when their role changes or they are interested in a higher position.  Habit forming is the ultimate sign of follow up, action-oriented behaviors to support a vision.  Coaching is the best way to provide daily direction, support, and building working relationships.  I love it when someone is honored at a sporting event and the player credits her/his coaches.  Success takes both player and coach; often top performers leave for lack of coaching or direction.
  5. Performance Management And Development Plans: The biggest advantage in this process is to have quality dialogue, feedback and to define a roadmap.  As the business objectives change, the performance management process is critical to communicate goals and objectives and how to measure progress.  Every service technician or engineer should have a development roadmap defined and taking steps daily for their career objectives and the company objectives. 
  6. Opportunities: Leading service organizations connect the messaging the vision step to both team and individual opportunities.  When the messaging addresses the why, people naturally think of what is in it for me, and the message resonates.  If my work, for example, is based on me valuing advancement opportunities, then I will form the connection of company vision and needs, to how I can develop my skills and prepare for a promotion opportunity.  In my workshops, we have an exercise where the participants will identify their values in work e.g. money, advancement, team quality, etc.  The exercise conclusion is that to achieve their values in work, skills and behaviors are the vehicles for their success. 
  7. Recognition: an obvious step but not done as much as it should.  Recognition is a high energy step that is an opportunity to re-message the vision, show the organization how it has been done by their peers and outcomes achieved.  Recognition should never be complacent and should be fun.  Southwest Airlines and many others have done this in a world-class way for years to tremendous success. 

Talent recruitment, development, and retention is a full-time effort for leading service organizations.Their workforce is viewed as a competitive advantage with supporting investments.Service organization culture works to attract and retain based on quality and development.

About The Author

Bruce Breeden is the principal of Field Service Resources, LLC, providing consulting, training and digital transformation for service organizations.  Bruce is also the author of the book The Intentional Field Service Engineer.