From The Editor | December 28, 2017

Tackling The Field Service Talent Problem

Sarah Nicastro

By Sarah Nicastro, publisher/editor in chief, Field Technologies
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Field Service Talent Problem

One of the biggest challenges facing the field service industry right now is the aging workforce. Under the umbrella of that one challenge are actually a handful of really big problems:

  • It has proven very difficult for field service organizations to find quality replacements at the same rate at which experienced workers are retiring
  • As field workers retire, companies are often losing significant amounts of “tribal knowledge” that isn’t well-documented anywhere except in their minds. This can include important details of customer history and preferences that if not captured runs the risk of resulting in negative customer experience
  • Companies are tasked with determining how to quickly, but effectively, capture and transfer this knowledge to new employees
  • Companies are challenged to learn  how best to manage new, younger workers while often simultaneously managing the older workforce – where each group may have different needs and respond to different methods

This is a complex problem that will be ongoing in 2018. While there’s no easy solution, there are some steps companies need to be taking to manage the challenge as best they can. Here are three important steps.

Recruiting New Talent

You have to understand that the younger workforce is different than what you are used to. You will likely find them in different places than you did your current workers. For instance, far more of the younger generation has college degrees – so making your case at college job fairs, or working to set up internship programs may be worth considering. The younger workers will likely also want different things than your current workers do. They want to feel recognized, empowered, and that their voice and opinion is valued. To successfully recruit in this new era, you need to look for new ways to uncover talent, and understand what is most likely to attract them to your organization.

Transferring Knowledge

You need to put a plan in place for how you’ll capture and transfer the insights your older workers have. While it may not be realistic for them to document and share 100 percent of their knowledge, you have to get as much of it as you can. One of the newer ways companies are enabling this knowledge transfer is through the use of Augmented Reality (AR). AR can allow you to have one older, experienced technician in the back office training multiple new technicians in the field at once.

Considering Alternatives

If yours is a traditional field service workforce and you are struggling with talent gaps, you might want to do some research on outsourcing as an alternative. Many companies have had success with outsourcing certain service functions, or geographies, while still maintaining influence and control over how service is provided.