From The Editor | April 30, 2018

The Need To Redefine The Field Service Role

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Sarah Nicastro

By Sarah Nicastro, publisher/editor in chief, Field Technologies
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The Field Service Role

I’ve talked with a number of field service leaders recently about their struggles in finding and hiring good talent. Then last week, NPR posted this article that really caught my eye. The article talks about how there is an anti-trade job mentality being instilled in today’s youth. It made me wonder how much this issue has had an impact on the field technician shortage the industry is facing today.

The article provides some statistics that illustrate the problem. For instance, it states that “according to the Associated General Contractors of America, 70 percent of construction companies nationwide are having trouble finding qualified workers.” And that the state of Washington reports there are “already more trade jobs like carpentry, electrical, plumbing, and pipe-fitting than Washingtonians to fill them.” In the adjacent trucking industry, USA Today reported Friday that the trucking industry projects a shortage of more than 100,000 drivers by 2022.

While I realize the NPR article and these statistics aren’t directly applicable to all field service roles, I would argue that there is some relevancy in what the article refers to as a “branding issue.” For a variety of reasons, the next wave of potential employees are not overly interested in field service jobs. While you can’t control those reasons or singlehandedly solve that problem, you can certainly look at this from the perspective of how you could better brand the role to make it more appealing. You also might want to think about expanding your search for potential employees outside of your typical avenues. It seems women are somewhat of an untapped (or underutilized) market; for certain jobs it could make sense to start recruitment at an earlier stage – as the NPR article discusses, these perceptions are formed largely in high school. Overall, as the field service role has evolved, so too should the methods you’re using for finding the next generation of your workforce.

Better Branding For Field Service Recruitment

Besides recruiting in different places, think about how you can better brand the field service role. I’d suggest examining ideas such as:

  • What’s the verbiage you’re using in your job description? Has it changed in ten years? Would a makeover help better entice this new, different audience? There’s so much that has changed about the field service role in recent years – and so much change yet to come. Use these changes as fuel to modernize your terminology and express the opportunity that exists in the industry. You may want to consider incorporating aspects of the job that perhaps didn’t appeal as much to your older audience, but may to your new – such as technology use, a more customer-centric role, options for career growth, and so on.
  • How are you balancing the focus of technical skills versus soft skills? More and more field service leaders I speak with are telling me that technical skills matter less and less, because they can be taught. But the right soft skills or behavioral attributes for the field technician role as it is today, and where it is headed, cannot. Perhaps shifting your hiring criteria in that direction would help you attract a different set of prospective employees.
  • Are you thinking outside the box when it comes to incentives and perks? Remember, your next generation of field technicians is motivated by different things than the last. I’m sure you’re not going to dole out all of the perks Google does, but that doesn’t mean you can’t think a litter harder about the work experience these folks might like to have and look for ways you can provide that. Here’s an example, at Field Service USA earlier this month, SiriusXM was there among a sea of technology vendors. At first I thought to myself, “what the heck are they doing here?” But then I realized, why not? Why not make your field technicians’ travels and day-to-day life a bit more enjoyable? Think outside the box.

There’s no easy solution to this problem, and I think it will continue to be a struggle. But I do think there’s an opportunity in the fact that the field technician role is so quickly evolving. It will be up to field service leaders to redefine that role in a way that makes it more relevant and more appealing.