From The Editor | September 22, 2016

The Value Of Fostering Healthy Field Technician Competition

By Sarah Nicastro, publisher/editor in chief, Field Technologies
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Sarah Nicastro

As field service operations find themselves in the spotlight as a profit center, companies are looking for ways to incentivize their field technicians to perform at their highest level of productivity. If done well, fostering competition among your field technicians can help to hold them accountable and motivate them to improve performance. However, when done poorly, fostering competition can backfire and cause more harm than good.

There are a few important points to keep in mind as you’re trying to determine the best path to healthy competition. First, you need to strike the appropriate balance between the goal being reasonably attainable but still worthy of a reward. You don’t want to hand out huge incentives for your techs to do the standard job you feel they are already fairly compensated for. On the other hand, you don’t want to set unattainable goals that will only frustrate them. Second, you need to be sure that the goal(s) you’re incentivizing your technicians to hit are the most important goal(s) for your organization.

How Do You Make Your Incentive Program Fair?
Next, you want to do some thinking to ensure that the goals are fair to all of your field technicians. For instance, rewarding only the “top performer” might not accomplish your objective. Doing that might take that sense of competition from healthy to unhealthy because it isn’t perceived as fair by all of the other technicians who are working hard towar d your objective. Perhaps a better way to do this is to reward all technicians who perform to a certain set standard or who have contributed to an overall profitability goal. You also need to ensure that the way you’re measuring your techs’ performance toward hitting this goal is objective and fair. Relying on a manager to “make a judgement call” is a recipe for disaster — instead you want to rely on data that is accurate and clear so that it is explained to the team easily.

Rolling out an incentive program with these points in mind can help you elevate the performance of your technicians through more accountability, better visibility into group performance (i.e., feeding into the pride they take in their jobs and wanting to do as well as the group), and can even help to develop better communication among the team (sometimes especially for technicians who work primarily remotely, a program like this could help to tie them together if they are working toward a common goal). Do keep in mind that, again, the goal(s) the team is working toward need to be balanced, fair, objective, and measurable. You also need to be sure to clearly communicate to them the parameters of the program so that you’re not leaving anything up for debate or causing confusion.

Finally, while a formal program can be a great tool, don’t let it take the place of the less formal, everyday feedback and positive recognition that should also be occurring. Having a formal program shouldn’t replace the managers’ role of acknowledging stellar technician performance and making the everyday efforts of technicians feel appreciated.