The shift from Boomers to Millennials represents one of the greatest cultural workforce shifts perhaps ever seen, but for field service companies the rise of the millennial is nothing to fear writes Kris Oldland...
As a card carrying member of Generation X I’ve always felt some empathy with both the Baby Boomer generation that preceded us and the Millennial generation that followed.
However, the two inhabit very, very separate worlds with very, very different ideals, beliefs and outlooks on life.
With the ageing workforce posing a potential crisis for many field service companies, they now face the unenviable task of migrating from Boomer to Millennial and somehow balancing a shift from two generations that contrast perhaps more than any other before.
However, the good news is that despite being famously labelled the ‘me, me, me generation’ actually Millennials could quite possibly be the perfect match for modern field service.
Here are nine reasons why...
Millennials are natural collaborators
One of the biggest challenges of an ageing workforce in the field service sector is that for many Baby Boomers knowledge and experience is a badge of honour and as such they are not natural sharers of that knowledge.
Whilst capturing that knowledge before it walks out your door is vital, distilling it and transmitting it to a new generation of workers is an even greater challenge.
"Millennials are digital natives and natural collaborators and as such any knowledge left behind from their Boomer predecessors could be more easily disseminated across the workforce..."
Millennials are digital natives and natural collaborators and as such any knowledge left behind from their Boomer predecessors could be more easily disseminated across the workforce provided they have the tools for collaboration.
Millennials are practical and results-oriented
As Tanya Korobka writes in an excellent article on Millennials on the website Lucky Attitude 'as a generation Millennials have grown up with an expectation for processes and service to work and speed up their interactions.' They are practical, and despite some claims to the contrary they are in fact generally a pretty hard working bunch.
In field service, where often the customer is dependent on the engineer to achieve their fix to get their business back operating at full capability as soon as possible, being practical and results orientated are absolutely critical traits. Fortunately, millennials tend to have this in abundance.
Millennials are confident
For more and more companies, often the only face to face contact they may have with their customers is when a field service engineer arrives on site.
"Millennials, having been raised by their Boomer parents to believe they can accomplish anything are one of the most confident generations to have ever entered the workforce..."
Millennials, having been raised by their Boomer parents to believe they can accomplish anything are one of the most confident generations to have ever entered the workforce.
Such confidence focussed correctly can be harnessed to deliver a truly positive customer-centric approach to service.
Millennials are well educated
In fact, Millennials are on track to become the most educated generation in history.
Given the previous point about field service companies beginning to recruit based on softer, more customer centric skills the fact that Millennials are comfortable with learning is important as it allows companies to hire based on these soft skills, whilst training recruits in the more technical skills required.
Millennials are people pleasers.
Again a massively important factor when it comes to delivering great customer service.
Millennials tend to have a preference for merit based systems and as such have a common desire to gain approval. At the same time they are a more conscientious group than both Boomers who are often focussed on financial remuneration.
Therefore the often superhero like status of the field engineer who is able to fix the problem and get a clients business right back on track is going to appeal to many Millennials.
Millennials are tech savvy
As the art of field service management becomes more and more entwined with technology the more important it is that your field service workforce is technologically savvy.
"Whether it be digital collaboration, quick and easy adoption of apps or the ability to utilise emerging tools such as augmented reality and smart glasses, Millennials are far more likely to adapt to the new tools you introduce to the workforce to improve productivity than their Boomer predecessors were..."
Similarly digital privacy is a much more foreign concept for many Millennials meaning less (if any) objections around the implementation of tracking technologies such as telematics where the ‘big brother is watching’ syndrome has often been a barrier to adoption amongst a Boomer workforce.
Basically Millennials are far more used to leaving a digital footprint and doing so in work via vehicle tracking for example, is just the way the world works for many a Millennial.
Millennials are multi-taskers
Ever get frustrated that, that Millennial in your life doesn’t seem to be listening to you when your talking to them as they are also simultaneously watching TV, updating their Twitter status and having an IM conversation all at the same time?
"The truth is that Millennials have a both the ability to multi-task and also a relatively low boredom threshold so are often juggling five or more balls..."
Yet the fact is that they are also able to keep those five balls in the air quite comfortably.
For field service companies, particularly those with a number of different products within their install base, this trait could be particularly useful as Millennials are far more likely to be engaged if they have multiple different challenges to keep them busy. For these guys variety really is the spice of life and a key to keeping them on site is to give them that variety within the workplace.
One potential danger is that a company could end up with an entire workforce that are ‘jacks of all trades but masters of none.’
However, with Millennial’s natural tendency to work in a more open and collaborative manner than the Boomers they are replacing, there is less need for the Millennial field service engineer to be an expert in all areas - essentially knowledge and experience can be shared across a team rather than trapped in the silos of individual Boomer engineers.
Millennials are natural travellers
Dubbed by some as ‘generation rent’ Millennials are showing a different mindset to that of their Boomer parents. The concept of getting onto the property ladder is far less attractive to the more nomadic and adventurous spirit of the Millennial.
Indeed far more Millennials than Non-Millennials report a desire to visit every continent and travel abroad as much as possible, according to Boston Consulting Group.
So what better working environment for this generation than field service, where they are not trapped by the confines of an office cubicle?
Add to this that Millennials, whilst having a strong work ethic, also highly value a positive work-life balance, then a working role that provides them with the opportunity to travel could be the key to a happy (and therefore loyal) Millennial workforce.
Millennials are everywhere
Finally, Millennials are the largest generation in Western history. It has been estimated that there are 80 million Millennials in the US and 14.6 million UK Millennials.
Korobka reports that according to Pew Research Centre analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data, last year Millennials surpassed Generation X to become the largest share of the American workforce so reality fact is they are already dominating the workforce.
"The simple fact is that for field service, as with all of business sectors Millennials are the future workforce as well as the future leaders..."
However, as service continues to take centre stage and as technology continues to become ever more embedded with the improvement of field service delivery, it does indeed appear that the future of field service is safe in Millenial hands.
The challenge however, remains to ensure that the knowledge embedded within the ageing Baby Boomer workforce is captured and retained in order to allow the transition from the past to the future to remain as seamless as possible.
Want to know more about the general traits of the Millennial generation? We recommended visiting Luckyattitude.co.uk/millennial-characteristics for a deep and regularly updated overview of what makes this important generation tick...