The challenging act of balancing the equation of increasing need for field service resources with a dwindling current labour pool is one impacting field service organisations in every corner of the globe. Here, the editorial team at WBR Singapore explain more in a special article for Field Service News…
Field service as an industry has seen significant growth over the past decade or so but, while the amount of work available to field service providers is likely to continue exponentially on its present course, the number of engineers available to carry out these contracts is rapidly dwindling.
There are many reasons behind the talent crises presently being experienced in the field service industry and all need to be addressed if the issue is to be satisfactorily resolved. From the issues related to an ageing workforce, the challenges of attracting fresh young talent, and the transfer of skills between the two, to the implementation of new technology and the training which must be put in place as a result, the obstacles which must be overcome are many.
Let’s take a slightly more detailed look at the field service talent gap crises, the reasons underpinning it, and how they might be overcome.
The demographics of the field service workforce are currently experiencing a dramatic paradigm shift. The previous generation of baby boomers is now reaching retirement age, and the industry is now looking to the Millennial and GenZ generations to take up their mantle.
"It’s a sad fact that many of the younger people now taking their place in the global workforce do not find field service an attractive career prospect..."
The impact of this phenomenon on the field service industry would perhaps be felt more keenly than in other workforces due to the physical demand placed on the engineers compared to more sedentary employment. An ageing workforce is likely to find the physical demands of field service work increasingly challenging. Similarly, the more sedentary, digital, generations which exist today may also find the work difficult - albeit from the other end of the scale. It’s a sad fact that many of the younger people now taking their place in the global workforce do not find field service an attractive career prospect. Huge numbers of these people are looking for jobs with the latest tech and digital service providers rather than in maintenance and field service provision.
However, this challenge can be addressed by using the very technology these demographics find so attractive to simultaneously modernize field service and make the industry a far more appealing prospect to youngsters.
Industry 4.0 technology is already finding its way into field service work. IoT connected sensors are making predictive service contracts possible by alerting engineers to failing components before they break down entirely, while automation and AI are enabling appointments to be booked automatically and helping with intelligent scheduling and route planning.
"Augmented reality is also providing engineers with real time schematics..."
“There is a great deal of hype these days about the importance of optimizing dispatch and routing schedules for field service technicians – and there should be,” reports Field Technologies Online. “Assigning and dispatching technicians using ideal scheduling algorithms and optimal turn-by-turn directions can yield tremendous gains in productivity, significant service cost reductions, and much happier customers – all of which have an appreciable positive impact on the bottom line.”
Augmented reality is also providing engineers with real time schematics which can be overlaid onto real-world machines to assist with troubleshooting and repairs – especially useful with legacy equipment for which service documents are not always easy to locate.
While these technologies enable field service providers to give their customers a faster, more efficient, and overall better service, they will also serve to make your brand more attractive to young would-be engineers.
When attending recruitment drives or colleges, always promote your company’s use of the very latest digital technology and make sure you’re giving your brand the best chance of inspiring the next generation of engineers.
Digital technology can not only be used to attract young talent to your brand, but also help facilitate training and the transfer of skills between the old and new generations.
"Digital technology can help address many of the issues relating to the field service talent gap..."
“There is a growing need for well-trained technicians,” reports Ortec. “If you have them, how do you keep them? How do you educate younger generations? Start a training and leadership development program for experienced staff members to train or guide less experienced technicians. In a recent survey, 69% of next-generation workers stated that they desire digital access to experts while in the field. It’s time to start considering new approaches for knowledge transfer – even remotely, in real time – to provide the best possible service to customers.”
By staffing a contact center with experienced engineers, they can offer real-time guidance and advice to on-site staff. Using aforementioned augmented reality technology, they can draw on a screen at base and have their instructions be displayed on the companion device on-site. This allows those staff nearing retirement to take a more relaxed and less active role within the company while remaining productive, and simultaneously training the newer employees.
As you can see, digital technology can help address many of the issues relating to the field service talent gap. By not only deploying, but also promoting, its use within your organization, you will have the best chance of maintaining a well-staffed brand for generations to come.
Tackling the skills gap in the field service industry is set to be a hot topic at Field Service & B2B CX Asia, 3-5 November 2020 at Equarius Hotel, Singapore. Scan the code for further information.