A specialist recruitment platform initially conceived to help fill the service talent gap took on a new significance as an urgent post calling for medical technicians meant the project was fast-tracked to market. Mark Glover uncovers the story behind ServiceMax's Field Service Finder and its extraordinary five-week turnaround.
We are living and working in unprecedented times. All aspects of life are being affected by the pandemic: work, travel, holidays, live sport on TV.
Covid's Impact on the field service workforce
Of course the return of football is rather trivial compared to the health and financial impact this virus is having. As I type, news feeds are reporting Germany’s dip into recession. Indications this normally robust economy is wobbling will send tremors across the rest of Europe and beyond. In the UK, a financial crash is said to be inevitable and in the US the economy is showing significant signs of a downturn, fuelled in part by 26 million Americans losing their jobs as companies take actions to reduce bottom lines.
In service, technicians hardest hit are those in industries locked-down such as hospitality and retail. It means many have been furloughed or made redundant.
It’s another blow to a recruitment pool that has historically always struggled to attract and identify new talent. Field service positions are specialist, they require knowledge across a range of skills and are difficult to fill even without a global pandemic. Service - and I appreciate I’m sweeping broadly here - essentially exists to fix things, but it requires a highly-skilled and technical workforce to do so.
It wasn't always like this however. Post-war optimism and the 'baby-boomers' generation flooded the blue-collar market learning trades that secured a job for life. Now, the US, like the UK, are today seeing a large chunk of their workforce drop off as this generation retire. This decline has left an alarming employment gap that might not be an abyss, but with the advent of Covid-19, it’s looking a lot deeper than before and some sectors are feeling the pinch more than they ever have.
However, for the medical and biotech industries, there are challenges not in reducing staff numbers but significantly increasing them to cope with accelerating service requests.
Medtronic are a medical device manufacturer who have seen a substantial increase in demand for equipment such as ventilators which has in turn increased the need for service technicians to install and fix them. Theirs is a specialist field and even before the pandemic, finding those with appropriate experience and knowledge to service the assets was difficult.
"The site went live on May 4, the result of an extraordinary five weeks of development, testing and refining and more testing..."
As part of a recent recruitment drive the firm reached out on LinkedIn, publishing a post that directed people to their specialist vacancies, hoping it would touch a niche slice of a workforce they desperately needed to engage. The post was noticed by ServiceMax’s Stacey Epstein. “It was something of an urgent plea for volunteers and skilled workers to visit their own internal career page because they were desperately needing help,” she tells me over a Zoom conversation one afternoon, a week after the firm's most recent product launch.
ServiceMax's Field Service Job Finder is a platform connecting talent with demand across critical industries but even before this pandemic, the project had been in the pipeline for a while, an idea sparked by the aforementioned issues in service recruitment and confirmed following a piece of research from Forrester Consulting, commissioned by ServiceMax looking into the drivers of digital transformation in service.
Consulting 675 decision makers globally the research revealed, rather shockingly, that 97% reported challenges in sourcing talent with 49 % citing challenges identifying candidates who have the required knowledge and expertise. The issue was obvious but how to negate it?
ServiceMax and their customers straddle an array of industry verticals so they already had the audience (or “eyeballs”, Stacey says) for such a platform, however they needed to find the right partner who could provide the infrastructure.
Krios already ran their own recruitment portal. The site is tailored for the gig economy linking freelancers to a range of requests covering graphic design, translation services and web design; a blueprint similar to ServiceMax’s idea but on a different level of vocation. The two firms met, Krios were able to commit and the project quickly spun into action. The site went live on May 4, the result of an extraordinary five weeks of development, testing and refining and more testing. It was much earlier than was planned - but sparked by Medtronic’s post, the relationship the two had anyway (Medtronic are a ServiceMax customer) and the impending pandemic - the site was fast tracked to market. “It was literally seeing that request on LinkedIn,” Stacey explains, “and knowing it was a customer and that we’d already been talking about what we could be doing to help our customers with the skilled worker gap issue, we said, ‘we’ve got to do it now.’”
There are plenty of Medtronics out there, struggling with a challenge the likes of which they have never experienced and conversely, never planned for..."
So they did. To date, traffic has been steady with over 4,000 new users and exceeding 7,000 page impressions and while the majority of users are US-based the site is seeing traction globally being viewed in over 40 countries.
I suggested to Stacey we keep in touch, that I would like to monitor the site’s progress. Beyond the user metrics, I said, it would be interesting to see what comes to the surface after a month or so; to see what service companies are now looking for. It could offer a clear barometer of where service recruitment is, what jobs are available and what skills are being asked for – a glimpse of the new service workplace as the pandemic leaves its legacy.
But for now, this was a project that came from a glance at LinkedIn and a realisation what affect this pandemic was having. Stacey tells me when she saw the post she was pretty sure Medtronic would probably not be the only firm blinking in this new Covid dawn. Sadly, she’s right. There are plenty of Medtronics out there, struggling with a challenge the likes of which they have never experienced and conversely, never planned for.
COVID-19 is unprecedented and changing the very fabric of what we once knew as ‘normal’. For service to survive – and eventually thrive – it needs to pivot and flex; to absorb and react. This starts at the ground - in recruitment and the next generation.
- Read more about recruitment in service @ www.fieldservicenews.com/recruitment
- Read more about Covid-19 in service @ www.fieldservicenews.com/covid
- Read more about more about empowering field workers @ www.fieldservicenews.com/blog/tag/managing-the-mobile-workforce
- Read more about ServiceMax's Field Service Finder @ https://www.fieldservicefinder.com/
- Read more about Medtronic @ www.medtronic.com