Shared Field Service Knowledge in an On-Demand World

Oct 21, 2019 • FeaturesManagementAly PinderIDCKnowledge ManagementKnowledge SharingKnowledge TransferMillenialls

IDC’s Aly Pinder explores one of the most crucial conundrums facing field service organisations today - how to ensure knowledge transfer is seamless across the organisation...

At some point we will finally reach the moment when all the seasoned field service engineers retire. I know, we have been foretelling this for years and in my case more than a decade. Despite this seemingly ever-present anxiety around replacing a retiring field workforce, many manufacturers and service organizations still list knowledge loss as a top challenge yet to be successfully addressed.

IDC Manufacturing Insights’ 2019 Product and Service Innovation Survey highlighted one of the top drivers for manufacturer’s service lifecycle management efforts is a need to capture and make accessible service knowledge and best practices. Building a culture of shared intelligence and accessibility of service knowledge, nearly half of organizations (42.7%) sampled in this study plan to leverage mobile devices for the purpose of increased collaboration amongst technicians.

These investments and prioritization demonstrate how much risk is inherent with having an entire workforce which often goes out on its own for an extended period of time, rarely coming back into a centralized location, and is one of the closest resources interacting directly with customers. The scary part is the value technicians to the customer experience is becoming more not less critical for manufacturers and service organizations.

In advance of losing field workers, I recommend you consider a few things:

  • Identify your workforce that is planning to retire in the near future. Do you survey your technicians, at least annually, to ask them when they plan to retire? Assuming your technicians will retire at the retirement age of your respective country is quite risky. Reaching out to your technicians to identify when they plan to retire allows the organization to identify the level and urgency of the risk, plan for the loss, and even proactively strategize to either retain or hire more aggressively in advance of the loss.
  • Get creative with technician retention. Organizations should establish a program that enables technicians to be able to work as a centralized expert. This is where gamification and incentives can be used to create a bench of technicians that are willing to stay with the company, accelerate the rate of capturing best practices, and recognize the value of the decades of experience which is held in the brains of the technician. Organizations would be wise to establish a role which based on identify qualifications or attainment of a certain expertise level can extend the viability of a seasoned technician staying on the team.
  • Show your newer workforce a career path which is rewarding and valued. Many organizations struggle with creating tangible and exciting career paths for the workforce. Career paths are difficult to detail as there  are so many variables, both for the employee and the organization. This is an even bigger challenge with a largely remote workforce at many service organizations. However, the ability to communicate a future for the field technician is a critical step in addressing the workforce skills gap which should go hand in hand with trying to retain more seasoned technicians. This practice will help create a culture that values the service technician experience and show the workforce where they will fit in the broader strategy of the organization.

Talking about the retiring field force mustn’t be the end of the story that we tell each other, organizations must act now. Technology is one of the ways to capture and make accessible service knowledge, but manufacturers and service organizations need to identify their respective risk and build a strategy around addressing the loss of critical service knowledge.

Collaboration and shared purpose will enable organizations to get in front of this pending wave of retiring workers.