Richard Pratley left behind the beaches, scenery and weather of New Zealand to head-up SimPRO’s UK arm. Seven months into his new role, he spoke to Field Service News Deputy Editor Mark Glover about apprenticeships, health and safety and the...
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Richard Pratley left behind the beaches, scenery and weather of New Zealand to head-up SimPRO’s UK arm. Seven months into his new role, he spoke to Field Service News Deputy Editor Mark Glover about apprenticeships, health and safety and the state of the service sector in his homeland...
So isolated is New Zealand it was one of the last lands to have human settlement. As well as avoiding human interaction for so long more, it has also avoided the shockwaves spread from the global financial market. Seemingly exempt from the volatile effects of the recession, it is now seen as a ‘rock-star’ economy, immune to the peak and troughs of the downturn.
Investment in apprenticeships, particularly field service apprenticeships however has taken a hit here in the UK, globally and even New Zealand and the sector currently faces a discrepancy in new entrants joining the sector. Richard Pratley, Managing Director at SimPRO UK and a New Zealander is well placed to comment on the issue, which he did as a recent guest on the Field Service News podcast.
I asked him what challenges both countries – New Zealand and the UK – are facing in field service. He was forthcoming on the current employment imbalance. “I think the biggest one [challenge] is the skills labour shortage and how it’s impacting our industry,” he says. “Finding good people and keeping good people is getting increasingly harder.”
He suggested that New Zealand is reacting to the disparity, but it may be too late to plug the current gap. “A lack of investment in apprenticeships is a common trend across both geographies and I think we’ve underestimated how strong apprenticeships were,” he offered.
“Certainly, from a New Zealand perspective, it’s now well-recognized, and there is some heavy investment going in, but of course, it’s all a little bit too late. It’s not going to help us right now but it will help us in a few years’ time.”
“I think the biggest challenge is the skills labour shortage and how it’s impacting our industry...”
Richard headed up SimPRO’s New Zealand office for three years before relocating to these shores to take up his current position at the firm’s UK arm and he tells me there’s never been a better time to adopt an operational software platform or operational job management system.
But with a wide range of outfits to choose what should a service firm be looking for? “The thing we’re trying to do is to get more billable hours and more out of the existing workforce,” Richard says. However, I wonder if owner-based companies, used to ‘pen and paper’ procedures can find the change to a cloud-based OS rather overwhelming?
“Certainly, in New Zealand - and I’m guessing it’s the same in the UK too - there are a lot of large established service businesses that are owner operated,” he says.
“They have been run for a number of years and at some point, that individual may be looking to retire, and have some sort of exit strategy. The challenge is, that without some sort of systemisation, it’s all in somebody’s head and that’s a very difficult thing to get out.”
One area of work traditionally associated with pen and paper (and clipboard) is health and safety. Legislation and regulation require a strong paper trail, something that can be a laborious – yet important process.
Surely then, the cloud-based software in job management systems can assist in this? “We have a number of workflows and tools within apps that allow technicians to do those risk assessments on their devices, to record those results and to actually make some health and safety decisions before they go ahead and do any part of a job,” Richard says.
He pauses slightly before saying: “And I think that’s fundamentally important.”
You can listen to the Field Service Podcast with guest Richard Pratley here.
Jan 23, 2018 • Features • AGeing Workforce • Future of FIeld Service • millenials • research • Research • Workforce Development • field service • Field Service Engineer Training • GE Digital • Service Max
For our latest research project, which we ran in partnership with ServiceMax from GE Digital our focus was to see what the field service engineer of the near future will look like. We are now into feature three of our online coverage of the...
For our latest research project, which we ran in partnership with ServiceMax from GE Digital our focus was to see what the field service engineer of the near future will look like. We are now into feature three of our online coverage of the findings of this research where we look at some of the conclusions drawn from the first part of our analysis and highlight some of the key statistics the research revealed.
To recap in the first part of this series we looked at the research aims, the threat of the ageing workforce and the changes in training methodologies that are emerging. In part two we explored if and if and how field service companies are utilising their experienced field service engineers to train the incoming generation.
Now let's dive in to part three...
There is also a detailed white paper outlining the wider findings of this report which is available to fieldservicenews.com subscribers...
Companies are aware of the challenges but are they reacting quick enough?
It is clear from our findings that the role of the FSE is undoubtedly changing.
Field service companies are today seeking much more rounded individuals, who are as proficient as dealing with face to face interactions with the customer as they are dealing with technical maintenance issues.
It is also clear that whilst it may have been exaggerated in some quarters the challenges of replacing an ageing workforce is very much a real threat to a large number of field service organisations. However, the fact remains that these challenges may also essentially be set resolve each other.
There have been numerous explorations and studies into the traits of the Millennial generation and one of the key observations that is often raised is that Millennials are on the whole a more confident generation than those that preceded them, who also value variety within their working lives - perfectly suited to a role that balances both technical and customer service elements perhaps?
Connected Assets, Machine Learning, AR and of course a solid FSM system can all empower field service engineers to be the brand ambassadors field service companies today are seeking.What is clear though is that the link between the two will be provided by technology. As discussed above, technologies such as Augmented Reality can go a huge way to bridging the gap between the experienced engineers that are in the latter part of their careers and those who are just entering the workforce. It is, therefore, a bit of a surprise that so few companies are actively embracing such tools as yet.
Perhaps, here is the real issue and the underlying challenge.
Technology really does provide an answer to most of all of the challenges discussed in this series so far. Connected Assets, Machine Learning, AR and of course a solid FSM system can all empower field service engineers to be the brand ambassadors field service companies today are seeking.
They also provide a platform for easing the transition from ‘a ‘Boomer workforce to a Millennial one by creating far more economically efficient means of extending the older FSEs productive career span, bringing them out of the field and allowing them to offer guidance remotely.
However, it seems that for many perhaps there is a lack of urgency.
There is a sense that for many companies it is a case of ‘yes - we see the challenge and we’re aware of it but aren’t actioning it just yet...’ One suspects that perhaps because the issue of an ageing workforce isn’t quite critical enough as yet and the fact that solutions do exist and are in-fact becoming fairly well established already, the danger doesn’t seem as particularly real as it should for many.
However, whilst the systems and technologies are certainly available to overcome these challenges, implementation and realignment of processes will take time and unless companies act soon, the ageing workforce crisis and rapid evolution of the FSE in a millennial guise may just catch them unawares and then the risk may just still live up to the hyperbole after all.
Some of the key statistics from the findings:
- 48% of field service companies believe the threat an ageing workforce poses to their field service operations is either significant or severe
- 18% of field service companies believe their exposure to an ageing workforce will be limited
- Only 10% of field service companies have redeveloped their training methodologies to be more attuned to Millennials entering the workplace
- 78% of field service companies are in the process of or are planning to overhaul their training processes
- 20% of companies actively use their senior engineers in a remote expert capacity to guide younger Field Service Engineers in the field
- 98% of companies are prioritising softer, inter-personal skills as key attributes more now than they have done in the past when hiring new field service engineers[/unordered_list]
Want to know more? There is also a detailed white paper outlining the wider findings of this report which is available to fieldservicenews.com subscribers...
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