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.
Aug 16, 2018 • Features • Management • Nick Frank • research • resources • Workammo • field service management • Service Leadership • Service Management • Service People Matters • Si2 partners • Field Service Podcast • Service Managers • Service Recruitment • Workforce Managewment
Previously on fieldservicenews.com we published an analysis of an exclusive research project run in partnership with Si2 Partners,WorkAmmo and Service People Matters where we revealed that 57% of field service organisations prefer to promote...
Previously on fieldservicenews.com we published an analysis of an exclusive research project run in partnership with Si2 Partners, WorkAmmo and Service People Matters where we revealed that 57% of field service organisations prefer to promote from within when appointing service managers.
Here in the second part of this analysis, we now explore in greater depth whether service organisations should be redefining the role of the service manager and ask what are the key attributes we should look for in service leaders of the future...
As field service operations continue to become an increasingly important part of revenue and customer engagement strategies for organisations of all sizes and in all verticals, it, of course, follows that those leading our field service teams are simultaneously becoming essential to the wider success of a business.
In our previous analysis of our research into development and recruitment trends within field service organisations we revealed that currently just over half of field service organisations prefer to promote from within when seeking to fill field service management vacancies, which is largely how things have been done historically - it is a sure bet that a large percentage of the service directors reading this report will have started their career as a technician in the field and this background and experience certainly has its advantages.
For a start when promoting someone from within they will, of course, have a much more intimate understanding of your organisation, your engineers’ workflows and perhaps most importantly your customer base. These are all factors that will help them hit the ground running in their new management role.
"Sometimes the best engineers, no matter how conscientious and efficient they may be when working in the field, just can’t make the step up into management - running a team requires a very different skill set than keeping your clients’ assets running..."
Yet, there is, of course, a flip side. Sometimes the best engineers, no matter how conscientious and efficient they may be when working in the field, just can’t make the step up into management - running a team requires a very different skill set than keeping your clients’ assets running.
Discussing this particular finding within the research in a recent episode of the Field Service Podcast Nick Frank, Founder of Si2 Partners commented:
“I think it is very natural, especially for companies who see service as a cost centre and as simply a way of generating customer loyalty, to see the people that they want to lead these functions within their own organisation.”
“Of course, these companies will be looking for people with the leadership skills - but they may also have a preference for someone who also knows the business.
“A large reason for that is is because service involves dealing with so many different stakeholders such as R&D and sales. Then it is also good to have someone who also knows the products and how those products work and how they operate in the customer environment.”
“So yes, if you are coming from a viewpoint of 'we are fundamentally there to keep the machines running and try to satisfy our customers’ then I’m not that surprised companies are still predominantly hiring from within.”
“But frankly, to be completely honest I’m a little bit disappointed that the percentage is still so high.”
"Service is becoming much, much more of a strategic growth driver..."
“The reason for that is because for me service is becoming much, much more of a strategic growth driver. Now that’s not to say it is the only drive, but it is certainly becoming recognised as an important strategic growth driver alongside a number of other things.”
“When you adopt that approach, you’re suddenly your not really looking so much for that in-depth product knowledge in your service leadership - in fact as a leader you should always have people within your team who understand the technical side.”
So the key attributes you want to see in your service managers then become much more about business leadership elements. By this, I mean things such as strategic direction, decision making and getting teams aligned etc. Also, business acumen becomes far more important because when you start seeing service as a driver for growth you are no longer operating as a cost centre, you’re generating revenue and running a business - so in some ways, I was a little bit disappointed that so many are still hiring from within.”
"Business acumen becomes far more important because when you start seeing service as a driver for growth you are no longer operating as a cost centre, you’re generating revenue and running a business..."
“Who knows, maybe these companies are finding people with all those skills within their organisations, but I feel that it is more likely that they are opting to play it a bit safe, rather than being a bit more ambitious with where they want to take their service business.”
It is certainly an interesting topic for discussion and Frank raises many valid points, but is the fact that so many field service companies are still predominantly hiring from within indicative of field service companies erring on the side of caution, or is it perhaps the case that as with many other areas within field service we see patterns evolve at a slightly slower pace often due to the necessity of keeping what is invariably a mission-critical side of the business on relatively stable ground.
To help us understand this better and to dig deeper into the thinking behind many field service companies approach to hiring and developing new service managers, we will focus in this second part of our research analysis on the key trends amongst service organisations in terms what we attribute are key in the next generation of service leadership and how companies are nurturing them.
About The Research:
The research was conducted over a six week period reaching out to fieldservicenews.com subscribers as well as the respective audiences of our partners inviting recipients to complete a detailed online survey. In total there were 131 respondents.
In addition to this Field Service News Editor-in-Chief conducted a live polling session at the recent Field Service Connect event, held at the Belfry, UK which was hosted by WBR at which an additional 33 senior field service executives were present bringing the total respondent level to 164 field service professionals - a sufficiently large enough response base to provide a fairly robust snapshot of the current trends around recruitment and development amongst field service organisations today.
The respondents represented a diverse range of industries including; Heavy Manufacturing, Healthcare, Consumer Electronics, Power Generation and Facilities Management. There were respondents from all across the globe including the UK, Belgium, Germany, UAE, Canada, Spain and the USA and there were responses from companies of varying sizes ranging from those with less than 10 engineers through to those with over 800 engineers.
Look out for the second part of this analysis where we will explore how a deeper exploration of the research findings correlated with Frank’s hypotheses as we dig deeper into the key characteristics field service companies are seeking when recruiting for new service managers…
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