The Ageing Workforce Crisis Is Not Only Real But It’s Here - How Are We Going To Resolve It?

Jul 16, 2018 • FeaturesManagementadvanced field servicesAgeing Workforce CrisisContingent LabourmillenialsoutsourcingresearchResearchWorkammoBaby Boomerfield service managementService LeadershipService People MattersServie ManagementTalent Management

The threat of a genuine ageing workforce crisis is being discussed by field service organisations across all industry sectors and in all corners of the globe. Field Service News in partnership with Si2 Partners, Workammo and Service People Matters undertook research to establish exactly how real this threat is to ongoing service operations and how recruitment, development and progression trends within field service are evolving...

The threat of a genuine ageing workforce crisis is being discussed by field service organisations across all industry sectors and in all corners of the globe. Whilst the technology that is developing within our industry is creating unprecedented opportunities for improving efficiencies and increasing productivity, it remains a maxim of our profession that it is a people led business.

Simply put without field service engineers, there can be no field service.

So it is of significant concern when we here of field service companies across the globe facing up to an ageing workforce crisis.

But just how much of this crisis is a genuine reality and how much is headline grabbing hyperbole?

Field Service News in partnership with Si2 partners and Service People Matters have undertaken a research project to establish the magnitude of the problem and to assess how field service organisations are recruiting and developing both field service technicians and managers.

Here are the findings...

About the research:

The research was conducted over a six week period reaching out to 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.

The reality of the ageing workforce crisis

Of course, the first fundamental issue that we wanted to address was just how many companies were facing an ageing workforce crisis.

In a previous research project conducted in late 2017 we identified that for 48% of field service companies the threat of an ageing workforce was indeed a genuine threat to their service operations - so has this challenge become more pressing across the last 8 months?

53% of respondents stated that replacing an ageing workforce is a challenge for their organisations Our research indicated that indeed it has, with 53% of respondents now stating that replacing an ageing workforce is a challenge for their organisations.

Of course, this means that 47% of companies stating that they do not have a challenge to replace their greying workforce - so then just how severe this crisis could be to our sector as a whole remains in question - but certainly the 5% increase of companies facing this issue across such a short period of time would indicate that this is an issue that is beginning to become increasingly prevalent.

Courting Millennials

Of course, the issue that field service companies are facing in terms of their workforce isn’t only exacerbated by the fact that many of the existing service engineers are coming close to retirement age, we must also consider the fact that the incoming generation of potential new recruits, often dubbed the 'Millennial generation' has a vastly different set of desires when it comes to job selection than the generation they are replacing.

A study by Fidelity Investments found that Millennials are the first generation ever to prioritise work-life balance over financial remuneration for example. Similarly, the linear career progression that was a lure to Baby Boomers and Generation X alike, is of less appeal to Millennials who value diversity within their career and regular fresh challenges within their working lives.

Millennials are the first generation ever to prioritise work-life balance over financial remunerationGiven this dramatic shift in culture within the incoming generation of workers should we be tailoring the way we approach talent acquisition to be more attractive for the Millennial market?

Surprisingly very few of the companies involved in our research are currently doing so.

In fact, just over a fifth of companies (21%) stated that they had adapted their training and development programs to take into account the cultural differences Millennials bring to an organisation compared to almost two thirds (62%) who had not done so.

However, there does appear to be a shift towards adopting such an approach developing though as 17% of companies stated that they were currently in the process of revising their recruitment and development programs to be more geared towards Millennials.

It is also interesting to note that over a quarter of respondents (27%) specifically target graduates when attending jobs fairs, whilst 7% go one step further and target school leavers directly. In comparison, 13% of companies target ex-service personnel.

Is outsourcing the answer?

One potential route to overcoming the loss of in-house engineers due to retirement could be to outsource some of the field service function to a third party.

In fact, exactly half of the companies we spoke to outsource some of their service work.

Of these, the most common breakdown of outsourced staff compared to in-house was a 25:75 ratio in favour of in-house staff which was the mix for 40% of those companies that outsourced some of their service operations.

34% of companies have seen the amount they outsource change across the last three years - with 80% stating that has increased What was of particular interest, however, was that amongst those companies who do use outsourcing as a means of ensuring they can meet their service demands 34% of companies have seen the amount they outsource change across the last three years - with 80% stating that they have increased the number of field service engineers that they now use within this period.

This increase is both dramatic and significant as it seems many field service companies are increasingly turning to outsourcing as a means of maintaining their field technician levels.

Whilst this could be a solution in the short term, it is justifiable to question whether such reliance on outsourcing is unsustainable across the long term?

Look out for the next part of this feature where we explore how field service companies are reducing the time from classroom to customer site, what are the key trends in developing the next generation of service leaders and draw some clear conclusions on the research.

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