As we draw closer to our next webinar we begin a new series looking at one of the key topics – the growing danger that field service is facing a real talent shortage within the next decade…
It’s a major challenge being faced in many industries but the statistics for field service companies, across all corners of the globe, are particularly bleak.
One such statistic is that 40% of Field Workers are over 40 years of age. That’s nearly half of our workforce that will need replacing within a twenty-year period.
Let’s consider another.
60% of companies are currently report that they are understaffed in their technical and highly skilled positions. This is also in an area where demand is predicted to grow twice as swiftly as other professions by the year 2025.
Whichever way we look at it we are under increasing pressure to meet a growing demand to acquire and retain new additions to our mobile workforces and this theme is at the heart of our forthcoming webinar with ServiceMax.
Indeed it is a topic that has come to the attention of the team at ServiceMax a number of times particularly in their customer focussed workshops and seminars.
Explaining further Randy Reynolds, VP Product Marketing, ServiceMax commented “We didn’t realise just what a critical area this was in the field service space” He began before explaining that it was in fact at a round table at last years MaxLive event in Paris that the dawning reality of the problem really struck home.
“What was interesting is that this is a conversation I was hearing a lot of” Reynolds continued before expanding further.
“Perhaps the first thing that I noticed a lot of our customers saying was that there are significant changes in the requirements to fill field service positions.”
“Historically they would be looking to hire people with very strong technical knowledge, very product related knowledge but now because the role of the field service technician is evolving, companies are looking for what we could consider softer skills.”
“Field Service companies are now looking for people that can interact with customers and deal with different situations that are out in the field.” Reynolds added “So rather than going out and looking for people with great vocational skills, many companies now feel that they can teach those skills on the job. What they truly need is people who can relate to and really understand the customer, people who fundamentally understand the service equation side of the role.”
So if we return to our opening thoughts around the challenges we face in terms of replacing an ageing workforce, not only is their mounting pressure for us to seek out talent, there is also a need for us to reinvent the profile of our workers simultaneously.
Challenging times indeed.
Another of Reynolds colleagues at ServiceMax who has been doing a lot of work in this area is Patrice Eberline, Vice President, Global Customer Transformation, ServiceMax.
However Eberline, who has a wide background in professional management working across implementation, training, change management and deployment and adoption across a career spanning nearly twenty years, sees the current situation not only as a challenge but also an opportunity to truly ignite transformation for ‘future year staffing.’
Eberline, who is giving the lead presentation in our next webinar being hosted on the 20th May at 4pm BST, admits that traditionally as an industry field service has been in a fortunate position when it comes to staffing.
“We’ve been lucky in field service in that traditionally we have had low turnover and high company loyalty.”
The problem, Eberline asserts runs far deeper than the challenge of replacing lost man hours. The underlying issue, which is even more worrying, is the loss of knowledge that goes with each and every individual that retires or moves on.
Knowledge that all too often isn’t documented either Eberline points out.
“I recently had a technician come into my home” she explains anecdotally “but being a little bit of a geek I’d spent ages looking all over the web for a solution to my problem. Honestly I didn’t feel like there was much to be done but getting an engineer out was the next step before buying a replacement.”
“However, literally within 5 to 10 minutes of arriving the engineer had developed a work around that wasn’t listed anywhere in any documentation. That fixed my problem and gave me some additional life on my device and promptly left me feeling wonderful about this – so this stuff is really important.” She concludes.
Indeed it is this threat of potential knowledge leakage that is perhaps the greatest danger of the ageing workforce crisis that field service companies face.
This knowledge, sometimes referred to as tribal knowledge, in that it is knowledge that is accrued through the years spent on the job, is starting to leave our businesses as the workforce reaches retirement age. So we need to capture this knowledge and find a way of releasing it quickly.
This is where we really need to embrace the technologies available, and systems such as ServiceMax are key to enabling product sharing platforms such as that implemented by Elekta in recent times.
As we see industry wide moves towards platform based approaches, driven largely by the success of Cloud based offerings such as Salesforce then the ability to not only document product knowledge but to have that knowledge as widely accessible as possible, integrating with numerous business areas such as field service software, CRM even accounting software can be hugely advantageous.
as we look to the next generation of potential workers, the so-called millennial generation, this trait of open knowledge sharing is actually inherent to their makeup.
So perhaps the future is not as bleak as first it seems?
We need to make the transition away from tribal knowledge to social collaboration and we need to start doing it swiftly. But the technology is available and the next generation of field workers should have all the skills required to be able to adopt such an approach swiftly.
The challenge is going to be in making the transition from a to b as smooth as possible.
This most certainly will be easier said than done, however the work being done by Eberline and her peers will undoubtedly help us in defining our own specific road map and this is something we shall be exploring in further features in this series as we lead up to the webinar on 20th May.