Research Report: Should we still be promoting from within when appointing Service Managers? (Part Two)
Across recent weeks here on fieldservicenews.com we’ve published a series of features analysing an exclusive research project run in partnership with Si2 Partners, WorkAmmo and Service People Matters.
Last week we reflected on Si2 Partners founding partner Nick Frank’s initial commentary on some of the headline findings of the research which were first aired in a recent episode of the Field Service Podcast.
Now in the final part of this exclusive research analysis, we dig deeper into the findings and see how the trends the research has revealed support Frank’s initial hypotheses…
The Key Characteristics of a Service Manager
So, to begin let’s explore what the key characteristics field service organisations are looking for when recruiting new service managers.
We asked our survey respondents “What are the key attributes you look for in a service manager” with a list of 14 options to select as well as the option to submit additional information – and we asked respondents to list any options that were applicable to them.
Interestingly, and very much in line with Frank’s comments, the most common response was leadership capability in which 86% of respondents stated was a key attribute they sought within their service managers.
This in itself is a particularly intriguing insight given that as Frank alluded to, leadership capabilities may not be particularly evident based on past performance if organisations are promoting from within and selecting their new service managers from a pool of their highest performing field engineers.
This is not to say that they won’t necessarily exist within that pool, however, the skill set of strong leadership is as we have mentioned in the introduction a different skill set to what makes an excellent field service engineer.
The most common response was leadership capability in which 86% of respondents stated was a key attribute they sought within their service managers.
However, whilst the research findings reveal that whilst leadership skills are the most commonly sought after trait when recruiting service managers, it seems that many service organisations continue to seek out similar attributes within their service managers as those that are often highly valued within field service engineers and technicians.
Specifically, field service organisations were commonly looking for potential service managers to show technical knowledge and application (77%) and be good problem solvers (50%) both key traits often sought after in field service engineers and technicians.
Additionally, both an ability to fight fires and demonstrated performance delivery were both identified as key traits by just under a third (30%) of field service companies look for when recruiting new service managers – again highlighting how the roles of service managers are seen as being a linear progression from field-based roles.
However, given that this number is relatively low, it could also be argued that this could indeed be indicative of a changing tide and that this is part of the evolution which Frank described as service becomes a strategic growth drier rather than merely a cost centre.
Yet, when we look for the skills and attributes that are more firmly in line with what Frank describes as business management skills, again the data sits very much in line with his hypothesis, that perhaps not enough service organisations are showing the levels of ambition that one might expect given the large shift towards service as a profit centre we have seen in recent years.
A third of companies (33%) who stated that a good head for business is something they look for in a service manager, whilst slightly more (40%) stated that an important trait they look for in service managers is for them to be analytical and metric driven
What these findings to appear to reveal is that we do seem to be in the midst of an evolution within the role of the service manager, with some companies still leaning towards selecting the best performers within their field service teams, whilst others are adopting a slightly more ambitious approach to selecting their service management personnel in looking for traits that are more aligned with the strategic business aspects of the role.
There are of course merits in both approaches, as Frank points out, however, there are also a number of traits that are fundamental to being able to ensure that field service operations are delivered optimally and this was also evident in the research findings.
One big attribute that was commonly cited as important for field service companies to seek within their service managers was a customer-centric outlook – which was, in fact, the second most frequently cited of all the options within the survey with 80% of companies stating this is something they look for within a potential service manager.
Alongside this, a large percentage of companies felt that potential candidates for their vacant service manager roles should ideally have a good operational understanding, which two thirds (66%) cited as well as a good rapport with their service engineers which over half (55%) cited.
Whilst both of these latter two attributes could, of course, be developed by an external candidate these are both areas where an internal recruit would certainly have an advantage.
Service Manager Development
So, based on the research findings around the desired attributes of service managers, there remains a strong case for hiring from within, yet at the same time we are certainly starting to see a developing appetite for and a gradual shift towards the more business focussed service management role that Frank describes.
So does this mean that field service organisations are looking to recruit within and then develop the layers of business acumen required for managing a service business as a profit-generating entity?
The research would appear to suggest that this may not yet be the case and the role remains to be seen as being both technical and supervisory rather than being focused on business performance and strategic thinking.
Having asked our respondents ‘What training do you give to your service managers?’ we found out that indeed, leadership training was the most popular response being cited by just over half (53%) of respondents, whilst technical training was also cited by half (50%) of respondents.
Less than a quarter of our respondents (23%) stated that they gave their service managers any financial or business acumen training.
In contrast to this, less than a quarter of our respondents (23%) stated that they gave their service managers any financial or business acumen training.
This would certainly suggest that whilst aspirationally many companies may be beginning to see service as a driver for revenue growth, in reality, the majority of field service organisations still see the role of the service manager as being one firmly rooted in the operational side of the business.
Of course, one answer for this could simply be that many organisations see the more business-focused aspects of service management as belonging within the realm of the service director, rather than the service manager – but that begs the question as to whether we are developing the necessary characteristics within our service managers to make the necessary step up to become highly effective service directors who can drive both a service operation and business growth forward simultaneously?
Could it be that as field service delivery continues to becoming increasingly interwoven within business strategy – particularly as the trend towards servitization and outcome-based contracts become more prevalent that we are seeing demand outstrip supply in terms of service managers who are equally comfortable being operationally efficient, business savvy and who also have a natural proclivity to customer-centricity?
Over two thirds (70%) of respondents stating that they didn’t feel there were enough candidates to meet demand for service managers roles
This lack of suitable candidates again asserts the validity and importance of being able to recruit from within – in essence, to be able to grow your own service management leaders. However, if companies are to do so and to do so effectively, then it would appear that many need to rethink how they approach their management level training programs to incorporate more focus on the business aspects if they are to truly align the role of service manager, with the premise of service as a profit centre.
Yet it is by no means an impossible task and the fact that just under half (44%) of the field service organisations who participated in the research involve their service directors within the recruitment process would suggest that these concepts may well filter down over time.
It seems that there is a small portion of field service organisations who are one step ahead of the pack in terms of developing their service managers to not only be able to deliver operationally but also strategically. The question now must be how long before the rest catch up? how long before the rest catch up?
- 86% of field service companies state that Leadership Capabilities are a key attribute they look for in potential service managers
- 77% of field service companies state that Technical Skills are a key attribute they look for in potential service managers
- 80% of field service companies believe their Service Managers must have a customer-centric outlook.
- 55% of field service companies expect their Service Managers to have an excellent rapport with their service technicians
- 23% of field service companies provide their Service Managers with business or financial acumen training.
- 70% of field service companies believe that there are not enough suitable candidates to fill the demand for Service Managers
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.
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