By Sarah Nicastro, Creator, Future of Field Service
There’s a major emphasis among service organizations on the need to modernize and master the recruitment and hiring of a new wave of field talent. This emphasis is incredibly important, and we’ve discussed this topic in some of our content – but today’s article is about what it takes to keep the great talent you already have as the service landscape evolves.
Whether your field talent has been on board for two years or 20, there’s a strong likelihood their scope of work has changed and is continuing to change. With the majority of businesses embracing the move to delivering outcomes, what’s required of field technicians from now and into the future is different than it may have been when your existing talent signed up for the job. That doesn’t mean, however, that these employees can’t commit to or execute on the new service mission. In fact, it makes perfect sense to focus ample energy on maximizing the use of your existing resources rather than overlooking a treasure trove of talent by focusing only on what you don’t have.
So keeping in mind that recruiting and hiring new talent is imperative, let’s put our focus here on five necessary areas when it comes to retaining the knowledgeable, skilled technicians you already have and fitting them into the new era of service.
#1: Invest in Connection
Change is hard for most humans, but connection is what helps your employees feel they are a part of the change rather than the change is happening to them. Regular communication, authentic interest in your employees as human beings, the ability for them to ask questions and provide feedback are all characteristics that are important to building and maintaining a connection with your talent that will fortify their relationship with you and the organization and strengthen the likelihood of their buy-in and emotional investment in your service evolution. Keep in mind, too, that COVID only increased the importance of connection and employees’ desire to feel that their overall wellbeing – physical, mental, and emotional – is important to their employer. Investing in connecting more frequently, more deeply, and more honestly with your employees will set a strong foundation for retaining talent.
#2: Set Clear Expectations
Ambiguity breeds frustration. No one can succeed at a role that is poorly defined or where the desired outcome is unclear. Even as your service business evolves, when things may be in flux, it is important for you to consider how to articulate your expectations of your field technicians. This is especially true when they may be moving from the very clear, basic expectations of a break/fix service environment to the more fluid and soft-skills centric expectations of an outcomes-based relationship. You’re of course responsible for providing your employees the knowledge and skill necessary to evolve from basic to advanced service execution, but even before knowledge and skill comes clarity around what you expect them to accomplish.
#3: Equip for Success
If you have current talent who is engaged and open to change, you must do everything in your power to equip them for success – not everyone is so lucky! It can help to build a field technician journey map to understand the various areas within their day-to-day where there is a need or opportunity for improvement in process, technology, or skill to make them more effective. User-friendly, streamlined digital tools that provide real-time access to customer history, a knowledge library, and any other information needed on-site are critical. In 2021, cumbersome or outdated technology is an unacceptable barrier to success for field technicians – especially as you look to modernize the customer experience and mature your service offerings. Beyond digitalization to automate manual processes and provide easy access to information, training and skill building are key. Most companies who are advancing services are requiring more soft skills and relationship-building capabilities from their service teams. You need to ensure you’re giving a willing employee every opportunity to build, improve, and polish those skills. If you’re unsure where your technicians are lacking in information, knowledge, or technology to do their jobs to the best of their abilities, ASK!
#4: Offer Options & Progression Opportunities
As service evolves, some long-term technicians will have an interest in or willingness to adapt and change and others will not. To the degree you can, try to offer options to your existing talent to ensure you can continue to leverage anyone that is useful to your mission. Perhaps it’s a tiered approach, where some technicians choose to grow and expand into a more evolved role and others continue to execute more basic functions. Maybe there’s an opportunity to leverage augmented reality to allow a technician who no longer wants to travel to train some newer hires remotely. A certain technician may incline naturally to some of the newer soft skills needed for the trusted advisor evolution of the role, and you may be able to call on them to lead other team members to similar success. Be as creative and flexible as you can in identifying the strengths of your existing talent and putting it to its best use, while giving ample opportunity for employees to evolve and grow.
#5: Focus on Empowerment
Your field technicians are the face of your brand. The customer experience, in many ways, rests in their hands. You need to focus on treating them like the treasured resources they are, and when you do you may be surprised how much you’ll get out of them. Some employees may be happy to show up day after day, be told what to do, and simply get it done. But for many, they want something more – they want to feel valued, important, and a part of the company’s success (or failure). The more you can foster trust, the more they will feel motivated to do good work. There’s a movement toward more of a “hire good talent and get out of their way” approach versus the more traditional micromanagement approach, and I think this is by-and-large a necessary evolution in order to continue to attract and retain the level of talent that will be needed for the modern service era.