By Sarah Nicastro, Creator, Future of Field Service
One of the themes I have revisited here at Future of Field Service over and over again is that service organizations are faced with what feels like perpetual change – digital transformation is never a one-and-done project (or it shouldn't be). Changes – both technological and operational – are constant. They can also be hard on field service teams, or at least some members.
Change is a key focus for Sara Smith, Director of Global Service Change Enablement at Waters Corporation. Waters is a leading specialty measurement company (they are big in liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry), and service accounts for about a third of the company's revenues annually.
While many companies rely on outside consultants and vendors to help them with project-based change management, Waters made a point to create a long-term, internal position to lead their change management efforts. Sara's background is as both a field service technician and a manager, and she transitioned into the change management role after working with an outside consultant on a technology project.
To help the Waters team navigate big changes, Sara said she relies on a few different management approaches. One of them is ADKAR, an acronym created by Prosci that outlines the five states a person needs to achieve for a change to be successful - Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability and Reinforcement.
The awareness component is a critical first step, because it helps team members understand why a change is occurring. “Have you ever been sent to a training class, and you have no idea why you're there?” Sara said. “I bet you didn't retain much from that training class. We need to understand why we are here and what's the goal.”
Desire requires that team members get to a place where they want the change to occur, while the knowledge phase involves training and educating the team. Ability refers to the capacity for team members to actually put their knowledge into practice.
The final piece, reinforcement, is one of the most important, and the element that often falls apart if a company doesn't have a long-term change culture in place. “We need to reinforce that positive behavior and make sure that it sticks long term,” Sara says.
Sara said the company takes other approaches depending on which team members are involved. Senior leadership, for example, usually has the Why are we doing this? part down, but often need some help communicating their vision to the rest of the team. She also said that celebrating short-term wins was important for successful change management, as well as understanding how change can affect employees emotionally.
I also asked her about change fatigue, since new projects and initiatives seem to be coming at field service organizations at a much faster pace.
At Waters, Sara said two things that have helped are, first, acknowledging that change is exhausting and if everyone seems tired of it, that's okay. She also said that the company uses quarterly surveys to gauge how well employees are adapting. The employees appreciate the opportunity to be heard.
“That alone has created such a positive influence,” she says. “Just the fact that they have an avenue, they know somebody's listening and somebody cares. It speaks volumes to employees to have their voice heard and actually have someone follow up with them as well. It's huge.”
Experiences As a Female Field Technician
In addition to her change management strategies, I also talked to Sara about her experiences as a technician and manager in a largely male-dominated field. She’s faced some common challenges – having coworkers or customers question her proficiency, for example. But a bigger challenge is really communicating where women in the field might struggle and getting coworkers and leaders to understand the negative experiences women can face in the field.
“I think there's a lot of areas that some of our colleagues don't realize where women struggle,” Sara explains. “There are the kind of more obvious things, but there are these examples where you're just like, "Really? That happened to you like, oh my gosh." Throughout my career journey, I've had people ask me for a lock of hair. I have had people photograph me because they thought it was funny that I was pregnant while being in the field.”
I recently spoke to author Lauren Neal about ways to bring more women into the service industry (and retain them). Sara said that there are some more local ways to encourage and support women in the industry. Those include raising awareness with peers about some of those challenges and engaging with the community. “I'm a big proponent of getting in front of our younger generations and normalizing women in service, women in field service roles,” she said.
As you can tell, we had a pretty wide-ranging conversation; take a listen to the whole thing on our podcast.