Editor's Note: This post was originally published on November 13, 2018, and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
How to Handle Challenges Inherent with Multi-Generational Field Techs
In the past, field service represented one age group. But times have changed! Crews today include field techs of all ages, and this multi-generational workforce will challenge organizations for years to come. But what challenges can you expect?
First, field technicians of different generations work and engage differently internally and with customers. But regardless of age or level of experience, field techs are expected to deliver customer service excellence consistently.
Second, you will face the so-called “talent gap” in field service, which is already underway as a result of the following factors:
- Baby boomer employees are retiring at an alarming rate.
- The generation that follows – the “baby bust,” born between 1965 and 1976 – is much smaller; and
- There aren’t enough millennials to fill all the open jobs.
No Two Generations Are the Same
By 2020, most companies will have four or five age groups working side by side – each of which thinks and communicates differently and is driven by different values and goals. So it’s essential to deal with their differences – for the good of individuals and the team. And because each age group brings its unique strengths to the table, it’s also important to capitalize on their strengths.
Today, the faithful old dog (baby boomer) and the lively young pup (millennial) need to work as a team to get things done. In addition to apparent differences in how baby boomers and millennials work and what drives them, there are also considerable differences in how they feel about technology and what they expect from others.
- Technology: Many older workers fear technology; they haven’t grown up with it and find it overwhelming. They may believe it will lead to eliminating their jobs if they are not close to retirement. Conversely, millennials embrace technology and use it to learn new skills and make their jobs easier.
- Work ethic: Baby boomers view their jobs as a means to an end: in exchange for doing their work daily, they receive long-term security (salary, health insurance, and 401k plans). On the other hand, millennials view their jobs as stepping stones to a better job.
- Values: Similarly, money is the essential benefit that older workers expect from their jobs, but work-life balance is the most important for millennials.
- Learning: Baby boomers have deep knowledge and experience gained over many years; millennials are comfortable with app-based learning and are confident they can quickly become competent when taking on a new job.
Successfully Pairing Baby Boomers and Millennials
So how can field service organizations overcome the challenges posed by having 20-somethings and 50- or 60-somethings on the same teams and overcome insurmountable differences?
- Messaging: Don’t tell baby boomers to learn a new tech tool. Instead, show them how much easier their job will be with that new tech tool. Similarly, don’t allow millennials to hold onto pre-conceived notions that baby boomers are Luddites.
- Training: Train baby boomers to use new tech gear on a one-to-one basis, with follow-up, over-the-shoulder sessions, and frequent how-to reminders. On the other hand, millennials are usually quick to pick up new tech tools and accustomed to using online tutorials. Still, they may need in-depth training on systems, processes, and specific work in the field.
- Coaching: Baby boomers have deep knowledge gathered over the years on the job, but they might not be 100% comfortable with mobile technology. Encourage millennials to “coach” them on the use of technology. Similarly, encourage baby boomers to coach and train millennials on the “why” behind company processes and the “how” associated with equipment in the field.
- Team-building: Create a welcoming, friendly atmosphere, encourage ongoing discussions and collaboration, and schedule creative “focus group” type sessions to ensure open communication.
Messaging, training, coaching, and team-building go a long way toward achieving cohesion and parity on field service teams. Still, it’s critical to equip these multi-generational teams with technology, such as FMP360, to help all workers interact, follow the same processes, and deliver the same service regardless of age. In essence, FMP360 levels the playing field for teamwork and customer satisfaction.
The Field Service Industry Faces a Widening Talent Gap
Now let’s explore the long-term challenges posed by the talent gap, which keeps leaders awake at night. But first, consider some of the following statistics and observations:
- Retirement: In the U.S. alone, 10,000 baby boomers turn 65 daily.
- Growing trends: One in four U.S. workers will be 55 or older by 2020. This shows that the workforce is aging out.
- Baby bust generation: There were too few people born between 1965 and 1976 to take over the jobs left vacant by retirees.
70% of field service organizations indicate that they will be “burdened by a retiring workforce over the next five to ten years.”
The field service industry has expanded, complicating the talent gap. In addition, many workers must now service increasingly complex systems and equipment to ensure public safety. In its sixth annual Talent Shortage Survey, Manpower Group identified the most in-demand skills, many of which are field-service oriented.
Top 10 Most In-Demand Skills in the World
- Skilled trades (electricians, welders, mechanics)
- Sales representatives (B2B, B2C, contact center)
- Engineers (chemical, electrical, civil, mechanical)
- Drivers (truck, delivery, construction, mass transit)
- Technicians (quality control, technical)
- I.T. (cybersecurity, network admins, tech support)
- Accounting/finance (CPAs, auditors, financial analysts)
- Professionals (project managers, lawyers, researchers)
- Office support (admin assistants, PAs, receptionists)
- Manufacturing (production and machine operators)
Field service organizations that don’t address the widening talent gap will experience declining productivity, lower first-time fix rates, and decreasing customer satisfaction.
Go Mobile and Change Your Field Service to Ensure Success
While addressing generational differences and preparing for the widening talent gap does require thoughtful examination and introspection, it’s not rocket science. With a solid commitment and allocation of the proper resources, field service organizations can devise a winning strategy and a detailed schedule for success.
- Create a mobile strategy for your field services organization. We all understand why digital natives – or those who grew up interacting with new technology – are comfortable using mobile devices at work. But don’t underestimate the older generation of workers.
- Facilitate transfer of knowledge. Provide knowledge and information in a digital format for all field techs to access to harness the power of collaboration tools and other enhancements, such as real-time remote video assistance from an expert.
- Constantly integrate new tech tools. Whether artificial intelligence and data mining help predict maintenance needs, ease of scheduling, parts management tasks, or virtual reality, you must stay ahead of the technology curve. “Always be innovating” should be your rallying cry.
- Embrace gig workers. Subcontractors, temporary workers, independent contractors, and other non-employee workers are here to stay – in field service and most other industries. Create a nurturing environment that treats these workers as valuable to your team. (Read more about gig workers here)
Any Winning Strategy Needs a Technology Platform Like FMP360!
Gomocha’s innovative, future-proof solution enables field service organizations to quickly onboard new field techs. It also encourages collaboration across departments and ensures delivery of an excellent customer experience – whether a seasoned 60-year-old, a newly hired 20-something, or a temporary worker. Learn more about this dynamic tool helping transform field service teams into savvy, flexible, and future-ready organizations.
The name Gomocha is a combination of the words GO MOBILE and CHANGE, with change suggestive of the ease with which you can change the Gomocha FMP360 platform to accommodate company growth or expansion into new markets.