How to Handle Challenges Inherent in Multi-Generation Field Service Teams
In days gone by, it was common for just one age group to be represented in the field service workplace: long-serving, dyed-in-the-wool old-timers. My, but how times have changed! Field service crews today include people of all ages, and organizations will be challenged by this multi-generational workforce for years to come. But what challenges can you expect?
First, field technicians of different generations work and engage differently with one another internally and as well as with customers. But regardless of age or level of experience, technicians are expected to consistently deliver customer service excellence.
Second, you will face the so-called “talent gap” in field service, which is already underway (according to Digital HR Tech, July 18, 2018) as a result of the following factors: 1) Baby boomer employees are retiring at an alarming rate; 2) The generation that follows – the “baby bust,” born between 1965 and 1976 – is much smaller; and 3) There don’t seem to be 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 each of which is driven by different values and goals. It’s important to learn how to deal with their differences – for the good of the individuals involved and for the good of the team. And because each age group brings its own unique strengths to the table, it’s also important to capitalize on their strengths, not ignore or bury them.
Today, the faithful old dog (baby boomer) and the lively young pup (millennial) need to work as a team in order to get things done. In addition to clear differences in the way baby boomers and millennials work and what drives them, individually and as team members, there are also considerable differences in how they feel about technology and what they expect from others. (Please note that there are exceptions to these “generalizations” about baby boomers and millennials.)
- Technology. Many older workers fear technology; they haven’t grown up with it, they may find it overwhelming, and (if they are still years away from retirement), they may believe it will lead to the elimination of their jobs. Conversely, millennials embrace technology and believe it can help them learn new skills and make their jobs easier.
- Work ethic. Baby boomers tend to view their jobs as a means to an end: in exchange for showing up and getting their work done on a daily basis, they receive long-term security (salary, health insurance and 401k plans). Millennials, on the other hand, tend to view their jobs as stepping stones on the path to a better job.
- Values. Similarly, money is the most important benefit that older workers expect from their jobs, but for millennials, work-life balance is most important.
- 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 how can they overcome what some might see as insurmountable differences in the ways they deal with one another in the office and in the field?
- Messaging. Don’t tell baby boomers they’re expected 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 how to use new tech gear on a one-to-one basis, with follow-up, over-the-shoulder sessions and frequent how-to reminders. Millennials, on the other hand, are usually quick to pick up on new tech tools and accustomed to using online tutorials, but they may need in-depth training on systems, processes, and specific work that’s done in the field.
- Coaching. Baby boomers have deep knowledge gathered over years on the job, but they might not be 100% comfortable with mobile technology. Encourage millennials to “coach” them on use of technology. Similarly, encourage baby boomers to coach and train millennials on the “why” behind certain 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 ongoing, open communication.
Messaging, training, coaching and team-building go a long way toward achieving cohesion and parity on field service teams, but 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 their age. In essence, FMP360 levels the playing field so that all workers are able to interact as a team, and show up to the customer ready to deliver CX excellence.
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 of some organizations awake at night. Consider some of the following statistics and observations:
- Retirement. In the U.S. alone, 10,000 baby boomers turn 65 every single day (the age at which many people retire).
- The growing trend. One in four workers in the U.S. (or 25%) will be 55 or older as early as 2020. (In the EU, the percentage is 16%.) These statistics point to many more years of people aging out of the workforce.
- Baby bust generation. There were too few people born between 1965 and 1976 to take over the jobs left vacant by retirees.
- Millennial “disinterest.” Millennials and even-younger Gen Z workers are increasingly satisfied with “gig” work, remote work, and work that aligns with their own personal values and aspirations – and many say they’re not interested in traditional jobs for long periods of time.
70% of field service organizations indicate that they will be “burdened by a retiring workforce over the next five to ten years.”
Manpower Group’s 2018 Talent Shortage Survey
Complicating the talent gap is the fact that the field service industry has expanded significantly in recent years, as more workers have been required to service the increasingly complex systems and equipment that ensure public safety and security. In its sixth annual Talent Shortage Survey, Manpower Group identified the most in-demand skills, many of which are heavily 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)
Source: Manpower Group 2018 Talent Shortage Survey
Field service organizations that don’t address the widening talent gap soon may 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, organization-wide 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 know and understand why digital natives – or those who grew up interacting with new technology – are comfortable with 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 every field technician to access, so they can harness the power of collaboration tools and other enhancements, such as real-time remote video assistance from an expert.
- Constantly integrate new tech tools. Be it artificial intelligence and data mining to help predict maintenance needs and ease scheduling and parts management tasks, or virtual and augmented reality to quickly train new workers and distribute information and knowledge, you need to 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 in most other industries. Create a nurturing environment that treats these workers as a valuable part of 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 workers. It also encourages collaboration across multiple departments and ensures delivery of a consistently excellent customer experience – regardless of whether service is delivered by a seasoned 60-year-old, a newly hired 20-something, or a temporary worker added to meet a seasonal spike in demand. Learn more about this dynamic tool that’s 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 the Gomocha FMP360 platform can be changed to accommodate company growth or expansion into new markets.