Field Service Technology

Minding the Skills Gap

How technology can alleviate the impact of field technician shortages

The shortage of skilled labor is a challenge vexing all industries, from manufacturing and construction to insurance and high tech. It is an issue that impacts the bottom line, hinders growth, and negatively affects customer service. For field services, reliance on skilled talent is even more important, since the skilled technician is the most valuable asset.

The skilled trades labor shortage throughout the entire economy has lumbered along for decades but will reach a gallop soon as the baby boom generation retires. Businesses that do not develop workforce strategies now will not be able to successfully compete in the future.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates over 25% of the American workforce is now 55 or older and approximately 10,000 Boomers are retiring every day. And believe it or not, that number is actually increasing. Between 2008 and 2019, the retired population ages 55 and older grew by 1 million every year but has increased by 3.5 million over the past two years.

field service workers retiring

The pandemic, and ensuing economic bounceback, have greatly exacerbated this labor shortage. Employers have watched large swathes of younger employees quit and seek greener pastures – first referred to as the Great Resignation and now deemed the Great Reshuffling – and a significant increase in retirement among adults ages 55 and older. Even as unemployment has dropped to its lowest level in nearly 70 years, the U.S. labor force participation rate is now at its lowest rate in 45 years. As a result, there are now significantly more job openings in the U.S. than trained workers to fill them.

The skilled labor gap has severe impacts and employers are feeling the pinch. According to one recent survey:

42% of employers reported a reduced ability to serve clients
42% reported reduced competitiveness & productivity
30% reported increased turnover
26% reported lower staff morale
25% were forced to offer higher compensation to recruit or retain staff

Field services are uniquely affected by the skilled worker shortage. The accelerating pace of more experienced workers combined with a historic inability to attract younger, tech-savvy workers, makes for one of the greatest threats to the stability of numerous industries.

While struggling to find workers, field service organizations have done a good job turning lemons into lemonade. In fact, the field service industry adapted to the throes of the pandemic by adjusting operating and organizational changes and adopting innovative technologies to maximize efficiency, including:

Faster uptake of video conferencing
Broader acceptance of remote workers and diagnostics
Increased focus on field service automation
Rapid adoption of new collaboration tools
Each of these factors impacts an organization’s ability to address different challenges associated with the skills shortage.

Faster uptake of video conferencing

Social distancing required organizations and workers of all ages to adapt to video conferencing to get even the most basic of activities completed. Whether daily check-in/status meetings, a group brainstorming session, or even an office happy hour, video conferencing is now the norm for providing employees access to quick and efficient communication.

FSM using video technology

Broader acceptance of remote workers and diagnostics

In addition to organizations changing their operating models, customers have become more flexible and accommodating too. The level of customer acceptance of remote workers and diagnostics has increased dramatically, and service organizations have expanded the scope of these types of activities as part of their response to skills shortages.

Increased focus on automation

Intelligent automation is an economic game-changer for field service organizations of all sizes, especially during difficult operating times. Executives recognize such advances will bring multiple benefits. One unanticipated benefit has been the creation of a field service hub infrastructure that is nimble and able to address the skills shortage through the adoption of new technology, while simultaneously creating an attractive work environment for tech-savvy workers. Another benefit is the impact on knowledge management and standardized processes – this solution helps facilitate onboarding and transfer of knowledge between staff.

Rapid adoption of collaboration tools

As with video conferencing – organizations, employees, and customers are becoming more and more exposed to and reliant on collaboration technologies. The rapid adoption of screen sharing and remote learning tools, including AR and VR technologies, provides service organizations a new toolset to deliver services and creatively address skill shortages as well as attract younger workers who love to be on the cutting-edge of technology.

Technology is filling in gaps

Optimizing operations in the field is a never-ending challenge for field service teams regardless of organization, industry, or location. Streamlining field service functions isn’t just beneficial; it’s essential. The efficiency and effectiveness of your field service operations directly correlate with profitability. For businesses striving for sustained growth, the speed and quality of the work managed by your field service team can serve as a key differentiator in a competitive marketplace. Labor shortages reduce that efficiency and effectiveness, but the right technology is helping field service companies overcome this challenge.

One of the critical challenges field service organizations face when optimizing their field service units is decreasing time spent on peripheral functions such as project reporting and time management. Organizations that struggle to reduce these numbers should turn to a field service management platform to automate and streamline these processes.

field service reporting
Innovative, agile tech field service management solutions can drastically reduce time spent on reporting while simultaneously increasing visibility into field operations. Field service reporting software provides advanced analytics capable of flexible and dynamic reports that develop deeper insight into the strengths and weaknesses of your overall field service processes.

Inefficient routes and schedules can also lead to decreased productivity in field service teams, all while needlessly burdening scheduling and dispatch personnel. Field service management software such as Smart Scheduler optimizes field technicians’ schedules based on their skills, experience, location, and more. It provides the optimal schedule at the click of a button and dramatically reduces the burden of technician management on your staff at the office.

The right technology can help mitigate staffing gaps, maximize efficiency and improve field service effectiveness in your organization. Innovative field service management software is designed to serve as a comprehensive solution for field service management, housing project information, communications, schedules, and more in one cloud-based platform.

For more information on how to adopt technology to mind the skills gap, turn to GPS Insight.

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