How to Retain Service Workers in Field Service
If you run any type of business, your focus tends to be more on product/process/service than people. This isn’t true of all organizational leaders, but it is true of many. Product and service ultimately drive revenue, and people do come and go. You might have one to two (or more) “lieutenants” who work with you for decades, but that’s becoming increasingly rare. Across all industries, including field service verticals, an average North American worker spends about 4.6 years at a job. (That’s actually about the same number as 35-40 years ago, which defeats some of the ideas that millennials are turning over jobs faster and faster.)
Still, while your focus might be on the quality of service being provided or the products you can monetize, turnover is bad for any organization. To retain service workers in field service can be difficult. If you lose good technicians, you have to (a) find new technicians — which is costly — and then (b) train those technicians on how you work, as opposed to the previous places they might have worked. It’s all costly, and the experience of your customers can suffer as you’re dealing with turnover. That can hurt SLA renewals and referrals. Soon, this people issue — turnover — just became a legitimate bottom-line issue for you.
What can be done?
First, we need to think about why people leave jobs. Usually (backed by decades of research), the primary reasons for people leaving jobs are:
Have poor management
Are not satisfied with compensation
Feel overly stressed
Don’t believe there are opportunities for growth at their specific companies
Have communication issues that lead to blame games
Those would be the “big five” of why people leave their jobs, technicians and back-office employees included. (Another reason not listed here is “moving away,” but that is often hard for a field service manager to control in the first place.)
If these are the five reasons that cause technicians to bolt, then reversing all of the five would help them stay, right? In that case:
Have better management
Pay them above market rates
Find ways to reduce stress
Provide new opportunities for them to learn different skills and broaden themselves
This second list of bullets, though … that’s pretty challenging for most companies. There is some good research from a guy named Paul Zak, who studies companies and trust, about how to lessen turnover in a variety of roles. He talks about trusting your employees (technicians) in a variety of different situations — show them they matter and that you believe in them. It’s the secret science of keeping them around. (This idea speaks to “have better management,” “find ways to reduce stress,” and “improve communication” in those bullet points above.) Some companies have started implementing mobile solutions to provide more autonomy to technicians without giving up information.
The sticky wicket in all this is “pay them above market rates,” which is often a challenge for small business FSOs. The little secret on that, however: If your technicians are happier and more engaged with their work, they’ll be better with customers. This leads to more referrals and retention, which leads to more money, which means you can actually pay above market. (The math there isn’t perfect, but generally speaking better revenue periods allow for better technician salaries.) Small field service business growth can be achieved simply through retention. By providing above market rates, you will not only engage your current workforce but now you can afford to hire better techs.
Because we work with FSOs on implementing field service management software, we’re big believers that a lot of these challenges (the first five bullet points) can be solved by using FSM software. In fact, we put together an eBook on getting the most out of FSM software and it addresses some of these topics around turnover too. If you’re just kicking the tires still on the idea of FSM software and want to look through some of the potential benefits, this is a good download option for you. If you’re interested, we can definitely direct you to some resources around costing it all out.