By XOi EVP of Engineering Jeff Prince for Contractor Magazine
Tech enablement simply means starting with technicians’ point of view and making decisions based on their curb-to-curb experience.
Over the last decade, the traditional roles have reversed when it comes to job interviews. Because of record-setting demand for workers across the economy, applicants in nearly every industry typically have more leverage at the negotiating table. Many of them will field multiple offers before accepting a new position, driving employers to develop new strategies for attracting and retaining team members.
That volatility is especially prevalent in field service industries, where an existing skilled labor gap has been widened in recent years by the overall workforce shortage.
With this shift, many business owners and leaders in field service are paying closer attention than ever before to the people on the front lines of the industry: their technicians.
Not that long ago, a benefit package for field service techs might include free uniforms, tools and training. These days, potential team members expect those as the basic terms of employment. Incentives that, until recently, many contractors regarded as a luxury have become table stakes.
Today, workers prioritize their experience. They want to know that their employer shares their values and supports their success and career goals. Jobseekers can increasingly consider overall quality of life and career factors. As a result, contractors are exploring a variety of alternatives that help them stand out in a crowded job market and also demonstrate their commitment to their team.
Tech Enablement Takes Off
Service business owners and management should keep all this in mind when they consider technology solutions.
Traditionally, field service techs have not always had significant input into decisions about the digital tools they use every day. Too often, the office and operations are prioritized over techs in technology applications. Techs are frequently the last team members consulted on technology decisions, even when it’s technology they’ll be using more than anyone else.
That helps explain why so many techs are resistant to software solutions. In their experience, new digital tools don’t make their jobs easier. Field management software adds to their workflow instead of streamlining it. And no one ever asks them what they need.
The shifting dynamic of the job market, however, has helped the concept of “tech enablement” emerge as a key consideration in more and more decisions about field service technology.
Tech enablement simply means starting with technicians’ point of view and making decisions based on their curb-to-curb experience. Service companies must think about the value software provides to the people who use it. Software should enhance and optimize the work experience, not just create another checklist.
Training for Tomorrow
Effective training for the 21st century can be a critical differentiator in today’s hypercompetitive job market. Potential employees want to be confident that a new job will allow them to develop skills that will serve them as they advance their careers—even if that means at a different company.
Traditionally, in field service, training is episodic. It happens once or twice a year, often in a formal classroom setting with a highly structured format.
There’s another view that training is a journey, not a destination. Increasingly, experts in field service think about training and education as something that is happening all the time. Designed properly, and supported by the right digital tool kit, workflows can provide continuous training so techs get better every day.
Contextual digital tools empower this kind of organic, ongoing learning. The most advanced tech-enablement solutions not only deliver instant access to a wealth of relevant information, from equipment specs and service records to video and live remote support.
Truly innovative platforms deliver support and equipment information in formats designed to elevate technician skills, not just provide a quick fix in order to close out a call. Every time a tech troubleshoots a new issue or solves a problem, that becomes a data point for that company. No other company has it, and that team has instant, democratized access. And the tech has added to his or her knowledge of the field with firsthand experience.
Leverage in the employment market gives technicians leverage on the job and in the field, too. And that’s changing the way business owners and managers make decisions.
These issues won’t go away. The velocity of transformation in our industry will only increase in the future. Business owners need to be prepared for continuous adaptation in order to recruit and retain the talent necessary to remain competitive.
Jeff Prince is the EVP of Engineering for XOi Technologies. With a BS-BA in Information Systems from Appalachian State University, Jeff has accrued over two decades of experience in software, moving through software development into technology and business leadership.