How technology is providing the tonic to empower the future workforce. By Sarah Nicastro 

Today’s service landscape faces a pressing set of challenges – a lack of knowledgeable and skilled workers, ever-nearing sustainability targets, and a need to effectively address growing consumer expectations. The time to find the right formula for this field service management conundrum is upon us, and having the right technology has never been more vital for success, particularly when it comes to how companies manage their service and maintenance operations. 

Industries were aware that skills shortages were upcoming over a decade ago. But what they weren’t prepared for was the extent of how bad these workforce challenges have become. The most innovative companies are now working smarter by using modern field service technology to fill the void:

arah Nicastro, Field Service Evangelist, IFS and Future of Field Service

Tackling the growing skills shortage  

The current skills shortage has impacted businesses across the globe. Currently, a record 74% of U.S. employers have difficulties in filling positions. In the State of Service 2023 report, technicians not having the necessary knowledge and skills to complete the job at hand was ranked a top concern for field service companies, with 64% citing this as the number one reason for multiple site visits. The issue is a complex one, but it is true across the globe—between a low birth rate, and aging workforce, businesses simply don’t have enough skilled workers to fill the job openings. No matter the size of the company, the struggle to find, employ, train, and backfill thousands of people to fill skilled labor positions has become a prominent concern.  

A shift in mindset: Empower and encourage, not manage and control
Service companies have long struggled to transform field engineers into digital workers – that’s due, in part, to undervaluing the role, a lack of change management and, in some cases, a lack of attention to issues around business transformation or the adoption of digital tools. But all this is putting pressure on field supervisors and the wider operations model, forcing a shift in mindset. 

The conversation among service leaders has now changed to less about ‘how we control them’, and more about ‘how we empower them.’ Keeping employees satisfied is important for the performance and long-term health of any company – with research finding that empowered employees have more than three times the engagement levels of their less-empowered counterparts. Here, not only can technology help ‘plug the gaps’ in field service worker shortages, but it can help empower and retain current employees out on the frontline to reduce attrition rates.  

Innovation will need to start from the very beginning, right through to the use of tools that accelerate the speed of onboarding for new workers. To ease some of the burden, companies must focus on implementing solutions that help encourage and empower employees in the long-term.  

Workforce planning and AI-powered scheduling optimization can also be key in this context. It makes working with a constrained workforce more effective, and takes complex SLAs, ones as stringent as two-hour windows, to resolve an issue and make it possible for technicians to deliver on those expectations.  

Bridging the sustainability gap to attract new talent 

The power of AI-powered scheduling optimization now goes way beyond meeting customer expectations, it provides significant sustainability benefits too – and the direct incentives of ‘going green’ go way beyond a commendable corporate objective. As net-zero emission goals creep closer, the spotlight is firmly on organizations proactively making an impact – and workers from the younger generations are watching. 

Recent research has found that more than half of employees would be more likely to work for a company that provides resources and tools for them to become more sustainable, with a quarter saying they would never work for businesses that profit from unsustainable practices. With a sophisticated planning and scheduling optimization tool companies can reduce technician travel time between 35% – 50%, which significantly reduces their carbon footprint.  

It also puts reverse logistics in the spotlight – it’s even become a desired component of modern field service management platforms. Having the correct tools in place to anticipate wear and breakage, combined with the digital processes to remedy issues in a timely way, helps companies control operational costs, and manage their sustainable impact. Promisingly, research reveals that 40% plan to implement scheduling optimization and automation, with another 15% having it on their wish list. 

Overcoming the shortage challenges one technology at a time 

Those that transition to an engaging and personalized approach, will be the companies that gain a competitive advantage – and it can be made possible with modern service management tools that can help companies serve customers more efficiently while also attracting talented employees. 

Sarah Nicastro is Field Service Evangelist, IFS and Future of Field Service. IFS develops and delivers cloud enterprise software for companies around the world who manufacture and distribute goods, build and maintain assets, and manage service-focused operations. Within a single platform, IFS industry specific products are innately connected to a single data model and use embedded digital innovation so that IFS customers can be their best when it really matters to their customers—at the Moment of Service™.