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Building a More Flexible Workforce With Uberification

Owen Grohman

The workforce is changing. Over the last decade, field service has gone from an industry that relied on the skills and expertise of grizzled veterans to one that is increasingly turning to contractors and on-demand workers.

This shift has driven significant investment in a number of tools and technologies designed to simplify field service, from AI-driven scheduling to step-by-step mobile workflows.

In the back office, organizations are using AI-driven automation to streamline processes, from work verification to automatic task reassignment. In the field, technicians are replacing the traditional pen-and-clipboard kit with mobile apps designed to drive productivity.

With smarter scheduling, organizations can automatically assign routine tasks to new hires and on-demand workers. If a task requires a specific skill or certification, coordinators can make sure it is automatically assigned to a more experienced technician.

… 43 percent of the U.S. workforce is expected to be freelance by the end of 2020, driving the need for mobile tools that replace continuous re-training and onboarding …

The field service industry today

Field service today is a scramble, with legacy systems and manual processes making it hard for coordinators to keep track of what’s happening in the field – much less optimize each task and assignment.

Now, organizations are facing added pressure to work smarter and more efficiently as margins shrink, the volume of work rises, and a new generation of workers enters the field.

According to a report by The Service Council, 70 percent of field service organizations expect to be burdened by the knowledge loss of a retiring workforce in the next five to 10 years.

In order to remain competitive, organizations need to quickly onboard a new generation of workers and re-evaluate how they schedule, dispatch, and enable technicians.

Future-proofing your workforce

For many organizations, the answer lies in a hybrid workforce of in-house technicians and on-demand workers who can get up to speed quickly and help swarm key regions and job sites.

One approach is the idea of Uberification, or building an on-demand workforce. This model is focused on breaking down the traditional silos of an organization, and instead prioritizing speed and efficiency by assigning work to the nearest available person who can get the job done.

… 76 percent of field service organizations have used a third party for service delivery and to augment their regular workforce …

With Uberification, technician profiles and experience are less important than proximity and availability. The key is simplifying tasks so that installations and site checks don’t require 30-plus years of training.

Limitations of Legacy Solutions

  • Work is siloed by function, limiting flexibility and creating an artificial shortage of qualified technicians.
  • Organizations often rely on the ingrained knowledge of senior technicians, creating knowledge gaps as these workers retire.
  • Organizations struggle to collaborate across teams.

 
Benefits of Uberification

  • Organizations are better able to leverage contractors and on-demand workers.
  • Step-by-step workflows and process automation supplant the need for specialized training.
  • Organizations are able to build project-oriented workgroups, emphasizing collaboration and agility.

 

Applying Uberification to your field operations

Convenient as it would be, Uberification is not something you can activate with the flip of a switch.

A number of tools and processes need to be in place first, from an automated scheduling system that can manage an increasingly distributed workforce to mobile apps that provide step-by-step mobile workflows.

Fortunately, the Internet of Things (IoT) is helping solve some of these challenges by connecting people, devices, and operations in new, more efficient ways. Organizations today have access to more data than ever, allowing them to automate routine tasks and leverage real-time data across their teams.

All of these systems are designed to do one thing – help field teams complete more tasks each day, with minimal coordination and support.

With AI-driven automation and a fluid, adaptable workforce, organizations are able to:

  • Drive operational efficiency: Automate routine tasks, from work verification to organizing the delivery of spare parts.
  • Minimize the impact of tribal knowledge: Reduce the need for specialized training with step-by-step mobile workflows and knowledge libraries.
  • Build a fast-moving, adaptable workforce: Leverage an on-demand workforce to easily scale their operations, without incurring large overhead costs.
  • Optimize each task and assignment: Ensure your most experienced technicians are focused on high-value tasks by automatically assigning routine tasks to new workers and on-demand
  • Increase visibility into the field: Enable organizations to build a clear, real-time picture of their operations — and then automatically act on these insights.

 

What’s next for field service leaders?

As field service organizations look to remain competitive in a changing industry, they need to address the following questions:

  • How can they minimize the impact of a retiring workforce?
  • How can they build a new workforce, from recruitment to training and ongoing support?
  • How can technology help onboard the next generation of field service technicians?

 
Technology may be changing the way organizations think about, schedule, and execute work, but the ability to fully leverage on-demand workers will play just a big a role in determining success or failure. As the gig economy continues to grow, it will be critical for organizations to invest in tools and processes to support a fluid, distributed workforce.

With the right approach, on-demand workers can serve as a boost to your bottom line, instead of a stopgap measure to address the coming workforce shortage.