The FSEs of the Future: Millennials and the Challenges of an Aging Workforce

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There are many challenges facing the field service industry when it comes to an evolving workforce. However, with the right information and attitude, the future doesn't need to be intimidating.

The way companies serve their customers has been evolving rapidly in recent years. The onslaught of digital giants such as Amazon has set a new high bar of customer service. Next day delivery, simple return processes, and more, have changed what customers expect from modern companies - and this expectation is not just limited to consumer goods companies but has spread to almost every industry, including field service. Aside from this, the changing face of the field service engineer is bringing its own challenges.

This means that engineers need to be able to convey the right impression to field service clients and meet the increased demands of the modern customer, while field service businesses need to manage the challenges of a shifting workforce.

The Challenges of an Aging Workforce

The demographic of the field service workforce is presently going through a real paradigm shift. The previous generation of baby boomers is nearing retirement age, and the younger end of Gen Y (millennials) are beginning to take up the mantle.

The specific challenge in this handover when compared to previous generations is just how different the social experiences of these two groups are.

"Perhaps never before has there been such a significant difference between the generation leaving the workforce and those that are just beginning their working lives," reports Kris Oldland for Field Service News on its research partnership with ServiceMax from GE Digital. "From the way knowledge is gained and shared through to the key motivational drivers, Boomers and Millennials are often chalk and cheese. One of the key challenges for field service companies of all shapes and sizes is how they adjust to this shift in thinking within their workforce and for many time is not on their side as they endeavor to make this adjustment."

The impact of this phenomenon on the field service industry would perhaps be felt more keenly than in other workforces due to the physical demand placed on the engineers. An aging workforce is likely to find the physical demands of field service work increasingly challenging. Similarly, the more sedentary, digital generations which exist today may also find the work difficult - albeit from the other end of the scale.

Transfer of Knowledge

The best way to make the most of these challenges is to try and bring the two generations of worker together and allow for a transfer of knowledge and experience.

Millennials can learn the ropes from the far more experienced older generations, who can hopefully impart some of their passion for field service work to get youths excited and motivated for the role. Likewise, the younger employees could assist the boomers with new digital innovations, such as smart devices, IoT tech, and more. As in most circumstances, people have the capacity to learn from one another.

In fact, the use of digital technology, such as augmented or virtual reality, can help facilitate this transfer of knowledge, helping to increase efficiencies.

"Emerging technologies - in particular Augmented Reality have shown huge potential to widen the possibilities of using older FSEs [field service engineers] in a training and support role," writes Oldland. "This has dual benefit of both extending the [field service engineers'] potential career within the field service organization whilst putting valuable insight, knowledge and experience into the hands of less experienced engineers as and when they need it."

The impact of companies such as Amazon has also necessitated an increase in the need for more soft skill training. This includes customer experience training, so that field service engineers can provide the sort of next-level service which the modern consumer demands.

"Given that in many instances the FSE may be the only face-to-face touch point your [organization has] with your customers," writes Oldland, "the old image of a FSE being a recluse, lurking in dark corners, happier tucked away fixing machines than speaking to those pesky customers who just get in the way - has thankfully made way for a new breed of confident, customer-friendly FSEs."

Final Thoughts

The role of the field service engineer is changing and there are undeniable challenges which will have to be overcome moving forwards. However, by allowing the outgoing and incoming workforces to learn from one another, these challenges can be met and conquered.

Aging and millennial workforces is set to be a hot topic at Field Service Amelia Island 2018 this August at The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island, Florida.

Download the agenda today for more information and insights.

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