How to Manage the Millennial Workforce in Field Service Industry

In the obsession with technology and systems, many managers and senior executives make the mistake of not giving human resources the due it deserves.

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the average worker today works in a company for about 4.4 years before changing jobs. However, the young Millennials, born between 1977 and 1997 stick on only for about half of this period. A whopping 91% of the Millennials stay in a job for less than three years, and would work in 15 to 20 jobs over the course of their career!

Gallup estimates Millennial workers to make up 38% of the U.S. workforce now, and the figure is expected to touch 75% of the workforce by 2025. The recent Gallup report “How Millennials Want to Work and Live” reveals only 29% of Millennials being engaged at work, and the other 71% not engaged actively at work. Six out of 10 Millennials at any point of time are open to different job opportunities. With an average age of 32, the typical field service tech is a Millennial, born in 1983These Millennials are people who are raised on technology and the internet was around for most of their adult life. With field service businesses investing more in technology to the job site, having employees who are tech savvy is going to be invaluable. Field Service Millennials

The implication for enterprises owing to the low commitment of Millennial workers is the loss of the practical experience and knowledge acquired by the employee during his tenure in the company. Replacing the generic skill may be easy, but replacing the practical expertise and familiarity of the employee comes at a steep cost, in terms of training and learning curve. Frequent job hopping also raises questions about the employee motivation, engagement on-the-job and the ability to get along with other colleagues. Low engagement has deep implications for job productivity, job commitment, absenteeism, job safety, and customer satisfaction.

The knee-jerk reaction of HR to counter the rising disengagement of Millennials is to be wary of resumes filled with one or two-year stints. Many recruiters now screen out chronic job-hoppers, rather than screen prospective employees who offer longevity.  However, such methods are ad-hoc and short-sighted and miss the forest for the trees.

Enterprises would rather do well to adopt the following strategies to overcome the challenges posed by disengaged employees. 

Understand and Facilitate the Employee

The first step toward engaging Millennials fruitfully is understanding them. Millennial employees differ significantly from the previous generation, in terms of needs and desires. Money, office facilities and other conventional forms of benefits are no longer enough to motivate them. Their needs and aspirations run much deeper.  A PwC study estimates 44% of Millennials being motivated by competitive wages, and 52% of them being primarily motivated by growth opportunities. The field service industry has no dearth attracting talent. But, these Millennials coming to your business have lower average wages. To retain the younger talent you have to be creative in their payment and debt issues. 

Offer an Open and Transparent Culture

A major reason Millennials hop jobs are to experience a variety of roles and workplaces. Today’s employees will also wish to position themselves as “free agents,” motivated in part as a means to immunize themselves against possible layoffs in a tough economy.

Enterprises could counter the trend by developing a positive culture, and seeking a “fit.”

HR has, over the last three decades, given the importance of seeking a fit, or ensuring employees are on the same wavelength with the company’s policy, ethos, and culture. Today, the tables have turned. It is the candidates who are looking for such fit more vigorously than employees. The “nomadic” Millennials are more likely to settle down or at least linger for long at a company where they feel at home, in terms in the value proposition, orientation, and other “invisible” traits. A 2012 survey by Net Impact reveals 88% of employees considered “positive culture” as important or essential to their dream job, and 58% of employees ready to take a 15% pay cut, to work for an organization “with values like my own.”

While what constitutes “positive culture” is relative and company-specific, openness, transparency, and empowerment are evergreen elements contributing to an open culture where Millennials would prefer to stay. Millennials are brought up in an open environment where they are free to express their mind and would expect their workplace to be similarly open. For instance, announcing a decision without an explanation or making explicit the rationale for the same, makes Millennials uneasy.

Offer Work Flexibility

Young Millennials value flexible work hours, generous telework policies, and job autonomy more than money. Allowing employees the opportunity to adjust their schedules when the situation calls for it is a sure shot way to retain talented employees. While the practical exigencies of field service work may make it difficult to implement flexible work arrangements and other such “liberal” initiatives, the onus is on HR and line managers to accommodate employees to the extent possible, and also devise innovative win-win solutions. The key to success is to listen to the employee, seek feedback, accommodate valid grouse, and strive to achieve a win-win situation. Field Service Millennials

Offer Ownership of Work

It’s extremely stressful for any employee, Millennial or not, to have a hazy understanding or lack of clarity about what their job responsibilities. The onus is on managers to offer job clarity, performance goals, and priorities.

Millennials, more than others, crave to contribute creatively and have their ideas heard. They like to assume responsibility and be accountable for their work. They take delight in taking their work as a learning experience and grow professionally in each position.

Enterprises, which offers learning opportunities, an environment where creativity thrives, and a culture of transparency are more likely to retain talent.

Invest in Technology

The importance of technology can never be understated in today’s age, more so when it involves today’s tech-savvy generation. Enterprises for their part need to digitally enable their workforce and also roll out cutting-edge suites to manage the workforce efficiently. The digital-savvy Millenials set the norm for the technology, driving field service organizations to invest in new technology. This is an encouraging sign for businesses which adopt mobile tech and predictive field service management software.

Intuitive cloud-based apps and suites, accessible anytime, anywhere, is a must. Such tools facilitate the ever-mobile employee to connect with the enterprise and collaborate in real-time. It will improve efficiency manifold, and offer employees the openness and transparency they value.

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