How to Recruit and Retain
Field Service Talent in Utilities

Utilities can’t do their mission-critical work without the right field service workforce. Find out how to appeal to the teams you need and keep them.

 
October 2021 | 7 minutes
 
Jill Wagner
Editorial Lead, Senior Manager, Salesforce

Field service teams for utility companies take on difficult and dangerous challenges and solve problems on the fly. They take great pride in what they do, but that’s not always enough to keep them at their companies. A job offer with easier conditions or better hours might pull them away. And many are approaching retirement — 26% of utilities workers are over 55 years old.

Job candidates with strong digital skills are also in high demand as all industries take on digital transformation. Newer generations may have different expectations for their employers, including clear career growth opportunities and exciting work. That leaves some utility companies challenged to recruit and retain field service employees.

To win in a competitive labor market, utility companies need to reimagine field service roles and prioritize the employee experience. They must give every worker the digital tools, training, and resources they need to succeed in the field.

Here’s how every utility company can appeal to job-seekers and turn them into job-keepers in field service.

Understand each utility worker’s motivations

Some people focus on job stability, others on career growth opportunities. While specifics vary by individual — and can change over time — some general assumptions may apply.

Consider different generational preferences

What employees want may depend on where they are in their career. Are they just starting out or nearing retirement? Understanding each generation can help you with utility worker recruitment and retention in field service.

This is easy to find in field service at a utility company, so show them the possibilities during recruitment. They can fix state-of-the-art equipment, operate drones, or drive all-terrain vehicles through thick vegetation for an installation. In every field service role, they use digital tools to solve problems.

  • Millennials: With experience under their belts, they now seek more interesting work and increasing responsibility. They may already have digital skills that apply to power systems, including IoT, energy storage, and sophisticated transmission and distribution systems. They can use these skills and develop new ones as they advance in their field service career.
  • Gen X and Baby Boomers: This generation currently makes up more than half of the utilities workforce. They are often motivated by employee training and leadership opportunities. They also may enjoy passing their wisdom along to other workers. It’s critical for them to do so before they leave for another opportunity or retire.

“Whatever their generation, every utility worker in field service wants to feel valued.”

 
Susie McMullan
Senior Director, Industry Product Management and Strategy - Energy & Utilities, Salesforce

Offer strong baseline compensation, benefits, and rewards

Whatever their generation, every utility worker in field service wants to feel valued. That starts with a good salary and comprehensive benefits.
Additionally, you can implement formal programs that reward great performance. For example, employees who achieve target metrics can earn awards, such as gift cards or even a vacation. You could offer extra personal time off to top performers and cash bonuses, which are always welcome.

Express your appreciation

Boost morale and motivation by praising your field service technicians’ accomplishments, both privately and publicly. Share supportive and appreciative words among colleagues and supervisors. You can do this one-on-one, through email, through a company performance portal, or in company-wide meetings.

Another way to show how much you value your field service workforce? Make sure they have the technology they need to do their work efficiently and get great results.

Cultivate a digital-first company culture

Many utilities have been slow to embrace technological change. They manage competing pressures from regulatory agencies, customers, and workers. They also rely on patchwork solutions to improve service, effectiveness, and safety while trying to cut costs and increase employee satisfaction.

Disjointed systems reduce transparency across the enterprise. That leads to operational inefficiencies such as higher costs, scheduling problems, inefficient resource management, poor capacity planning, and lower worker productivity. Both employees and customers end up dissatisfied.

Technology has to be a top priority to create a culture that empowers the utility workforce and satisfies customers. Companies need to invest in digital-first field service to solve problems and collaborate. This approach also helps field service technicians exceed performance metrics and enjoy customer gratitude instead of frustration.

One way to accomplish all this? A connected field service management platform. It unifies data across the organization and provides transparency to teams, which boosts productivity and efficiency.

Field service employees enjoy working with leading-edge technology so they engage more with it and with each other. And, with all pertinent customer data on a single platform, they can meet first-visit resolution targets.

 

See how your utility company can supercharge field service

Improve scheduling and dispatching, optimize on-site visits, and enable field service technicians.

Set up utility workers for short- and long-term success in field service

Every utility worker in field service should start their day with the tools they need to do their work most effectively. Be sure to also provide them with access to support for more complicated challenges. Ongoing exposure to and training on new technologies as they are adopted is also a must.

Here’s how to help your utility workers handle today’s challenges and prepare for what’s ahead in field service.

Make field service digital-first

Digital-first field service helps utility workers solve problems faster. Mobile capabilities enable utility workers to access knowledge articles, videos, and tutorials and solve problems, even if they are offline.

Utility workers can also update the job notes in real time. All the information syncs into the platform, with duplicates resolved, once they are back online. Data captured on each visit is normalized and can be used for reporting and analysis to improve operations going forward.

Use automation

Automation frees utility workers from time-consuming tasks, like manually logging service ticket details after a field service visit. Automated workflows guide them through steps to complete the job and post-visit follow-up. They can also engage with the system’s more sophisticated features to solve more intricate problems.

Customers also benefit from automation. An automated appointment assistant capability sends them a pre-arrival checklist and information about safety protocols at the job site. It also sends them real-time updates with the field service technician’s estimated arrival and name.

Offer visual remote assistance

If utility workers or customers need additional help, offer visual assistance with remote support software. This capability lets you tap expert knowledge from around the world for service and training purposes. This also helps you retain experienced workers and attract talent with strong technical skills who may have otherwise left or avoided the utilities industry because of things like travel requirements or hazardous field conditions.

Adopt innovative digital tools

Staying on top of technology can transform your business. Consider what happened when some utility companies started using drones in field service. They now send these unmanned aerial vehicles to inspect areas that are challenging to visit in person. The drones send back data for real-time analysis.

These utility companies get a jump on vegetation management, which is their single largest budget line item. They can also more quickly assess damage from storms or other events. They also attract drone enthusiasts to their company — nearly a quarter million people are FAA-certified remote pilots. Every new technology will tap a new pool of interested job candidates.

Map clear career paths to build field service employee loyalty in the utility industry

Talented people are drawn to — and stick with — companies that help them flourish. Yet, one in three front-line service workers don’t see a clear career path. Clarify every employee’s opportunity to grow within your field service organization.
 

of front-line service workers don’t see a clear career path.

Source: “State of Service,” Salesforce, December 2020

What does your newest trainee need to do to advance to the next level? How can a seasoned utility worker in field service switch to a different department if that’s their goal? If a field service technician wants to move into a dispatcher role, how can you help them? Map out the paths to new career destinations.

Most career evolution springs from new skills and deeper experience. Provide robust learning and additional training opportunities to all employees. It’s critical to their growth and engagement, yet many organizations are falling short.

Just 61% of service professionals say they have access to on-demand training. Trailhead, Salesforce’s free online learning platform offers anytime access to modules that help employees stay up to speed.

Utility companies can also develop customized training programs to upskill utility field service workers. This might include a combination of in-person and virtual classes, digital learning resources, and more. Upskilling increases retention, creates a more flexible and adaptable workforce, and improves employee satisfaction.

 

Teach utility workers how to use a comprehensive field service platform

Manage all the moving parts – including territories, technicians, and timeframes.

Your experienced or highly skilled employees can share their wisdom with novices in formal or informal sessions through chat or video. This way, one expert can help train dozens of workers around the globe. Encourage ongoing mentoring relationships or set up a shadowing program as well. This keeps important knowledge within your company, even when employees leave.

Finally, give employees opportunities to apply their skills on new projects or in new departments. This adds breadth to their knowledge and experience, a process known as cross-skilling. By practicing existing skills in new situations, they can prove they are ready for their next opportunity, whether it’s an upward promotion or a transition into a different role.

Build your field service workforce in utilities for today and tomorrow

To attract and retain field service workers, leaders need to set them up for short- and long-term success. Technology, training, and a focus on employee experience helps utilities meet workers’ needs and earn their loyalty. Support both newcomers and experienced workers during every stage of their career journey with the right tools and resources.
 
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About the Author

 

Jill Wagner
Editorial Lead, Senior Manager, Salesforce

Jill Wagner is an editorial lead and senior manager at Salesforce. She joined Salesforce through the ClickSoftware acquisition. Jill is an award-winning marketing communications professional, experienced in conceptualizing and creating marketing content for leaders in the SaaS and manufacturing spaces. She has a Bachelor of Science in Marketing from Bentley University and a Master of Arts in Advertising and Marketing from Emerson College. Connect with Jill on LinkedIn.

 

More resources

 
Blog
Why Field Service Must Invest in Digital Transformation
 
 

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