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How Should Your Field Service Business Handle The Labor Shortage?

Unemployment is on the rise more than ever, but it also gives rise to labor shortage, which is a nightmare for any industry. Particularly in the field service industry, businesses don’t have enough technicians and handymen to complete their orders or cater to all their clients. This forces them to overburden their existing workforce or outsource jobs to less competent and experienced technicians to fulfill orders.

Generally, the field service industry has seen significant growth over the past few years, and things have been rolled back, particularly due to the pandemic. Nevertheless, labor shortage was always a problem, long before COVID-19. In this article, we will discuss how the labor shortage is severely impacting businesses and how your business can navigate around it.

Reasons Why Labor Shortage is Impacting Field Service Businesses

Year after year, field service businesses state that it is increasingly difficult to find people for skilled trade positions, which include electricians, carpenters, technicians, etc. This means that these businesses are unable to meet the growing requirements and orders by clients, and this directly impacts their income, as well as their employee morale and competitiveness.

Let’s have a look at some of the reasons why the labor shortage hampers the operations of field service businesses.

Lack of Suitable Talent

One of the biggest reasons why field service businesses are suffering is because there is a huge skill gap. This skill gap refers to the huge difference between the skills required by a company and the available skills in the job market. This occurs due to the massive increase in the market, to the point that demand has surpassed supply.

Skill Shortages

Related to the previous reason, there is a severe skill shortage that is growing worse with each coming generation. A major reason for this is the scarcity of trade skill training in schools and colleges, which was much more common in the 80s and 90s. Sadly, today’s students are being succumbed to testing, theoretical knowledge, and STEM education to prepare them more for white-collar jobs.

The Freelancer Economy

Another reason why labor shortage is becoming a major problem for field service businesses is because of the gig economy and the huge number of people who prefer working as freelancers and acquiring digital skills rather than learning trade skills and looking to join the field service industry.

Retirement of ‘Baby Boomers’

‘Baby boomers’ is a term used to refer to the generation of people born between 1946 and 1964, and those are the people who were the cornerstone of the field service industry. These were men and women who learned trade skills, either from their parents or from spending time with someone who worked as a professional electrician, plumber, or carpenter. Moreover, they made up for a huge portion of professionals in this industry.

However, since the trade skills haven’t been passed on to the coming generations as expected, a major gap has been created. Every day, more than 10,000 baby boomers are reaching the age of retirement and hanging up their work boots. This means that thousands of jobs are being vacated each day, and there aren’t enough people to fill the gap.

The void created by the retirement of baby boomers can’t be filled with millennials because they aren’t inclined towards field service jobs. This also poses a much bigger threat since the US labor market is expected to have a shortage of approximately 8.2 million workers by 2027.

The ‘Silver Tsunami’

The Silver Tsunami refers to a trend that can be seen in the US labor market, and it is used to define a massive number of people who are due to retire in the next ten years since they will reach the age of 65. Between 2015 and 2015, around 2.5 million will have retired from the workforce, and this would also contribute to the massive labor shortage expected by 2027.

What’s even more distressing is that the aforementioned predictions were made before there was even the slightest hint of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has caused businesses to shut down and unemployment to soar even higher.

As you can see, we are standing on the cusp of a massive labor shortage crisis in the US, and there seems to be no end in sight. If something isn’t done to curb this shortage, it will deal a severe blow that would take us decades to recover from.

What Can Be Done to Handle the Labor Shortage?

Field service businesses are suffering from a shortage of talent in the market, and this also causes the end customers and clients to suffer. However, there are some methods that can be implemented in order to reverse the tide and control the damage.

Attracting Millennials

The current young generations are referred to as millennials, and the younger ones are called Gen Z. These people have a much different view of businesses as compared to the previous generations, mainly because they have been born into an innovative and tech-powered world that runs on artificial intelligence, cloud computing, and whatnot.

Since millennials make up for approximately 22% of the US population, targeting and attracting them to join the field service workforce would help curb the shortage significantly. This generation is looking to start their careers with a company that values their personal expression, allows them to make an impact on the world, and also facilitates their personal achievements. In short, they are looking to feel valued, and field service businesses can appeal to this dynamic in order to get them through the door.

If you can make them feel valued, not only would they be keener to join the workforce as field service professionals, but you would also profit from their loyalty. Moreover, the younger generation can be trained and upskilled by the older and more experienced generation, and they can be offered flexible working arrangements like most modern companies and startups do. Lastly, it is very important to gauge the input of millennials and include them in planning and decision-making.

Adopting New Technologies

Since the younger generation is much more tech-savvy and includes quick learners, they won’t have any trouble working in an industry that is being disrupted by new technologies and innovation. For instance, the Internet of Things (IoT) is being actively implemented by field service businesses to make work easier for professionals and also enable them to provide better services to clients. 

Apart from IoT, machine learning and data analytics are also being rapidly used in the field service industry, and this makes it all the easier for millennials to join the workforce and curb the labor shortage. Plus, technologies like augmented reality and virtual reality can be used to provide them with hands-on training and experience. Mobile apps can also play a major role in teaching them trade skills that they can implement in the business.

If you are really looking for a solution for labor shortages, the aforementioned technologies can greatly help. For instance, you can make use of IoT-powered devices and equipment to diagnose problems and quickly order the parts needed to fix them. Not only will this increase operational efficiency and productivity, but it will also allow businesses to cater to several clients with the limited workforce they have. Through artificial intelligence, they can also perform smart scheduling and parts management.

Filling the Gap with Freelancers

As the freelancing trend continues to grow, field service businesses can also look towards freelancers to help fill up the vacant positions left by resigning and retiring professionals. The field service professionals of this generation are used to working in a flexible environment where they are valued more, and businesses need to restructure themselves in order to address their requirements.

The freelancing option can also be extended to baby boomers who have reached the age of retirement but would like to earn a little extra money by working only a few hours every week. This way, they don’t have to exhaust themselves by working full-time, and field service businesses will also be able to fill the gaps to some extent. Several businesses are already looking at freelancing platforms to find professionals that they can outsource jobs.

Retaining Existing Employees

The current labor shortage is already crippling businesses, but things can get even worse if their existing employees also decide to walk out the door. Since these are the employees and professionals who have the exact skill set that the company needs, it is very important for field service businesses to hold on to them.

Therefore, stronger employee engagement must be focused upon, and it will also make employees feel more valued and respected. There is a sharp increase in the number of employees who plan to leave their jobs very soon, and only a small number of employees are actually committed to staying at their current companies for a long time. Moreover, it is very important for businesses to value and recognize their hard workers and also reward their contributions.

Implementing Advanced Training Programs

Last but not least, the best way to keep your employees engaged and attract more and more people to join the field service trade is to design and implement advanced programs and techniques that can be used to train and educate more and more people, especially those from a younger generation. Not only will they be more interested and invested in learning the tricks of the trade, but it will help them get a grip on the course content much faster, thus preparing them well for the field. Some types of training methods field service businesses can use include team-building events, learning activities, courses in vocational institutions, Sandbox labs, microlearning, and several others.

This concludes our guide on how field service businesses can handle the labor shortage and also prevent things from getting worse. As the shortage continues to grow day by day, it is highly important for businesses to do something right away, so more and more people are inclined towards joining the industry.