Field service recruitment needs a rebrand to attract next-gen talent

Profile picture for user David Milam By David Milam November 15, 2017
Field service recruitment needs a rebrand if it's to attract the next generation of talent, argues David Milam, CMO at ServiceMax

Recruitment of next-gen talent © kentoh -
The field service industry isn’t what it used to be. In just decades, the advance of technology from mobile, cloud, IoT, and even more recently, AR and VR, has completely transformed the way technicians fix and operate on our machines. That impacts field service recruitment if it's to attract next-gen talent. Not too long ago, modern technology was absent in the field, and the technicians fixing our machines relied on clipboards to manage and maintain field operations. Stacks of paperwork weighed down customers, engineers, and field service employees.

Today, with updated software systems and ecosystems like the Internet of Things, field service has found new efficiencies to keep our world’s machines running – but it’s not just the technology that has pushed the industry to where it is now. It’s the field technicians, too. Field techs, engineers, and manufacturers were tasked with learning how to operate new kinds of technology on the job, and did it with grace.

Many of these workers have been devoted to the industry for decades, watching the industry’s assets upgrade every year. Now, these veteran technicians who have supported the growing field service industry are getting ready to retire. With that shift comes a call to action – along with introducing field service to the next generation of technology, we need to introduce the industry to the next generation of technicians.

Rebranding field service

In the last 20 years, field service has gone through an upgrade. Field technicians have swapped out clipboards for tablets and landlines for mobile phones. But field service is still thought of as fixing plumbing and electric, when in reality, technicians are responsible for collecting and analyzing data and programming machines to think for themselves.

What needs to change is how we market field service to these young, aspiring workers. To bring fresh talent we need to change the perception around the industry, and marketing is at its core. There is a place here for computer-wiz engineers, outdoor-loving technicians, and everyone in between to thrive. But the first step on rebranding is to educate new talent on what field service is like today.

Attracting next-gen talent

Now is the time to get in front of students who are about to embark on their professional career. Reaching out to new graduates (and those that haven’t yet received their diplomas) needs to be an active pursuit. Young professionals won’t just choose field service as a career – it’s up to us in the industry to educate the newest generation of workers on field service. In other words, we have to proactively market the industry, and not the old industry of clipboards and paperwork, the new industry of big data and sensor-enabled machines.

This is where marketing campaigns step in. Marketers can identify universities that foster top tech talent, and hold free lectures for students to attend. Invite engineers to campus events where students have the opportunity to network. Something as simple as a booth at a career fair can go a long way. However you do it, start early — because tech talent is hard to find.

Focus on training

While the recruitment of a new era of technicians is vital, training is even more important to spread knowledge to incoming technicians of the field. The technicians who have been in the field for years are masters of the industry, and their expertise needs to be shared. While young talent often has the benefit of a collegiate education and familiarity with technology, the institutional knowledge that exists in field service is incredibly complex and multifaceted – based upon years and years of experience.

This is where training becomes essential – for both technician success and also industry-wide longevity. Without the tools and the training required to succeed, the pipeline will quickly empty. So focus on training the next generation and passing down that knowledge from veterans. New technology can help — augmented reality allows new technicians to practice scenarios without the dangers of an actual operation in the field. Bottom line: we cannot let the insight of veteran technicians drop to the wayside – it needs to pass to their successors.

As the industry gears up for yet another shift, it’s time to think about how we can market field service to fill the ranks of today’s workers. While their knowledge and transformative power can never be replaced, a new generation of field service enthusiasts can bring changes we never saw coming. I, for one, am excited to see where this takes us — and you should be, too.