According to a Gallup report on employee engagement, 87 percent of employees worldwide are disengaged. In the United States, the result has been profit losses amounting to $550 billion. These kinds of losses can cripple companies if not render them completely obsolete. In the field service industry, where field service technicians are in direct contact with customers disengagement and employer and job dissatisfaction are sure to have a palpable impact on job performance, customer satisfaction, and ultimately profits.
That is why it is essential to determine effective measures for addressing employee disengagement. However, let’s start by taking a look at the primary causes.
What are the Main Causes of Employee Disengagement?
According to Service Council™, there are concrete reasons for employee disengagement that need to be assessed and eliminated.
33% of front line field service workers do NOT believe their companies are great places to work. Service Council™, 2018
We consider the following three to be particularly detrimental to employee satisfaction in the field services industry:
Change can be anything from a merger with a former competitor, to the acquisition of a company in new industry sector, to the downsizing of business divisions. And it often instills a certain amount of fear in employees. The main culprit of course is the unknown factor. Any changes to the status quo could signify substantial upheaval in the form of added responsibility, extensive new training, new managers, and job insecurity. According to the McKinsey quarterly report on employee well-being, the kind of unpredictability associated with these events has a negative effect on “motivation, cognition and learning, and emotional states.”
Good leaders are able to place the collective common good ahead of personal gain. They also understand that a strict hierarchy is a potential threat to vision and creativity, especially if the ideas, opinions, critiques, and feedback of the whole team go ignored. According to a study by the Harvard Business Review, the satisfaction of young members of the labor force was starkly influenced by how their managers valued them. They ranked this even higher than income. Nevertheless, close to 50% of women and 40% of men surveyed thought their managers were treating them unfairly. And 32% said this resulted in the loss of employment.
Not all managers are created equally. Managers who excel in their fields sometimes lack the necessary skills to impart wisdom, delegate responsibility, offer feedback, take criticism, and loosen the reins. These are essential skills that are too seldom taught and emphasized. Many managers would do well to heed the wisdom of Patagonia’s Yvon Chouinard, a trailblazer when it comes to honing a management style that produces self-motivated and driven workers. His advice on communicating with employees: “When you have a lot of independent people working for you, you can't tell them what to do... Instead, you have to build a consensus.” In short, communication is not just about talking. It’s also about listening.
How can we improve?
Now that we know the key contributors to employee disengagement, what can we do to bolster employee satisfaction? Service Council™ has shared some valuable insight on how to improve the work environment for our field service technicians:
1. Virtual Management
Managers who micromanage strip their team members of autonomy and any sense of control over their work life. This in turn could lead to disinterest, at best, and resentment, at worst, on the part of employees who feel undervalued and underutilized. Virtual management is a natural dispersion of teams that relies on today’s digital tools to stay connected. This is how the field service industry tends to work as service technicians are generally on site performing maintenance and repairs. However, It is essential that virtual management be based on trust and confidence in your team to get the job done rather than the persistent intervention in business operations and processes. Remember, “the way management treats associates is exactly how the associates will treat the customers”, Sam Walton from Walmart.
2. Shared leadership
Shared leadership is a switch from strict hierarchies to more evenly distributed leadership. It is based on mutual respect for the different skills, knowledge, and talents that each leader brings to the table. Not only does shared leadership ensure that more voices are heard, it also demands added cooperation and communication, two essential components for building a strong business and supporting employees. This is crucial in the field services sector where managers oftentimes lack a comprehensive understanding of what service technicians are actually accomplishing in the field. Creating a managerial environment that provides a forum for all voices to be heard and represented ensures that all employee needs and concerns are addressed.
Taking responsibility for failed actions and decisions involves a high level of integrity and a willingness to learn from mistakes and move forward. If employees feel that they are penalized for making mistakes instead of given an opportunity to grow and learn, they will be less likely to admit to errors and, as a result, unable to make necessary changes towards improvement. Furthermore, a psychological study performed in the northeastern United States across a broad range of organizations indicated a strong relationship between “job control and self-reported anxiety and depression”. Giving employees freedom and control over their daily routines and activities is not only empowering and a critical part of the training process, it is also crucial for their own-well being.
Employees who are inspired, rather than pushed, to bring their best to the table are more likely to do so. Efforts to drive your employees can range from team building events to the sharing of ideas or concerns to the celebration of victories, small and large. Highlighting success is a great way to motivate your team to strive for the best.
As a rule of thumb, it is important to remember that the amount of discretion employees have over their day-to-day directly correlates to their physical and emotional well-being. Though field service employees tend to have substantially more freedom than back office workers, it is still essential to embrace autonomy and aim to minimize micromanagement.
The SAP Field Service Management software was designed with exactly all these elements in mind. Our focus on knowledge management led to the incorporation of manuals, checklists, videos and more to help service technicians in the field work more autonomously than ever before. The advent of augmented and virtual reality makes it possible to involve off site specialists for more complex issues, giving technicians even more freedom and flexibility to decide how best to get the job done. On top of all this, our app and software facilitate communication between headquarters and customers, making it simple for everyone to get and stay informed every step of the way. SAP Field Service Management is designed to empower people. You should, too!
For more information on how best to integrate the insight and concerns of everyone involved in a change management process, read our blog article.