Field service is facing a potential talent pinch as thousands of aging technicians retire. But those aging technicians set to retire in the next 10-15 years still make up a big portion of today’s service workforce. Meanwhile nearly every service organization today is engaging in some sort of technical advancement. What is your organization doing to advance knowledge, mobile adoption, and technology culture around older workers?
Mobility stands to improve productivity, efficiency, and scheduling for field service organizations willing to embrace it wholeheartedly. But are your aging techs ready for your mobile workforce overhaul?
In the following paragraphs we will provide real-world ideas for gaining mobile adoption and traction among aging techs.
Aging Workers Are Adaptable
First, let’s dispel a common misconception about technology and aging workers. Older technicians don’t fear the latest technologies. Remember: they have witnessed many changes over the decades. And they wouldn’t be where they are today if they hadn’t proven adaptable throughout the years.
Your older workers have already had to evolve to capture information in a computer instead of on paper, use GPS instead of a map, and connect via cell phone instead of a desk phone. Most of them are quite familiar – and comfortable – using online services like Facebook to stay in touch with others. And they’ve likely used email for close to 20 years.
Consider these stats:
- Over eighty-two percent of Baby Boomers (roughly 50-65 years old) belong to at least one social media site.
- Generation X, a cohort of people between the ages of 35 and 49, spends more time on social platforms during an average week than any other U.S. adult age group.
- A study of 4,000 information workers in the U.S. and Europe about their use of technology in the workplace found that people 55 and up use 4.9 forms of technology per week, on average. The overall average across all age groups? 4.7 per week.
The last study cited above also revealed that older workers are actually less likely than their younger colleagues to get stressed using technology in the workplace. Continuing with this theme, older workers reported less trouble than their younger peers when working with multiple devices.
Whether these findings are due to older workers being more patient or having lower standards, the fact remains: they are actively using technology in the workplace. With this in mind, here are tools and tips that will equip your organization to better engage aging technicians in your workplace modernization overhaul.
Recruit An Older Tech As Your Champion
It’s well known that people respond best to those that they can relate to. That’s why so many technology gurus encourage companies to embrace a “train the trainer” approach when introducing new tools. For example, companies that want their sales teams to embrace a new CRM system will solicit the input and participation of a well-respected sales rep or two to get everyone on board with the plan.
In the same way, you can recruit one of your long-standing technicians for guidance as you figure out a strategy for getting the most from your aging workforce. This select technician can share insights into what is – and isn’t – likely to click with your older technicians when it comes to your technology modernization plans.
Train Them to Succeed
As mentioned earlier, your aging workforce is not less comfortable with new technologies. But unlike your younger technicians, they won’t necessarily pick up on the latest and greatest in their personal lives and bring that to work. Instead, you need to proactively and formally train them to use the latest technologies. The best approach is to do so in the context of their daily routines so you make the abstract and hypothetical literal and practical.
Be prepared to lift the veil on how the technology works its magic, and to walk older technicians through a step-by-step process.
All too often when enterprise organizations introduce new technology, it becomes yet another task on top of all the other tasks workers already must perform. New project management system? That means logging hours manually and online. When we introduce new communication or chat-based apps, somehow e-mail seemingly gets worse. The list goes on.
Don’t treat mobility like a silver bullet. Instead, the biggest step you can take in your mobility overhaul will be to identify what triggers and incentives will motivate your employees to action. Remember, these are your most seasoned service veterans. They’ve seen an overhaul or two in their day, and they will likely be skeptical of silver bullet solutions.
Instead, show them how the technology will replace old activity. Demonstrate the value they will realize by adopting and using new technology. Show them exactly how it will make their service role easier, in real terms. Forget all the motivational nonsense, and get real. That’s the only way to incentivize even the most skeptical and seasoned technicians.
Pair Them With Younger Workers
Don’t make the mistake of feeling you need to segregate your technicians by age. According to Peter Cappelli, a professor of management at the Wharton School, there’s a lot to be gained by fostering close relationships between your youngest and oldest workers. This is where you tap into similar traits shared by these different cohorts: they both care about social interactions and contributing to the greater good.
So, pair them up and let them help each other find the best approaches to solving problems and making decisions as they share their knowledge and experiences. Because they likely don’t see each other as competition on the job, your oldest and youngest technicians are likely more open to helping one another. And that makes them solid teammates.
Support Them in the Field
Ideally you take every possible measure to ensure all your technicians use the latest technologies as effectively as possible and to their full potential. But don’t think of new technologies as just a burden for your aging workforce to learn about and adopt. Think of how you can use the latest tools to make their lives easier. For example, instructive videos and augmented reality (AR) can guide your technicians through tasks. In fact, it turns out that Baby Boomers often respond well to information-packed videos, so don’t hesitate to use this to your advantage.
While the loss of your aging workforce to retirement will undoubtedly cause disruption, you can lessen the blow and maximize their contribution by calling upon the tools presented here. Do so now and you and your long-time (younger) employees will be happier, and more effective too.
Keep your organization on the path to continued success by subscribing to the ClickSoftware blog.