Skills are a vital part of any workforce management system and yet we see workforce management implementations that get skills wrong time and time again. Skills that are too complex, hard to manage, never kept up-to-date and whilst functional in theory and impossible to maintain in practice.
Let's discuss how to manage skills right in your workforce management system.
What is a skill?
A work skill is the job-specific skills necessary to perform an activity or task in the field. These act as defining criteria to match activities with the resources that you have available in your service business and help you to make sure that a suitably skilled person delivers the particular activity.
Your work orders or work types will typically have skills assigned to them and your field resources will typically have attained certain skills due to their training, experience, accreditations and so on. Scheduling work will usually balance the skill requirements of your work with the skill availability of your people.
Why are skills important?
In a number of work management and scheduling systems, if your work orders are being auto-scheduled, when no available resource has the appropriate set of skills that an activity requires, then the scheduling engine will tend to not assign that work. The lack of skilled resources or any improperly configured work skills that affect assignment of a particular activity will be called out by a work management system as an error and demand action by the scheduling and dispatch team to address.
You can also typically define a preference of which qualified mobile workers should be assigned certain work. It isn't always as simple as a match between the work and the engineer, but rather which weighting you use to orientate the most suitably skilled resource to the work. Similarly one field resource can have multiple skills at diferent levels and you may want to have some sophistication over which piece of work goes to which field resource.
When you define skills in a work management system you will typically set the skills up first and then apply them to a particular resource. Qualification levels then allow you to fine tune a preference. Example for installing a boiler your resource needs a minimum qualification level of 20 and if they don’t have 20 then they won't automatically be scheduled the job. You should then be able to set a preferred level against the job and weight the scheduling accordingly.
Getting the right balance
The mistake we often see is a lack of logical groupings of the skills set up. It is tempting to give everything a skill - every piece of equipment, piece of work and work order. The challenge then is that this constrains your scheduling when inevitably there is a relatively small number of your field resources who will have such skills (unless everyone tends to have everything!)
The issue in this case is that long lists of skills are also onerous to administer. A lot of organisations tend to master their skills somewhere else (such as a learning management system or HR system). They then update them in this other system and often tend to then need to keep them updated manually in their workforce management system. For whatever reason they haven't decided to integrate their HR systems with their workforce management systems and the effort of updating skills by hand in the workforce management system become too much effort to maintain.
Getting more sophistication
If skills are being properly defined they should also consider the lapse dates - i.e. an appreciation that the competence of an individual has a particular duration or validity before than comptence starts to fade and needs re-training or re-certification. Skills can also have different levels of experience depending on the circumstances of the job. Some of our customers also require permits to conduct work - for example a special level of clearance when accessing a secure site, or the ability to use particular equipment or work at height. As the sophistication scales up you may need to consider a true competency management system that can also maintain your permits to work, certifications, access restrictions and so on. In a good modern scheduling system you should be able to integrate directly to pass across the information you need to provide for each resource.
What to do next
If you make use of skills in your work management system, take a step back and ask yourself whether they are working for you and whether they meet the needs of your operational business? Ask yourself whether they are kept sufficiently updated and whether they are loved or loathed by your field scheduling team?
Leadent is proud to have designed and delivered a range of market leading mobile workforce management solutions. We understand why skills matter to service organisations and can help you to improve your system and ensure you gain the maximum value. Get in touch with us to find out more.