Managing skills for field service

Written by
Laurence Cramp

Managing skills for field service

Written by
Laurence Cramp

Managing skills for field service

Written by
Laurence Cramp

The challenge

It’s not easy to implement a new scheduling or work management solution because it touches all the pivotal parts of your operation. Our customers really appreciate the pragmatic way that we tackle a field service management implementation. Yes, we have a methodology to structure the process, but we always tailor it to the organisation’s preferred pace and method of delivery; we listen to what they want to achieve and how they want to work.

Managing skills with workforce management solutions

One of the things that many customers talk to us about is how to include skills in their workforce management solution. They often feel there is a need to set something up in the new solution as they are considering implementation. But when we go back to visit these organisations afterwards we find that the skills have fallen out of use. There are often many reasons for this:

  • They were overly manual to maintain in the workforce management solution
  • They were too complex to administer and hadn't been sufficiently grouped
  • Everything was given a skill so became meaningless
  • There was confusion between skills and permits and competencies
  • The solution wasn't sufficiently kept up-to-date with new starters and leavers, just the people who were in the field at time of implementation
  • The skills weren't being used for anything meaningful - just to guide the manual allocation of work
  • The knowledge of who was skilled for which task was held within the field teams exclusively

The issue of integrating skills with scheduling

What we see in organisations faced with these challenges is a general confusion about skills and how to use them. This confusion is exacerbated by the lack of integration between HR systems and skills management and the workforce management and scheduling system itself.

For example:

  • Training records are separate from workforce management systems
  • Permits held by field staff are outside of the workforce management system
  • Competencies are poorly managed and not kept up-to-date and often held outside of the workforce management solution
  • Staff shifts are created and updated in spreadsheets or other systems by field management staff and may or may not be updated in the scheduling solution
  • Absences are managed in a separate HR system and may or may not be accurately reflected in the scheduling solution
  • Rotas for on call are updated outside of the scheduling system as staff are on call outside of the hours that the scheduling team operates
  • Work is conducted out of hours by the field but only manually captured and may or may not ever be updated back into the workforce management soluitions
  • The upstream assignment of skills to work is complex and gets out of date rapidly
  • Upstream work information is only partial, for example not holding details of two person tasks or difficult access tasks that may require specialist equipment

How to improve

Many organisations are looking for more dynamic and integrated skills management. The reality is that there is no solution that will fit every organisation and like anything this is as much about process and information control as it is about integrating systems.

Some organisations have been looking to link skills attainment to the number of visits a technician has performed at a particular site or on a equipment type, or based on their ability to conduct a proportion of first time fixes. They would like determine the skill level dynamically as a result of this on the job performance.

Other companies we have worked with, use a much more sophisticated competency management system and update this based on the attainment of competencies through formal training and the application of this training in the field. They then try to leverage these competencies (and their validity) in scheduling the work and also in allowing the technicians access to site or certain equipment.

It is good practice to integrate your scheduling solution with an HR enterprise system and also with your talent management and / or learning management systems and then to pass across updates to your scheduling system via the integration. Too often we see this part of the integration missed out, often due to time, complexity or budget. In reality you are just storing up a future headache and it is much easier to start out doing it right rather than try to remedy it later.

Also don't forget timesheets. You might be happy with capturing the time recorded by your field technicians in their mobile work management application, but there are often other elements to consider:

  • How will you manage overtime and what system and process will be involved?
  • How will you manage rest periods resulting from overtime and will your scheduling system be kept updated with this availability?
  • Is there a clear process to assign time captured as chargeable or non-chargeable?
  • How do you compare the system time stamp capture, the technician's time capture and the time recording that may have been approved by the technician's manager? Which is right and how will you sort discrepancies?

Speak to us

These are some of the issues that we help organisations with day in day out. When it comes to field service, scheduling and mobile work management solutions Leadent Digital has a tried and tested methodology that works. We provide work management and scheduling solutions that are implemented rapidly and effectively by expert resources.

There are many examples of the work we’ve done for Europe’s leading field service organisations, encompassing consulting, system implementation and software solutions. All have focused on delivering excellent field service management. Get in touch with us!