4 Tips on Managing an Industrial Field Services Workforce

Managing a workforce in the industrial field services space presents several unique challenges. These factors have an impact on more than just human resources – they affect the overall operations and success of a business. From staffing jobs with the necessary craft on short notice, to invoicing clients with accurate and timely data, to ensuring workforce retention -- the challenges involved in running a field services company require not only changes in perspective of how to run a business but also tools that support it.

1. Staffing new jobs with the required craft and skill

Many industrial services companies have a dedicated team that continuously recruits, processes walk-in applicants, calls past employees for rehire, and follows up on candidate leads that come in through email and social media. Candidate and former employee information is typically retained in hard copy (paper), or, in some cases, an Excel spreadsheet that is passed around the office via email.

This requires a lot of manual work, which can be streamlined by a digital process. Simply eliminating the paper application process, and providing candidates or past employees a way to apply for a job online, or via a mobile app could speed up and improve the process.

First, candidates can be automatically matched to open jobs, significantly reducing the manual work to review paper applications. Second, digital applications can be stored in a centralized database; queries for a specific skill, craft, experience level and even training or certifications can be done at any point when a need arises.

2. Keeping the jobs staffed

Workforce within industrial field services is always in flux. A significant percentage of field workers assigned to a job fail to show up at a site, find another job that pays more, fail drug tests and so on. Hence, jobs are often understaffed and project managers constantly play catch-up to fill empty spots throughout the duration of a project.  

One of the ways to reduce and mitigate the impact of understaffed crews is to digitally track daily attendance via on-site RFIDs or gate logs. While many companies utilize such technologies already, the ability to access real-time data indicating the number and type of craftsmen present and still needed on a work site is critical.

Such data, when available to the hiring office, project managers, site supervisors or any other operations support staff, enables them to provide additional manpower more quickly. The task becomes even more efficient if the current workforce database can be filtered according to skills and crafts, required and valid certificates and training, location and even availability for work.

3. Keeping up to date with training and safety certificates

Employees’ training and safety certificates, as well as drug tests, have to regularly be updated to satisfy contractual agreements and to meet company’s internal guidelines. While some employees actively monitor expiration dates of their paperwork, industrial services companies typically perform this activity on their behalf. But again, expiration dates are tracked manually on paper or in Excel, requiring hours of work to complete this repetitive and tedious task.

A digital database can proactively monitor expiration dates of various documents, generate reports, and alert both employees and their supervisors ahead of expiration. This ensures that work interruptions due to expired paperwork or violations of a contract are avoided or are minimally impactful.   

4. Retaining your workforce

Competing for a skilled workforce is a natural component of any business. However, in industrial field services where a unified company culture is largely absent, and work is temporary and always shifting around, a minimal raise in an hourly wage rate alone can entice employees to move between employers.

Clear, consistent and engaging communication between employer and employees is essential to retaining any workforce. Additionally, creating and maintaining an inclusive company culture that extends beyond the corporate office and celebrates industrial field workers can counterbalance the higher wage rates of competitors. Internal marketing initiatives, branded gear as rewards, gamification of an inter-company mobile app can help strengthen an inclusive and communal company culture.  

In summary

Improving the way that an industrial field workforce is managed can benefit a business in several ways. Digital recruitment processes significantly reduce manual work. Check-in and check-out procedures on a job site can provide real-time insights about any additional workforce needed to fill the job to capacity. Database of employee and candidate records can help monitor and proactively manage document expiration. Finally, building tools that connect corporate and field workforce can establish and maintain a culture that becomes a big incentive for employees to stay put. Opportunities for innovation and business efficiency in the industrial field services sector abound. What will be your first move?

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