How can you improve technician retention?

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Technician retention is crucial for knowledge sharing and creating deep expertise in your organization. However, two-thirds of US workers are not engaged with their work costing companies up to $600 billion a year in lost productivity, according to Gallup. Construction, utilities, repair and maintenance are no exception, with field technicians and engineers even more vulnerable to disengagement due to the isolating nature of their work.

Communication is key but with your field technician team spending little time at head office, face-to-face exchanges are few and far between. Even internal communications can prove a challenge with many field workers without a company email address. Other means of connection are therefore required, and essential from day one as 20% of employee turnover happens within the first 3 months of hiring

The growing need for communication

Communication lies at the heart of training your field technicians and engineers: communicating best practice, communicating changes in company policy or legislation, and communicating technological advances. Poor communication, therefore, equates to poor training. 

The end result is field technicians who are ill-equipped to deal with the demands of the job and are far more likely to disengage, exacerbating the fallout from inadequate training. 

In technical industries, such as utilities and construction, the growing pace of change demands the rapid uptake of new learning. This means training must be clearer, more effective and more readily accessible than ever before.

Technological trends 

Smart grid security, IoT sensors, smart meters and the like demand innovation and regular technology upgrades. Deployment of these technologies requires efficient and comprehensive training to ensure a smooth rollout. But even for those workers not directly involved in implementation, clear communication on how upgrades will impact their working processes is essential to ensure your field technicians remain productive and fully assimilate new procedures. 

Safety first

Adapting to technological or procedural changes also has an impact on safety. Disengaged employees are more likely to fall back on outdated practices, putting their safety, that of your customers and, in the context of security, that of your organization, at risk. Conversely, engaged employees result in a safer working environment for everyone, as supported by a Gallup report of 230 organizations worldwide. Their analysis revealed that companies in the top quartile of their employee engagement rankings had 70% fewer safety incidents compared to companies in the bottom quartile. 

Technician retention

Employee engagement not only affects safety but also employee retention, which is of increasing importance in light of growing labor shortages. Take the energy sector, for example: in a survey of 17,000 professionals in the industry, around half are concerned about a looming talent crisis and a third believe it has already hit.  

According to the Department of Labor, 50% of the nation’s utility workforce are due to retire over the next 5–10 years, so holding onto existing workers is more important than ever. Many of these workers, who are the future of your organization, are from younger generations and expect greater support. This requires effective engagement strategies to improve training, ensure that changes are communicated promptly and that workers feel valued and satisfied by their work. 

Four steps to improve the engagement of your field technicians 

Connect your field workers to their support team

Once your field technicians and engineers have completed their initial classroom training and/or on the job shadowing, they’ll be sent out into the field alone. Before this happens, connecting them with their support team, for example a technical coach, mentor and line manager, can ensure that clear lines of communication are established early on. Your workers will then know exactly who to turn to for support and guidance. 

On.Board, our mobile learning and coaching platform, makes this possible through its Performance Hub. This hub clearly defines who is part of an individual worker’s support team and how to get in touch with them. As On.Board is accessible from any digital device, any time, so your workers can connect with their support network wherever they are. This helps improve technician retention because they feel part of a team, despite the long hours your technicians and engineers can spend working alone. 

Contextualize your training

For hands-on learners, on the job training is invaluable. While extended periods of shadowing isn’t viable from a human resources perspective, learning can still be placed in the context of real-world tasks by leveraging mobile technology. This facilitates microlearning and enables field technicians and engineers to master specific tasks and see real progress in the short-term. 

This is of particular importance in industries where it can take years, as opposed to months, to become fully trained at a given level of expertise. Creating smaller milestones along the way ensures your field team experience a greater sense of achievement and job satisfaction during what is otherwise a lengthy training period. 

On.Board enables you to create training activities tailored to the different tasks your field technicians and engineers deal with every day. Customized forms allow you to prompt them to consider their plan of action and issues around compliance and safety before proceeding, as well as any challenges they faced upon completion of the task. All of this is supported through images and videos which can be easily uploaded to the platform. 

Verify and reinforce best practice

Working in the field, often alone, presents a challenge when it comes to getting actionable, relevant and timely feedback from technical coaches or mentors. But this is exactly what is required to ensure your field team are implementing procedures correctly, taking on board company or industry best practice and receiving all-important acknowledgement of their efforts. Reinforcing and praising proper procedure and identifying and resolving errors promptly ensure that both your managers and your field team know whether they are on track. 

On.Board facilitates regular digital feedback, with assigned mentors receiving instant notifications when field workers complete training activities. Built-in reporting facilities also enable managers to assess the performance of mentors in providing timely, comprehensive feedback. 

Disseminate knowledge quickly 

When changes in your industry happen, whether it’s legislative or technical, it is essential to disseminate this knowledge rapidly across all of your field teams. Unnecessary delays not only slow down the roll out of new technology or procedures, but can also leave field technicians and engineers feeling frustrated and excluded, as they are not provided with the training and support they need to do their jobs to the best of their ability.  

On.Board’s user-friendly builder makes it quick work to put together new training modules addressing specific changes. In just a few clicks, these updates can be instantly rolled out across all of your field teams. What’s more, training modules and programs can be updated after they have gone live. 

Make employee engagement the norm, not the exception, at your organization. Discover more about how On.Board can keep your field technicians and engineers motivated, supported and feeling a part of your business community. Request your free demo today

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