Organizations with large field forces today face workforce challenges they haven’t in the past. Experienced workers are retiring, there are fewer skilled workers looking for jobs, and firms are struggling to maintain essential organizational knowledge during this shift. This blog examines the growing skills gap and explains how technology can address this problem.
Today’s job market
Workforce conditions today pose a unique challenge for organizations with large firstline workforces. Near-historically low unemployment rates mean there are fewer workers to fill open roles, especially skilled workers. Meanwhile, workers who have been on the job for decades and have vast experience are retiring, leaving an enormous skills gap for many field operations teams. In fact, 70% of service organizations expect to be burdened by the knowledge loss of their retiring field service workers in the next 5-10 years.
To meet market demand to replace those aging service and support workers, an additional 2 million workers will be required by the year 2021. Without skilled workers to fill those positions, companies are hiring inexperienced workers right out of school. These workers need lots of training to learn the job and are lacking veteran mentors to help with onboarding and sharing critical organizational knowledge and expertise.
The increased need for digital solutions
One way organizations can address this troubling skills gap is through technology. While more organizations today are introducing digital solutions to their large field forces, many still lag behind technologically—and the skills gap will negatively impact those firms the most.
Digital tools and solutions can streamline tasks for firstline workers in so many ways, including learning, gaining experience and mastering new skills on the job. Examples might include:
- Detailed workflow steps for inspecting equipment on-hand digitally via a mobile device
- Instructional and training videos available on-demand
- Real-time video streaming, to allow remote real-time assistance for less experienced workers in the field
- Augmented reality to overlay important information on the physical environment around a worker
Tools like these help close that skills gap by standardizing processes, capturing essential information digitally, and offering resources on-demand in real time to help new workers learn faster and gain knowledge.
How to apply technology to address the skills gap
If you’re sold on the need for digital solutions to help close the skills gap for firstline workers, you may be wondering how to get started. At Venado, we champion a unique three-step approach for all digital initiatives, and we’ll explain how they apply in this scenario:
- Innovate: Before you jump into any tech project, you need to start with strategy. What do you want to accomplish? In this case, identify where the “skills gaps” are occurring. Which tasks, processes, and core skills do your inexperienced workers need help with? Where can you streamline, simplify, provide guidance, or add support?
- Create: Once you have a plan, collaborate with your field workers to create a solution that solves the objective(s) you outlined in step one. This should be an iterative process, starting with a prototype and incorporating plenty of user testing and feedback.
- Engage: Technology-enabled tools aren’t enough—your workers need to be trained on how to use your solutions to ensure long-term adoption and engagement. Let’s use the real-time video streaming example. The goal is to allow workers to get on-demand help from a technician who can see their issue via video. But your workers will never use this resource if they don’t know how to contact the technician or start the video.
Interested in more content about technology tools for firstline workers? Check out this free guide, Why Your Firstline Workers Aren’t Using Digital Tech the Right Way—And How to Fix It.