Strategy & Leadership

A Scalable Way to Manage Your Field Service Tech Workforce: Onsite Freelancer Platforms

Traditionally, there have been only a small handful of ways for growing a service organization’s field technician coverage — namely, recruiting, hiring and training in-house. The situation becomes even more complicated when the organization has to factor in critical components such as geographic placement, skill sets, certifications, technician availability, cost and management.

Over the years, the complexity of dealing with a need for more field technicians has not diminished, but an historically untapped source of field technicians reduces those challenges: outsourced, onsite freelancers.

Years ago field service organizations hired and trained field technicians; they designed, developed and rolled out a field service management solution; they ran the solution off the company’s mainframe or client-server; and they managed everything in-house. Today, the market is increasingly leaning toward cloud-based service lifecycle management solutions that are managed by a third-party solution provider

So, why can’t you acquire, grow, manage and schedule your workforce in the same way? The short answer is that you can with firms that can help your organization find, vet, train, place and manage field service technicians anywhere in the country — and, increasingly, anywhere in the world.

Diego Lomanto, vice president of marketing for Work Market, a platform and marketplace to find and manage freelance labor, says service organizations increasingly need to find, verify, engage, manage and pay service technicians in the field. Strategies For Growth’s 2013-14 Field Service Management Benchmark Survey supports the trend.

“Why should a services organization, with cyclical demand and, at times, finding itself deluged with service opportunities it cannot keep pace with, feel required to recreate the wheel on a recurring basis, when we’ve already built an accessible portfolio of highly skilled, fully-vetted field technicians, ready to perform, and readily available to supplement their full time workforce?” Lomanto asks. “Why not, instead, benefit from the use of on-demand freelancers to leverage the efficiencies of a variable workforce? It’s not a replacement for the organization’s full time staff but, rather a key component of an overall talent acquisition strategy that may still include W-2 full-time staff.”

Strategies for Growth’s research also reveals that 14 percent of field services organizations currently outsource some, or all, of their activities to a third-party partner or vendor, while another 14 percent plan to do so by the end of 2014. That’s a virtual doubling of usage by the field services sector in just one year!

Independent research commissioned by Work Market reports an increasing usage of onsite freelancers in 2013 among organizations that have been users in the past. Nearly two-thirds plan to increase their use of onsite freelancers during 2014, mainly to fulfill their need to scale the business during periods of anticipated growth. This statistic relates to all industry segments, not only field service.

This trend toward outsourced labor is matched on the worker side, as well. A report by MBO Partners finds that the number of independent workers in the United States is expected to grow from 17.7 million in 2013 to 24.0 million by 2018. Many of these new workers will likely be contractors looking for new, and more flexible, ways in which to find employment.

All told, 93 percent of current users plan to continue using onsite freelancers in 2014 as reported in the MBO study. Among those businesses that do not plan to continue using freelancers in 2014, the primary reason cited is related to their already having fulfilled their needs for temporary or extended scalability. As a result, they no longer find themselves in the freelance market (that is, at least for now).

According to Lomanto, the primary reasons for relying on companies like Work Market to gain access to a pre-qualified source of onsite freelancers, especially in the field service industry, include:

  • Availability: The ability to scale up quickly and without the hassle of new hire screening, on-boarding or training;
  • Rating transparency: The comfort of knowing that each freelance technician will have already been rated by users on the basis of their on-the-job performance;
  • Consistency: The knowledge that you will receive the same high levels of quality in terms of freelancer professionalism, training and, if necessary, certification; and
  • Manageability: The ability to hand over virtually all of the HR-related paperwork to a third party that does everything for you from recruitment and vetting, to payroll, paperwork and more.

There are many other factors that Lomanto suggests may also come into play for services organization, but they do not necessary need to focus exclusively on field technicians. They can involve providing support for all aspects of the services business, both in the field, as well as in the home or regional offices.

The days of computing, staffing and scaling everything internally are over due to, in large part, the proliferation of cloud-based business and service management solutions. Outsourcing portions (or all) of your field technician workforce is not a “new” thing; however, for many services organizations, it may be the “smart” thing — as in immediately scalable, cost-effective, and just a good way of doing business.

To download a complimentary whitepaper on “Finding & Managing Onsite Freelancers” for businesses and field service organizations, please visit the Work Market website at Work Market Guide to Finding & Managing Onsite Freelancers.

 

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