Strategy & Leadership

To Retain Top Performers, Treat Them Like Small Business Owners

Field service is an industry facing big changes, from emerging technologies and new business models to a looming talent shortage. But one aspect that remains unaltered is customers’ expectations for great service. To meet those lofty demands, there’s no asset more important than the technicians who do the work every day. But knowing how to retain employees and maintain morale, while no small task for service leaders, is only the start.

“I found out a long time ago that knowing what to do is not even half of the problem,” says Vele Galovski, vice president of field services research at the Technology Services Industry Association (TSIA). “The greater challenge lies in getting your team to embrace change, raise the bar on performance, and follow your lead.”

As a veteran service executive with experience at Xerox, Eastman Kodak and other companies, Galovski has led teams of sizes from eight to more than 11,000 people. He offers a few hard-won tips for how leaders can keep technicians happy and performing their best.

Encourage Entrepreneurship

At each stop during his career, Galovski has worked to create an entrepreneurial culture among all employees. A key component, he says, is to encourage and recognize every individual’s ideas, which makes people feel important and engaged. It also leads to new ideas, some of which could pay dividends.

“I found out a long time ago that knowing what to do is not even half of the problem. The greater challenge lies in getting your team to embrace change, raise the bar on performance, and follow your lead.” — Vele Galovski, TSIA

Recalling his time leading Xerox Business Services’ operation staff, Galovski tells the story of a charismatic mailroom employee who took the entrepreneurial culture to heart. Rather than merely performing the same mundane tasks every day, the employee studied the business and interacted with coworkers in different departments.

Vele Galovski
Vele Galovski

“He took the time to get to know people and learn about their jobs. By using his natural people skills, he discovered opportunities for [the company] to do more for customers and generate more revenue in the process,” Galovski says.

By listening to customers’ business needs, the mailroom employee was able to identify upcoming print projects that could be done in-house, trade existing equipment for cheaper and more efficient models, and replace third-party materials such as paper and toner with Xerox products.

Thanks to the mailman’s ideas, Galovski says he expanded the role of operational staff and converted employees into small business owners, which not only increased revenue but also resulted in great customer service.

Management Sets the Tone

Part of a service leader’s responsibility is knowing what makes employees tick. The task is difficult, sure, but it’s important. Companies with highly engaged employees are poised to thrive. Those with unhappy, disengaged employees? Not so much.

“The highly engaged companies are attracting the best people, delivering greater customer service and innovating better,” writes Josh Bersin, founder of the HR research and consulting firm Bersin by Deloitte. “These companies are focused on mission, culture and leadership — and they understand that people are not ‘talent,’ they are people — with their own personal needs and aspirations.”

Galovski says that company values and goals directly correlate to employee happiness. He endorses the three C’s (career, culture and communication) as key to keeping the evolving field workforce engaged.

Don’t Forget the Golden Rule 

One of the biggest employee retention challenges managers face is overcoming the fear of giving honest, objective feedback, Gavolski says. Employees want to know where they stand, whether good or bad, and most will take the feedback so long as it’s given straight.

“As a service manager, you ultimately have to find a way to lead and inspire your people,” Galovski says. Most people want to do good work for the company and the customers they work with every day. It’s up to managers to help employees do that job with a smile.

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