Talent management is one of the biggest challenges field service leaders face. Hiring and retaining the right employees, managing an aging workforce and training workers on emerging technologies are big tasks for any manager. But with predictive analytics making a buzz in the HR community, could data-driven hiring be the answer to service leaders’ talent struggles?

It’s still early days for predictive analytics in field service, but it’s no longer the stuff of SciFi films. It’s real science, and the data can have an impact on finding and hiring the right employees.

Big Data Gets Predictive

Gene Pease

Gene Pease

“The power of predictive analytics is you can understand where your investments are working,” says Gene Pease, CEO of Vestrics, a human capital insights company. Vestrics’s cloud-based predictive analytics software analyzes investments companies make throughout an employee’s tenure, and then applies advanced statistics to determine whether those investments achieve the desired business goal.

Pease’s vision is grand, and companies that have bought in have seen seen big cost-saving benefits. ACS, a Xerox company, experienced a call center turnover rate of 160 percent, and every departing employee cost more than $4,600 to replace. Vestrics measured the impact of five learning programs conducted over two years and found that hiring training supervisors led to lower agent attrition, resulting in more than $4 million in savings.

Benefits Don’t Come Free

Yet these talent management investments require significant time and resources. Vele Galovski, vice president of field services research at the Technology Services Industry Association (TSIA), says he’s skeptical about using predictive analytics broadly in field service, though he agrees the technology could be valuable in a hiring capacity.

“In the last five to ten years, the idea of hiring, retaining and training employees has been a foreign concept for many companies due to the downsizing they experienced,” Galovski explains. “The approach to hiring and retaining employees needs to be taken out of mothballs and retooled.”

Predictive analytics are proving to be one way managers can modernize their hiring and engagement practices — though it often requires collaboration with HR.

A Smarter, Data-Driven Talent Strategy

field service hiringWith the HR department’s help, organizations can analyze data about employees’ demographics, skills and experience to create profiles of the types of workers who should fill available positions.

Data may not the be-all and end-all, but it can help hiring managers make better decisions than if they relied solely on instinct.

“The biggest benefit is that predictive analytics can help remove human bias,” says Anne Loehr, a writer and and management development consultant. “If we can remove that, it will save time and money, and we will see more qualified candidates.”

Field service managers oversee, on average, 15 to 32 direct reports, according to the TSIA’s Galovski — and he says it may be helpful to add predictive analytics to their hiring toolkit.

“Analytics should be one consideration in the [hiring] process, but I rarely see it working that way,” Galovski says.

Big Impacts Around the Corner

In the future, Vestrics’ Pease sees customized onboarding and leadership development programs evolving out of predictive analytics. “When we hire you, we will be able to create your individual cocktail of development based on the information we have about what makes people successful in our organization,” he says.

For now, predictive analytics may help counter some of the talent management challenges field service leaders face — and will lead to changes in how managers onboard, train and develop their employees. It’s difficult to say what, exactly, that future holds, but it will no doubt benefit both the field service organization and its employees.

ABOUT Rian Ervin

Avatar photoRian Ervin is a freelance journalist and writer with experience in emerging and enterprise technologies.