Is the industry doing enough to embrace and train a younger generation of technicians?
Across industries, organizations are grappling with the challenge of attracting Gen Z workers amid intensifying global competition for talent. In the field service sector, this concern is exacerbated by an aging workforce. Research indicates that nearly three-quarters of companies (73%) perceive an aging workforce as a potential threat to their field service operations. This threat is not only due to impending employment gaps but also stems from the evolving nature of field service toward more digitally driven solutions.
While a degree of existing engineers can and will upskill, there are of course those that are not able to do so. As technologies advance, so does the need for a more digitally driven field service team. Interestingly, the above research found that over two-thirds (67%) of companies feel that technology plays a key role in attracting new talent to field service.
What is becoming clear is that digital tools and capabilities are becoming a common denominator in attracting Gen Z, so by that score, any organization that lacks digitally driven ways of working will not be able to compete for talent.
Digital Tools Offer Two-Fold Benefits
A London School of Economics (LSE) report last year suggested that Gen Z has very specific expectations of working environments and digital tools. The reports says that these include “a lack of tolerance for latency in communication,” as well as “a frustration with legacy solutions and the inability to expediently source information.”
For field service teams, the integration of advanced digital tools offers a significant opportunity to court Gen Z workers. New technology has enabled dramatic transformations across the field service industry, not just in ways of working but in how organizations interact with customers and their products. Servitization—the shift towards selling outcomes rather than machines—needs advanced technologies to make it work. Predictive maintenance using AI analytics from IoT data sources, as well as the optimization of service teams and spare parts delivery, are key to these new customer relationships.
Digital tools are increasingly at the heart of modern, dynamic service teams, enabling real-time analysis and reporting, communication, and organization—and it is not stopping there. Here is an industry that is ripe for digital disruption and change, embracing automation and advanced analytics where possible, to not just improve performance but also reduce costs and environmental impacts.
Servitization is also at the heart of the thrust towards a circular economy. The value of repairing and reusing equipment keeps costs low and ensures productivity uptime. Servitization is built on the premise that organizations trust their suppliers to deliver, manage, and ensure machine uptime and results. This is focused on a maintenance and repair culture and not a rip and replace culture.
Maintenance and service intelligence are also increasingly fed back into product design, improving how machines are built, with a leaning towards more modular components, for more economical and ecological maintenance. This is where data intelligence delivered through automation is seeing tangible results in reduced paper processes and machine waste.
While being a field service engineer may not be at the top of the wish list for many Gen Zers—to be honest, as Glassdoor research reveals it’s not at the top for non-Gen Zers either—the field service industry has a growing reputation for being forward thinking when it comes to carbon reduction and digital deployment.
Engineers are now the frontline operators for so many organizations, helping customers solve problems rather than just turning up to fix stuff. Service technologies have already enabled considerable change and that change is not about to stop. For Gen Z, this is surely hitting a sweet spot, while for field service teams, faced with an aging and retiring workforce, Gen Z is a much-needed injection of digital talent.