Karo Kilfeather

By Karo Kilfeather

December 21, 2016

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Running a successful field service business involves acquiring and retaining top talent—and today, businesses are feeling the pressure. A 2016 report on skilled labor from Home Advisor uncovered that 93% of professionals believe their business would grow over the next 12 months if not for hiring challenges. If you aren’t able to keep field service technicians and managers on board for several months, your high technician churn rates could be costing you thousands of dollars in hiring and training costs.

Research by Gallup’s Business Journal found that employees who are ‘engaged and thriving’ are 59% less likely to seek a position in a different organization in the next 12 months. Engaging an employee starts the very first day, and in our experience, job shadowing during the onboarding process is one of the best ways to foster a long-term employee engagement.

Here’s a closer look at how job shadowing can reduce technician churn:

How Technician Churn Affects Your Business

It takes up to two years for an employee to be fully productive, according to a Training Industry Quarterly report. When field service technicians aren’t staying on board for at least two years, you may not get the most out of your new hires and find yourself having to go back through the hiring process to find skilled workers.

High employee turnover can also impact your recruitment efforts since job seekers often look for a company that has low turnover and a loyal group of employees. Low turnover typically means happy employees, in the interviewees mind.

Benefits of a Job Shadowing Program

Job shadowing provides on-the-job training so that employees can get comfortable with their work environment, learn how things work, and get acquainted with their coworkers and supervisors. The new hire follows an experienced professional around for a day, or even a week, to see firsthand how to perform their job.

Since field service technicians need to learn how to use different types of equipment and get familiar with company processes and protocols, a job shadowing program can provide them with basic skills and knowledge to jump right in to their new role with minimal direction after training is complete.

Job shadowing needs to be part of the onboarding process since it may be the employee’s first experience working onsite or in the field. The new hire can follow the directions of the experienced employee as they perform various field service jobs, communicate with managers and team members, and handle any administrative activities such as using time cards, completing paperwork, or returning equipment after completing a job.

Implementing a Job Shadowing Program

A job shadowing program is only effective when the person guiding the new hire has good leadership and management skills, and serves as a good example of a strong employee at the company. Making sure you are maximizing the new hire’s time is another important item to consider during the onboarding process — too much too soon could leave the new hire feeling overwhelmed and even disinterested in the new opportunity.

Some dos and don’ts when managing a job shadowing program:

  • DO train in chunks: It may be overwhelming for a new hire to follow an experienced employee around for a full 8-hour shift. Consider breaking up the training into half-day experiences so the new employee can absorb the information slowly—and even over the course of a few days if there is a lot to learn.
  • DO take the lead on introductions: It can be intimidating for those who are trying to learn a new job to also interact with people in the workplace. Take the lead on introducing the new hire to all available team members, identifying their role, and indicating whether the new hire will be working with them directly or indirectly. Make arrangements to have the new hire meet with other team members and managers. This can be a semi-formal event so everyone can make their first introductions.
  • DON’T make them feel isolated: Field service technicians may not be working onsite most of the time but they need to get acquainted with employee work areas, offices of different managers, the break room, and storage closets and lockers for equipment. Provide a full site tour and a map if you have one so the new hire can study that as they get settled in.
  • DO Plan on lunch: Taking the new field service techs out to lunch on job shadowing days can be a great way to break the ice and get them more comfortable with you and the work environment. Plan on having lunch together so you get to know them on a more personal level.
  • DON’T be closed to questions or suggestions: Encourage the new hire to ask any questions as you take them through the job duties and explain how things work. This can help reduce some of the stress and anxiety a new employee might experience as they get settled in to their new role.

If you are facing high technician churn year after year, consider adding a job shadowing component to your onboarding process. This will help ensure new hires have enough time to acquire basic skills and get comfortable in their new work environment. One-on-one training can also increase transparency between the employer and new employee so they feel confident and secure about their position—and are more than ready to get to work.

Interested in learning how to continue to engage and inspire workers long after their first 12 months? Read 5 Methods for Inspiring Your Field Service Techs.

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Karo Kilfeather
By Karo Kilfeather

Karo is a seasoned content marketer with a deep passion for the power of language to build connections between people and ideas. Born in Poland, she learned to speak English by watching “Saved by the Bell” reruns and commercials. She has applied her language skills and editorial drive to launching successful magazines, websites, and books. Besides her lifelong interest in technology and all things geeky, she also enjoys learning about behavioral economics and organizational development, trying out new songs at karaoke, and making the most of Boston’s brief summers.

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