In part 4 of our 5-part “Voice of the Engineer” blog series we ask engineers to share their level of satisfaction with their current organizations.
Day 4: Field Employee Listening Needs to Be a Priority
We’ll spend some more time on the technology of field service work in the 5th and final installment of our series. It seems like organizations have made heavy investments toward improving the productivity of their engineers. There is still work to be done, but the message to do more has been received loudly and clearly. It seems that in the drive to squeeze more, organizations have forgotten about the human side of field service engineers.
There is a lot that can be read into the data available in the figure above, but I’d like to spend some time on the areas of mentorship and career development. We’ve talked about the inherent enjoyment and accomplishment in doing field service work, a major driver for field service engineers. Yet it seems like the growth prospects for field engineers within field service organizations are limited. Increased pay and upward mobility are some forms of growth, but so are increased learning and personal improvement opportunities. In recent discussions we have seen organizations begin to offer more to their field engineers, especially in the form of learning paths, certifications, and specializations. We also see more organizations open up different career paths for their field engineers, recognizing that the engineer-to-supervisor-to-manager-to- path doesn’t work for all. Yet these organizations are more the exception than the rule. Organizations must take an increased stake in the development and futures of their engineers.
Employee listening and engagement programs are great places to invest to uncover improvement opportunities when it comes to engineer growth. In listening, it is vital to ensure that we’re not only seeking information and insight from our field engineers, but we’re actually willing to act on the information that’s provided to us. Field engineers tend to accept that their organizations are willing to collect feedback, but it seems less likely that these organizations are willing to source that feedback to formulate actual improvements. More so, recognition of the value of feedback seems to be elusive.
In promoting personal development and growth, it’s also worth considering the personal ambitions and apprehensions of field engineers and the impact that those personal traits might have on professional engagement. While some might feel that there is a pretty rigid line between personal and professional, I would argue that the line is beginning to blur. Bob Kelleher, founder and CEO of the Employee Engagement Group (he knows engagement), claims that engagement efforts often fail because they are focused only on who the individuals are as employees, neglecting their other aspects as individuals. In his work on I-Engage, Bob advocates a much more holistic approach to engagement, both from the employee and the employer. I tend to agree with where Bob is going and believe that a more comprehensive approach to employee engagement is essential even for the future of rough-and-tough professions such as field service.
In our final piece we’ll look into the impact of technology on the ease of getting work done.
About the project
In 2016, we launched the first version of our field service engineer feedback research surveys involving 200 engineers and technicians. We were so pleased with the results that we decided to run a similar survey in 2018, which yielded participation from 550 engineers. You can access the summary results (and data tables) here. The intent of this survey, as it was for its predecessor in 2016, is to uncover the voice of the front lines. We often hear from service and field service leaders, but we rarely present the voices of the front-line field service engineers.