The unemployment rate, outsourcing, part time employees, changes in the workforce; these are all topics that have been in the news for several years. Is it just that there are less jobs or fewer full time positions? Is the economy really in bad shape? Or is there a staffing trend that we need to examine. Full time employment means a guarantee of wages, benefits, and paying the employee even when there is a lull in the business. For companies in the Field Service Industry there may be peaks and valleys in workflow and need for field service personnel. And while so many functions can be performed on a remote basis, sometimes someone just has to be there.
Enter the Variable Workforce, offering highly skilled, well trained, specialized Field Service Engineers who are available on an as needed or project basis. These individuals are normally highly motivated as they essentially run their own small business and best of all; they work this way by choice.
Now we have people to hire. How do we manage that? Freelance Management Systems (FMS) offer online cloud based systems allowing companies looking for qualified workers, including Field Service Engineers, to find them quickly and easily. FMS provides companies with the opportunity to achieve significant cost savings over time and the ability to accelerate strategic or organic expansion resulting in new clients, new service offerings, and/or new sales territories.
So what is the actual experience of companies using a Variable Workforce and FMS platforms? Have they been able to achieve these benefits or is it just hype?
A survey seemed to me to be the best way to get answers. So we designed an online survey for the Field Service Industry to ask professionals who handle field service staffing or make decisions about field service staffing requirements, for companies with field service functions for technology equipment they sell and/or service.
We wanted to examine the benefits of Variable Workforce models, particularly FMS. In doing so, we could assess concerns regarding using FMS, the motivators for using FMS and the benefits that have been seen by using it.
Over 200 Third Party Maintainers (TPM)/ Independent Service Organizations (ISO), Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM), Value Added Resellers, Systems Integrators, and Self-Maintainers participated. The companies range in size from over $500 million in annual revenue to less than $50 million varying in size from those who manage less than 100 field service events per month up to more than 1000. These field service events included emergencies, installations, inspections, and preventative maintenance or calibration. And the types of technology supported included Information Technology, Network Connectivity, Printers, Point of Sale, Telecommunications, and more. The companies also varied on how a Field Service Business is run – as a cost center, profit center, strategic line of business, or revenue contribution center.
Over three-fourths (77%) were currently using some type of Variable Workforce Model. The survey respondents were two-thirds TPM/ISOs or OEMs.
Most participants (81%) use the Variable Workforce for project based work.
We found that the top three reasons that companies made the move to a Variable Workforce were:
- The ability to be agile and scale the workforce based on customer demands.
- Over half agreed that “We didn’t have enough work in selected geographies to justify hiring a fulltime Field Service Engineer.”
- Almost all said that controlling labor costs was a significant motivator.
One of the most important results was that the Variable Workforce users support more types of technology on average than non-users. That is, those companies who use Variable Workforce are able to support 4 types of technology versus only 1.8 types of technology for non-users.
Nearly two-thirds of those utilizing the Variable Workforce use a Freelance Management System (FMS) to manage the staffing. Of these FMS users, almost all have been using it for at least one year and 60% for three years or more — another sign that something must be working.
FMS users tend to support more types of technology as well. On average, companies who use FMS support 4.3 types of technology versus only 2.8 types for non-users.
Ultimately the most compelling reason to make the switch was that the FMS platform is agile, giving companies the ability to scale up quickly to meet seasonal, cyclical and short term demands. In fact, 71% of users found this to be the case. FMS adopters have been able to gain more business and have been able to increase their field service work. They have experienced such success that 76% of them reported an increased demand for FMS just in this past year, most by at least 15%.
The survey results certainly indicate that usage of Freelance Management Systems for the Variable Workforce in Field Service will continue to increase over the next year as well.
Stay tuned for future posts where I will discuss what our survey revealed about the Key Performance Indicators and how use of Variable Workforce and specifically FMS impacts the Field Service Industry.