According to Pew Research, 10,000 baby boomers turn 65 every day. With the average retirement age being between 61 to 65, baby boomers are taking knowledge with them into retirement. So what does this mean for the HVAC industry? While these vacant employment opportunities are quickly being filled, new employees may not be getting all of the information they need to succeed. High levels of workforce turnover typically result in short-term and even permanent knowledge loss that could be critical to the success of an organization. Before baby boomers leave their posts, it’s important that not only an outline of their knowledge is shared, but that it is collected in a format conducive to generation X & Y adoption.
Below are four ways companies can help new employees thrive.
For many HVAC companies, distributing paperwork and reference materials for the field has been a topic of discussion. Having the ability to digitally manage documents and manuals allows companies and employees to reduce clutter and tremendously improve productivity levels while creating a knowledge base. A document that is electronically on hand encourages techs to review and such documents can be centrally managed to ensure relevance.
Most importantly, companies need to start the journey with electronic tech manuals, as the next five years will see the competitive emergence of Augmented Reality (AR) as the core information transfer medium for technicians. This medium will take the device out of the techs’ hands and make it a wearable device: projecting data schemas, manuals, and work orders on an imaginary plane a few feet beyond the individual. Without electronic information, companies will not be able to compete or support their field staff.
From fixing a software glitch to replacing hardware to managing a fleet of employees, time is scarce in the HVAC industry. Luckily, industrial mobile apps are now able to help companies access materials, track workflow, and dispatch technicians to the next job. From improved efficiency to ensuring compliance and quality, HVAC workers are not only getting their jobs done with mobile, they are also capturing substantial asset history.
Essential to new employees is the ability to tailor workflows and data collected dependent on job type and the specific customer site. Whilst the old-timer baby boomer knew what needed to be done after decades of servicing, automated workflows can prompt particular actions and ensure that all required actions and data collection are completed. The additional bonus is a higher productivity, achieved by only asking what is required for this customer for this job rather than the more common generic service report.
INTUITIVE INTERFACE AND EXPERIENCE
In today’s tech driven world, mobile applications are frequently used by HVAC companies and their employees in order to seamlessly track their work. Given the emphasis that is put on these apps, it’s key that they are easy to use. From the interface to overall user experience, there is a lot to take into consideration when implementing a mobile application strategy. Research shows some of the biggest issues field workers have with these apps include:
- Screen color combinations must be designed for optimal field use;
- Poor user experience in navigating the application — clarity and consistency often missing;
- Tablet and smartphone battery life is a fundamental driver of application success;
- The effect of weather conditions on device and application reliability are too often ignored; and
- Field workers need contextual/historical work information to support their work.
In particular, younger generations have a much higher expectation regarding applications and their ease of use. Companies that take the time to ensure that their selected app can reflect real infield work practices are not only showcasing their commitment to current employees but also to their future workforce.
HVAC workers have first-hand knowledge of the responsibilities, processes, and priorities associated with the industry. So why not empower them with greater responsibility at the customer site? For example, they should be able to look at all outstanding preventative work-orders for the site they are attending and determine if some should be done now. Similarly, they should be able to look at what work is available in their area and pick up selected jobs that they are qualified to as they have time in their day or week. By making field staff more self-determining, the gains achieved include moving management effort to look at individual contribution rather than spending large amounts of effort telling technicians what to do next, reducing resource scheduling staff overheads, and appealing to generation X&Y regarding personal freedom.
This shift of responsibility has a major cultural upside — conversations are about what was achieved and customer satisfaction, rather than arguing about why technicians are not compliant in the schedule they are given.
As baby boomers begin to make their exits, companies must make necessary changes to ensure information is transferred. Ignoring the four recommendations could result in substantial knowledge loss. However, companies that plan ahead and embrace electronically all that baby boomers have to share not only creates more opportunities, but also showcases the value all employees bring to the table. By creating an easy way for future employees to learn from retiring ones, companies are ensuring continuity of all business operations as well as making onboarding seamless and positive for all involved.
Publication date: 7/25/2018