Field service organizations are facing a skill building and training challenge like no other. An aging workforce of field technicians coupled with COVID-related layoffs and early retirements has left many field service operations suffering an acute knowledge loss.
While the human resources to onboard and upskill new field engineers might be missing, technical documentation is a great asset that can be used to enable these technicians. Aligned with the latest learning trends and best practices, technical documentation delivered via Content Technologies can be the secret weapon that helps field service organizations overcome their skill gap challenge.
Here are the four steps you can take today to bridge the gap and bring innovation to the enablement of your technicians.
1. Take Enablement to the Field
Learning experts like to refer to the 70-20-10 model as a best practice in this regard. This model holds that 70% of learning should be via challenging practical assignments, 20% from developmental relationships, and 10% from formal coursework and training. Getting your field technicians out of the classroom and tackling the sorts of challenges they’ll face every day empowers them to learn in the 70-20-10 style, and technical documentation can help enable this learning with confidence.
And that’s good news, because everyone in a field service organization wants the field technicians in the field – including the technicians themselves. Building up skills on the job is also the preferred way for hands-on workers to ramp up. By reducing classroom training time while increasing enablement in real work situation, new hires get onboard more quickly and are working independently faster.
When you move your training cursor from the classroom to the field you need to be sure that your technical content is available to your new hires wherever they are and in every conceivable circumstance. This is how they will get the precise, specific product information they need to reinforce their general knowledge in real work situations. Remote accessibility to information is thus the foundation of enablement in the field.
Content Delivery Platforms (CDPs) for technical content enable this mobility. A CDP centralizes all your technical documentation into a knowledge hub and offers your field technicians a unique place to remotely access all the information they need, and access is secured end to end.
Now, let’s not assume an internet connection is available wherever your technicians are operating. You need to make sure access to documentation is maintained no matter whether a field technician finds themselves in a remote area, in an elevator shaft, or even underground. CDPs designed for field usage offer an Offline mode that allows technicians to sync their documentation on their device and take it with them to places with poor or no connectivity. The documentation will sync again when they reconnect to the hub, so there is no risk that they are working with outdated information.
Taking tech content to the field also means reading it on a mobile device, which can be a challenge, in particular for technical diagrams. No matter what device the field technician uses, a CDP designed for mobility will ensure that the technical content a field technician needs – text, but also vector graphics, animations, interactive SVGs, 3D images and videos – will always display properly and adapt to the screen of the device.
2. Provide Contextualized Information
The information that your field technicians need in order to learn on the job needs to be mobile – that’s a given. But that information also needs to be contextualized; that is, it needs to be relevant to the particular task at hand. Whether a newly hired field technician on a service call or an experienced hand working in a new area, the technical content needs to relate to the exact machine, exact software version, and exact configuration that needs to be serviced.
It’s impossible to train all of your new hires upfront on how best to proceed on their own for every product and variant they’ll encounter in the field. As a result, the information you serve them needs to be precise, relevant and contextualized.
A CDP delivers contextual information adapted to the particular situation the field technician finds themselves in and filter out all generic content that distracts from efficient work rather than enabling it.
The solution can be as simple as affixing a QR code to a machine that can be scanned and instantly return the technical content related not to that type or variant of machine, but that individual, unique assembly. Your field technician will have access to the exact knowledge that they need to service the machine and its directly applicable for the task at hand. In other words, this is contextualized knowledge served for immediate action.
3. Deliver Personalized Knowledge Progressively
One of the latest trends in training is microlearning. Simply put, microlearning is the delivery of personalized content to an individual at the moment of need. This content can be specific to the learner’s own work history, certification, and previous training. By providing small ‘chunks’ of information when it is required, field technicians have an optimal and more efficient ramp-up experience.
It barely needs stating that such a personalized experience is unachievable with traditional books or manuals. CDPs, on the other hand, are designed to serve exactly this purpose, delivering a personalized user experience that puts the right content in front of the user just when they need it. By matching profiles, aligning with preferences, and understanding the previous use of the content, a CDP can learn from the user to continuously refine the content delivered. As the information is delivered in small chunks that are easily digested and relevant to the particular field technician, it is more likely to be understood and absorbed.
This progressive delivery of personalized knowledge results in a personalized ramp-up that can be deployed at scale. While the training and selected content is specific to a single employee, the CDP can support an unlimited number of different team members. For field service organizations this means that both the effort and investment in new employee training can be kept under control no matter how many people need to be onboarded; it is truly onboarding that scales.
4. Upskill Constantly
No successful business ever stands still, and no successful business ever stops training its employees. With new products, new procedures, and updates to existing lines to contend with, change is a constant in any field service organization. Even the most experienced and seasoned workers need regular refresh and upskilling sessions to keep up with the pace of the product, and once again technical documentation has an important role to play.
A CDP streamlines the information process: the moment that a new product or variant is documented, the information is available to the field technicians. There is no need for a software update on a device nor for downloading a new manual or guide; instead, the information they need follows them to the field.
A CDP offers a single source of knowledge for field technicians. It is always up to date, it always includes the newest, freshest content, and technicians can rely on that content in their interventions and service calls. When updates are pushed or errors in documentation are corrected, technicians – new hires or seasoned pros – have access to those updates and corrections instantly.
When experienced hands are thinner on the ground and where training the next generation of field technicians represents a significant challenge for field service organizations, Content Delivery Platforms offer a solution with an immediate return on investment. Technicians will move out of the classroom and into the field faster, enjoy digital shadowing and on-the-job enablement, and experience a more efficient and continuous learning journey.
By embracing a CDP, innovative field service organizations open themselves up to new possibilities that traditional classroom and manual-based onboarding experiences cannot deliver. Field service organizations can now imagine more attractive onboarding processes for the next generation of field technicians delivered in line with the most recent research and best practices in training. They might even consider hiring field technicians with non-traditional profiles as the personalized, contextualized approach allows generalists to thrive where only specialists could succeed previously.
The challenges faced by field service organizations, then, might actually represent an opportunity for those same organizations to establish themselves as employers of choice in a market where the competition for talent is fierce and likely to grow more so in the years to come.
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