​How to Overcome Common Field Worker Management Hurdles

​How to Overcome Common Field Worker Management Hurdles

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Utility supervisors may encounter several problems managing employees in the field when monitoring productivity, tracking safety compliance and managing work orders and inventory. Here is a detailed look into common field worker management problems and how to mitigate them.

Team coordination and mobility

Field workers move from one location to the other depending on incoming customer requests, scheduled maintenance tasks and emergency repairs. Workloads vary as field technicians shift to various customer points. The frequent movement means utility companies struggle with team coordination and mobilizing field employees. Companies must develop effective route plans to minimize traveling expenses while allocating a sufficient number of workers to different job sites. Field workers should constantly communicate with each other and senior management for easier tracking and avoid delays due to miscommunication.

Solution: Leverage GPS technology for real-time tracking and improved route planning for more cost-effective daily mobility. Field workers, supervisors, fleet managers and procurement teams must implement reliable communication channels for real-time information sharing. Ease commuting from one job site to another by keeping optimal fleet availability.

Work scheduling challenges

Municipal sewer and water service providers receive multiple work requests daily, yet they work with a lean team of field workers. Utilities allocate sufficient time for field technicians to evaluate and fix all reported issues. However, they may face obstacles when developing these schedules using manual methods. Manual work planning is prone to errors and can result in clashing work schedules. Supervisors may double-book tasks, overlap jobs, allocate work to unavailable technicians or inaccurately reschedule pending requests.

Solution: Digitize your scheduling and use a computerized maintenance management system solution with adequate safeguards to eliminate scheduling conflicts and generate timely maintenance alerts to prevent overlapping fieldwork schedules. It also allocates unique ticket numbers for upcoming tasks, preventing double-booking and ensuring timely communication of changed work schedules. 

Managing multiple work orders

Work order management is a back-office role. The supervisors receive requests from customers and evaluate the criticality of the problem. They then identify the available workforce and allocate arising tasks to them. Preparing and approving work orders based on customer requests is time-consuming if the utility relies on a paper-based system. It means some work requests remain unattended if the responsible personnel are out of the office or held up with other tasks. Supervisors also wait for field workers to report to the office to file job completion reports and declare availability. This results in undue delays, causing an unsustainable pileup of unattended jobs. 

Solution: Use a CMMS solution for seamless work order and field service management. Supervisors can remotely approve work requests and allocate tasks to available workers. The system enables field workers to prepare and submit field reports in a standardized format for faster and easier archiving.

Safety compliance and lone workers

Field workers are exposed to several risks when executing their duties, with companies sending lone workers to fix minor customer problems. The field workers respond to emergency callouts during odd hours or under unfavorable weather conditions. These workers must comply with safety measures to reduce workplace accidents and injuries and to protect themselves and others within their working areas. Some field workers fail to comply with safety requirements since they are far from supervision. Disregarding safety measures endangers field workers and reduces the effectiveness of fieldwork, resulting in low customer satisfaction, longer turnaround times and high cost of operations.

Solution: Implement connected worker technology for centralized safety supervision and monitoring of lone workers. Use wearables to track proper usage of personal protective equipment, identify how various work patterns affect employee wellness and fatigue and collect data for improving existing work schedules. 

Low fix rates

Fieldwork can be overwhelming since employees have shifting daily targets. Some employees may rush to fix issues or make errors due to a lack of access to technical information like repair manuals, appropriate replacement parts or recommended safety measures. Some municipal sewer and water service providers do not have established standard operating procedures, leading to unclear work and communication protocols, complicating fieldwork and reducing the quality of completed tasks. The low fixed rate implies the utility often revisits the same job site. 

Solution: Establish SOPs. These will allow you to install and maintain procedures to enhance field worker consistency and ensure the delivery of high-quality work. Develop standard checklists to enforce compliance with established SOPs and foolproof field operations. Invest in field worker training to improve the technical skill pool and competence.

Employee retention

All sectors face a sharp decline in the number of skilled workers. Municipal sewer and water utilities struggle with employee retention due to high turnover when employees are burned out, have to travel frequently, and experience job dissatisfaction. This leaves companies with smaller teams, making it hard to complete incoming work requests. The workloads increase as the number of active employees drops. Companies compete to enlist the few field workers, forcing employers to spend more money to recruit technical staff. It increases operational costs and can hurt the company’s revenues.

Solution: Invest in continuous employee training. Keep them updated on emerging fieldwork technologies and help them exploit digital resources. Develop easy-to-follow onboarding programs to give new employees a head start in municipal sewer and water fieldwork. Provide incentives and bonuses to boost field worker morale and leverage data to improve work scheduling and job allocation.

Final words

Overcoming field worker management problems demands integrating various digital technologies, establishing best work practices and continuous improvement among employees and management. Combating these problems effectively reduces operational costs, minimizes service disruptions, increases field worker productivity and maximizes safety compliance throughout the utility. Municipal sewer and water service providers can increase operational efficiency by leveraging data to optimize daily operations.

Bryan Christiansen
Bryan Christiansen

About the author: Bryan Christiansen is the founder and CEO of Limble CMMS. Limble is a modern, easy-to-use mobile CMMS software that takes the stress and chaos out of maintenance by helping managers organize, automate and streamline their maintenance operations.


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