Keeping your field employees happy can be a challenge. Being so cut off from the office, it’s often hard for them to feel connected to the rest of the team.
As an article entitled, Distributed Teams Vs. Remote Teams: What’s The Difference? points out, there is actually a difference between distributed and remote teams. Generally speaking, in the trades, we operate distributed teams, since employees are on multiple different sites due to the nature of the job.
Of course, there are difficulties in running remote teams that office-based businesses simply don’t face. But, fortunately, there are also solutions. We run through them here.
Be Flexible With Your Employees
Today’s workers want employers to give them high levels of flexibility. They expect to work in roles where they can choose their hours and decide when they show up to client sites, within reason.
Employers, therefore, are beginning to offer more flexibility. Instead of just getting customers to set when and where they want field workers, tradespeople themselves are getting more control over the process. There’s more of a negotiation going on, with workers able to deal with family issues around their work, and spend more time working in the early mornings and late evenings, if necessary.
Give Them The Tools They Need To Succeed
Don’t rely on your staff to supply all the tools they need to get on and do the job. They won’t always have them, and they certainly won’t be inclined to buy them out of their own salary.
Before they join your organization, check what they have first. Then lease them any remaining tools that they need to complete their collection. You may be able to come to a rental agreement with some employee where, in exchange for use of your platform or business, they pay a surcharge or fee for any tools they use on the job.
If that doesn’t sound palatable, adopt a policy of providing tools outright. However, make sure that each employee has access to official company tools. Don’t allow the use of any tools they may have acquired from prior work.
Show More Support For New Hires
More experienced field workers generally know how the business operates and what they should be doing. They don’t require any hand holding. Newer hires, though, generally require a few months of guidance before getting up to speed.
Unfortunately, most plumbing and trade businesses are failing their employees in this respect. They’re offering a brief onboarding and then relying on them to get on with the job themselves. In most field service businesses, that’s not how it works. There’s a long run-in before employees become fully independent.
There are many ways that you can support your new recruits throughout your onboarding process. This includes:
- Providing clear training on company policies and processes
- Offering all the tools and equipment that they need to do their job properly
- Providing information via the cloud, such as shared documents, payment information and review scores
Keep Them In The Know
Field employees can often feel a little left out of the loop and cut off from the rest of the business. They have little or no visibility of what’s going on at the top, and that can be a problem.
Fortunately, this is an easy issue to solve: just provide them with regular updates. Either call field staff individually, or if you don’t have time for that, organize monthly group chats on Zoom. Let them last an hour or so, and offer plenty of time for employees to ask questions and get clarifications. Also, invite them to raise issues and look for ways to solve problems that they might face on the job.
Show Your Appreciation More Often
In general, managers and company executives are really bad at showing employees their appreciation for all the hard work they do. They might pay lip service to it from time to time, but it’s often too little, too late.
The lack of praise doesn’t come from malice. Instead, it arises from the fact that most company bosses simply don’t have time to go around verbally patting people on the back.
The trick here is to automate the process. Assign a manager or director to praise field employees when they meet certain targets of milestones. If necessary, use software to support you that tracks employee performance. Get it to send you reminders every time they achieve metrics that qualify.
Listen To Feedback
You might think that your business is perfect, but your field employees will almost certainly disagree. Because they work on the front line, they see all the flaws first hand.
Always take time to listen to feedback. Make sure that everyone in your organization knows that they’ve been heard. When you listen to people, you quickly make them happier and more engaged at work. Even if you don’t follow through on their requests, it can make a tremendous difference in how they perceive you.
Foster More Social Interactions
Field employees can sometimes feel lonely. Their work involves spending a lot of time by themselves, working on projects at client sites. Sometimes, customers will spend time talking to them, but that’s rare. For the most part, they’re alone.
Some workers are okay with this, but many aren’t. They want to feel like they’re a part of an active, vibrant community of workers, all pursuing a shared objective.
Fortunately, there are plenty of things that managers can do to reduce loneliness and increase team cohesiveness. These include:
- Regular video chats via Zoom and other video meeting software
- Virtual team-building activities
- Social hours after work
- Business conferences and events
Another popular strategy today is to assign workers mentors. These can help them with virtually every aspect of their work, from technical advice for how to plumb a toilet, to coping with career stress.
You don’t have to have one mentor per employee. If there’s someone in your organization (or even a person outside of it) who is able to offer sound advice, get them to work with multiple field staff at the same time.
Use Technology To Stay Connected
In terms of technology, field operations have never had it better. Today there are more software solutions available than at any point in history, changing the way that people work forever.
You’re not limited to one type of tool either. There are messaging apps, job boards, video communication tools, and payment gateways. However, the best software combines all of these features and more so that you don’t need to add anything else to your stack.
Such field software does actually exist today. In fact, it’s been around for quite some time. Start using it and see whether it makes your employees stick around for longer.
Offer A Mix Of Work
Depending on your business setup, you might also be able to offer employees a mix of field and in-office work. Variety is the spice of life, as they say, and that couldn’t be truer for field workers. While working on client sites is interesting, many also want to return to the office from time to time to find their bearings. If this is an option for your company, you might want to try it.
In summary, there are now more methods than ever to keep your field employees happy. There’s no reason for them to become disgruntled or look for better work elsewhere, so long as you adopt the right approach. Use the methods above to improve your operations and hold on to your most valuable staff.
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