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Quiet quitting in field services

Why you need to reconsider the type of work you’re assigning to your most valuable employees

November 30, 2022

By Shawn Fields, Senior Field Services Strategist, Field Nation

 

“Quiet Quitting” is the newest buzzword in the post-pandemic world of talent. The term refers to a situation where workers do the bare minimum required by their job––and no more. Historically, union workers have referred to this phenomenon as “work to rule.”

One might ask, “Well…where’s the harm in that? I’m doing exactly what I was hired to do. If my company wanted me to do more, they should include it in my job description and increase my compensation.”

And there’s the rub. For decades, American workers have done much more than just “phone it in.” Baby boomers – referred to as “Traditionalists” in Linda Gratton’s recent McKinsey survey – have always given more than just the bare minimum. They would work extra hours each day. They worked nights and weekends. The expectation for that generation (especially the salaried management levels) was: “You’re a salaried employee. You work whatever number of hours you need to in order to get the job done.” And if you wanted to rise through the ranks, you worked more.

Quite honestly, the younger generations can hold the baby boomers responsible for “spoiling Corporate America,” for setting unrealistic expectations about the amount of work and the output that they could expect from their workforce.

How we put that genie back in the bottle is beyond the scope of this article. What I want to focus on here is the phenomenon of Quiet Quitting as it relates to field services. What is it? What causes it? And most importantly, what can be done to prevent it?
 

Field services Quiet Quitting: What is its impact?

For years, the primary measurement of productivity in field services has been utilization––a traditional practice I have previously discussed. Utilization is simply a measurement of how “busy” a field service technician might be. In other words, out of the total number of hours available in the day, how many hours is that technician actually working on a task that is somehow billable back to a client?

 

What Causes It?

So yes, utilization can account for how “busy” a particular technician is, but what it doesn’t account for is “BUSY DOING WHAT?”  

All services volume isn’t created equal. If you’re giving work to a Level 4 technician just because they have available time, but that work requires him to drive 4 hours to do a 1-hour preventative maintenance call that generates $60 in revenue, then you likely just lost money on that transaction. The more important metric would be “revenue per tech per day,” which ensures you’re not only keeping that technician busy, but you’re keeping them busy doing the type of work that will provide an acceptable return on the investment your company is making in that technician. As importantly, you’re ensuring that you’re keeping them busy doing work that they want to do.

A company I’ve worked with recently looked into optimizing their field services cost. They were ahead of their time in that they strove to examine all the work being done by their field service force and categorize it into work that actually needed to be done by the appropriate level of technician. The results might surprise you:

 

Technical Level Percentage of Total Required at Level
Level 1 55%
Level 2 25%
Level 3 15%
Level 4 5%

 

Yes, that says what you think it says. Level 4 technicians were only required for 5% of the total work orders. Level 3 technicians were only required to do 15% of the total work orders, and so on.

What that means is that if an organization had 100 Level 4 technicians (the most expensive, tenured, certified technicians in the workforce) then they had 95 too many! And even if we consider geographic issues, the order of magnitude of the possible savings that would come with workforce reduction remains significant.
 

Quiet Quitting in field services: What can be done to prevent it?

So, how does this “misclassification” of work contribute to quiet quitting? Well, from the earlier study, you can see that Level 4 field service technicians––who have the most seniority, experience, and certifications and have spent literally YEARS getting to their level of proficiency––are spending just 5% of their time on work that they want to work on – work that truly challenges them. Work that truly makes a difference for your clients. 

If they’re only spending 5% on work that truly requires their talent, how are they spending the other 95% of their time? On commodity work: preventative maintenance, installations, and project work. How do you think that makes them feel? How long do you think you’ll be able to hold onto these senior-level techs if you still just keep “filling up their bucket” with low-level commodity “busy work?” 

And if you are able to hold on to them, how long before they just “Quiet Quit” and begin doing the bare minimum necessary to get buy? 

And how many of those “Quiet Quitters” have already found more fulfilling work on a platform––a venue where THEY can choose the type of work they do?

All work volume isn’t equal. If your company doesn’t have a workforce management program that breaks the work into its component skill requirements and then uses those skills to determine who does the work, you’re already behind.

And being behind in today’s war for talent isn’t where you want to be.

"If your company doesn’t have a workforce management program that breaks the work into its component skill requirements and then uses those skills to determine who does the work, you’re already behind."

Senior Field Services Strategist, Field Nation

Shawn Fields

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Shawn Fields

Shawn Fields brings more than 30 years of IT industry experience to Field Nation — with expertise aiding clients in retail, financial services, manufacturing, life sciences, food and beverage, state government, IT, and utilities. He has successfully led the entire spectrum of IT services in the outsourcing arena, advising notable clients like Intel, GE, Citi, NASA, Rockwell Automation, Coca-Cola, Honeywell, AT&T, Bank of America, Booz Allen Hamilton, SunTrust, Georgia-Pacific, Southern Company, Levi, and BMW. Additionally, Shawn had led innovation, design thinking and digital transformation projects for large clients across multiple continents.

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