January 31, 2022 | 4 Mins Read

7 Limiting Beliefs Preventing Service Success

January 31, 2022 | 4 Mins Read

7 Limiting Beliefs Preventing Service Success


By Sarah Nicastro, Creator, Future of Field Service

For every few conversations I have with companies successfully embracing a new business model or evangelizing the potential of service evolution, there’s one cringeworthy discussion that reveals some sort of limiting belief holding that company back from successfully transforming service into the competitive advantage it can – and should – be. 

I get it, change is hard. Legacy thinking is daunting to overcome. Stale leadership can be a huge barrier to innovation. The operational changes required to appropriately address customer expectations and digital transformation are cumbersome. But the potential of service transformation has proven itself, and the need to evolve is pressing. 

Here are seven limiting beliefs I’ve heard individuals share – either of their own, or of their organization’s leadership – that it is time to move beyond:

  • It’s not who we are as a business. I’ve heard this in relation to a product manufacturer servitizing and embracing the As-a-Service potential, or in relation to a service organization shifting to an outcomes-based, guarantee-oriented service delivery. Do you think that perhaps this belief is one Blockbuster held when Netflix came on the scene? It may very well have been. Just because what you’ve done historically has worked, or even is working, does not mean it isn’t time for a change – and the identity of your business can evolve. 
  • We’ll watch and see. This is a company that is hedging its bets – it wants to see if a certain type of transformation is proven, and then will join the bandwagon. There are a few issues here – first, the benefits of modern service models are proven. Second, by the time you wait until you’re comfortable, it may be too late in terms of your competitive advantage.
  • Our customers won’t go for it. Or, our customers will continue to do business with us because (fill in the blank). If your service evolution is geared toward better meeting your customers’ needs, they’ll go for it. If they don’t, you are likely positioning an evolution geared toward your needs as a benefit to them – and they know the difference. And if you think today’s customers will continue to do business with you in your traditional methods no matter what, you are naïve. Customers expect a lot, and if you don’t change with the times – they will go elsewhere as better value propositions pop up.
  • That’s the service division’s responsibility. Innovation is the entire company’s responsibility, and innovation through service is no different. The existence and acceptance of operational siloes is a huge barrier to not only service transformation, but digital transformation as well. Companies need to create more cross-functional teams, more cohesive strategy, and put more focus on the customer journey versus any particular division’s “job.”
  • What if we fail? Companies who are leading the charge have embraced the fact that failure is inevitable on the path to success. They have created a culture where fear of failure is eliminated and learnings from failure is encouraged. This promotes greater creativity among employees and prevents complacency. The focus becomes less “what if” and more “when” – companies put systems in place to fail fast and small and recover stronger and better. 
  • We’ve already invested in X, we have to make it work. Technology is the great enabler of service transformation, but unfortunately sometimes organizations have made an investment that simply doesn’t meet their needs – or can’t evolve into what they need as they grow and change. You can’t force a square peg into a round hole and being realistic about whether your existing systems meet your needs is important. Trying to build upon a cracked foundation is a recipe for disaster, so no matter how tough a pill to swallow you have to ensure your digital infrastructure meets your transformation goals.
  • The frontline workforce are executors, not innovators. In a break-fix world, a mechanically skilled technician who could show up when needed and get the job done was a win. In today’s service landscape, customers want more – and the role of the frontline is changing. Interactions are shifting from transaction to relationship and repair to trusted advisor, and while this may require some upskilling or even a change in who you hire into frontline roles, it’s an essential aspect of service transformation. When you begin to view your frontline as an integral part of your service growth rather than an afterthought, you will realize their power in helping the company innovate. Their firsthand customer interactions and the perspective those provide make them a wealth of knowledge in helping shape strategy. 

These are just a few of the limiting beliefs that quickly come to mind, but I am sure there are many more. The sooner we can let these beliefs go and seek inspiration from the companies and leaders who are embracing the opportunity to innovate, to create a more modern company culture, to fully leverage digital, and to reinvent themselves and their companies to keep pace with change, the more success stories we’ll have to share. 

January 26, 2022 | 30 Mins Read

Real Talk on Combating the Talent Gap

January 26, 2022 | 30 Mins Read

Real Talk on Combating the Talent Gap


In a special episode recorded on site in Palm Springs, California, Sarah talks with Roy Dockery, VP of Customer Care at Swisslog Healthcare about an issue that is top of mind: how to recruit, hire, and retain good talent in 2022. In line with the brand of his own personal podcast, Roy shares his “savage truth,” explaining his stance that the issue is less of a talent gap and more a resistance to doing the work to find (and keep) the right employees.

Sarah Nicastro: Welcome to the Future of Field Service podcast. I'm your host, Sarah Nicastro, coming to you from Palm Springs, California. So those of you that regularly watch or listen to the podcast would know that typically I am in my home office. Today we are filming on-site at Field Service Palm Springs. And I'm thrilled to be joined by my friend, Roy Dockery, who is the Vice President of Customer Care at Swisslog Healthcare. Thanks for being here, Roy.

Roy Dockery: Thank you. Good to be back at an in-person event here in Palm Springs when it's not Coachella.

Sarah Nicastro: Yes, true.

Roy Dockery: Like November.

Sarah Nicastro: Is this your first in-person event post-COVID?

Roy Dockery: It's not. I was at the TSIA event a couple of weeks ago in Las Vegas. So that would've been my first conference, but I've been well back into traveling since May.

Sarah Nicastro: Do you know what's funny, today's podcast, the one that actually published today is Kevin Bowers from TSIA.

Roy Dockery: Okay, yes.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. So, all right, cool. So we're here, we're back in Palm Springs. Happy to be back at the Field Service event. Roy and I were catching up yesterday, reflecting on the first podcast you were on, which was episode two. I think this week we hit 137. So it's been a while, but we're going to talk about the same topic today. And we're going to do that because I think we were maybe a little ahead of the game when we talked about the topic the first time, which is recruiting, hiring, retention. So when you were on the podcast the first time, we were talking about this talent gap, which has only exacerbated as a challenge being talked about here. So you and I both observed over the last couple days, everyone is part of every session, right?

Roy Dockery: Yeah. The Great Resignation.

Sarah Nicastro: Yes, the great resignation, yes. So we started talking about this a while ago and I realize it is a growing challenge for folks, but I like your take a lot and have a lot of respect for it because you think people need to take a little bit more responsibility for the problem. And so I want to talk about that again today, because I think that the conversation warrants a revisit because people are really struggling with this right now. And I think some of the thoughts you have around how and why people should look at their role in solving the problem a little bit deeper is good. So give us your take on this.

Roy Dockery: Yeah. So one, you have the great resignation that's around people leaving and jobs and purpose. There's all these assumptions. No one really knows why people are leaving jobs. Some people are taking pay cuts, some people are taking promotions. There's remote work being factored into it, flexibility, work-life balance. But when we look at it from a field service perspective, like we're here now, probably a couple of years after we originally had these conversations, we also talked about it in magazine interviews. And so you fast forward, I've been talking about recruitment at these events for five years. So before the great resignation, before the pandemic, I was trying to raise the awareness and make the clarion call that this going to be a problem.

Roy Dockery: We can't keep hiring people the same way because on top of people resigning to go into different fields, we had an aging workforce in field service, and they're retiring. And a lot of them now are retiring early or just taking advantage of benefits. There were health concerns with entering facilities and travel. And so the same problem is there, it just got exacerbated. So just like here at the conference, everyone's talking about digital transformation, everybody wanted video assistance tools. All of those things got accelerated and implemented during the pandemic because they became a necessity.

Roy Dockery: So I think you and I were talking about it, what now, 135 episodes ago, because we didn't want to have to be reactive. So right, we were trying to be proactive in saying we can't keep each other's technicians. And it's still happening now. I'm experiencing attrition right now, it's not significant. Our attrition rate is still less than 10%, but I'm losing people to other field service organizations. And you're overpaying for that talent. So I have an employee work for me for six or seven months and then can go get a job just because they have field service on their resumes.

Roy Dockery: So now people can jump from company to company and we're seeing that. And it's like, no one took the initiative to be able to develop a workforce. And I was talking to somebody last night at a dinner about that farming, we've been hunters for so long. And when you say take responsibility, we have to take responsibility for the fact that we got lazy in our recruitment. We got lazy in our development. We just were comfortable getting people who had industry knowledge, and not having to go through the basics. So when it comes from a training perspective, when we look historically 30 years ago at field service, when we were pulling people out of apprenticeships and out of electricians and mechanics and different union shops and taking them through all the building blocks, the foundational aspects of our business, our technology, our software, a lot of us got lazy.

Roy Dockery: We don't want to do hand tools, we don't want to teach people about multimeters and reading diagrams, even though that training takes like two days. It's not a three-month long process. And so for me, being someone that's ex-military, seeing people who are 17 and 18 years old be able to be trained in anything, as long as you give everyone the same essential training, you give everyone the same building blocks. And so my team and in our organization were like, we can do the same thing. We've effectively done the same thing because we hire people right out the military that don't have industry experience, which is consistent across field service, but you have less people who join the military, you have less people who are getting out of the military and you just have more competition now because everyone figured out that equation, everybody figured out that hack. So it's like, let me go hire military people. So even that's becoming ridiculously competitive.

Roy Dockery: So switching to and taking responsibility for the fact that if you can't bring somebody in that has the skills that your organization needs, that has the behavior that meets your culture, if you can't bring those people in and train them, that's not a talent gap problem, that's a training problem. That's a training and development issue. And that's what I think a lot of companies are wrestling with right now because it's not like there aren't people who have skills and probably the right behavior. They don't have the experience that you've been taking for granted and substituting that for an effective training program. So that's my approach and it's just we have to own it.

Roy Dockery: With all the generations and people don't stay, everything gets blamed on us millennials, oh, millennials don't stay at jobs. But it doesn't seem like Gen Xers are staying at jobs either, or that baby boomers are staying at jobs. So people just have transition, but you have to be able to develop and we've got to get back into farming and developing talent. And the cool thing about field service, like at my company, I was a field service technician, I'm the Vice President of Customer Care, but we have people from field service in every aspect of our business. They're customer success managers, they're product managers, they're software engineers, they're in our development team and our engineering department.

Roy Dockery: So it's not only a good place to farm talent for the field, it's a good place to farm talent for the organization. We have people in sales that come from field service. And installation and things like that. So if we make more of an investment in bringing those people in and be willing to develop them and let them move through the organization, that can help with the retention as well because you might not retain them in a role, but then the ultimate goal is to retain that talent within the company as well.

Sarah Nicastro: Okay. So the reality is hiring based on experience, which is what a lot of the people at this conference are still trying to do, and they're very frustrated good that it's not working, the experience is becoming extinct and, or far too expensive, right?

Roy Dockery: Yes.

Sarah Nicastro: So that is the reality that hopefully a couple years later people are now ready to hear. So let's talk about some of the antidotes to that. So if we can all accept that, that is fact and hopefully people are coming around to the idea that you can't just keep looking for people that have five years, 10 years of experience, you need to start thinking differently. There's a couple areas we need to think about. So one of the things that we've talked about is the branding problem or the PR problem that this industry has, in the sense that younger people just don't know that there are viable and fulfilling career opportunities at companies like Swisslog. They're just not known. So what are your thoughts on that part of the solution? How do you as a company, as a leader and us as an entire industry make progress in creating better awareness around field service as a career?

Roy Dockery: Yeah, right. I think to go back to what we said before, the first thing is you have to accept that you have a problem. And because of the fact that we haven't been leveraging what's available that once you accept that, then you have to be okay, what am I doing wrong now? Because you've got to admit you're doing something wrong. Hiring just for experience is wrong, it's ineffective and it has a lifespan that we are running into right now is ending. So that's the first thing. It was like, okay, so then what areas am I not looking at?

Sarah Nicastro: Okay. So let's assume that we have an understanding among people we're speaking to that the idea of hiring based on experience is no longer an option. So one of the things we need to think about then is how we create more awareness about the career opportunities that exist in field service, right?

Roy Dockery: Yeah.

Sarah Nicastro: So you're talking about really a lot of different industries, a lot of different types of companies and types of work, but all things that fly under the radar of, when you ask a kid what they want to be, when they up, they say a doctor or a nurse or a teacher, they don't say like a field technician because it's just not something that is widely known as an option. So what are your thoughts on how we, as organizations, as an industry collectively, how do we overcome that problem?

Roy Dockery: Yeah. And I think one, we have to look at it collectively as an industry, right? Like computer science programmers, like artificial intelligence. All of those things are industries. So there's outreach within that industry, there's the progression of this is what you do in high school, this is what you do in college or in technical school. We've been taken for granted, the value of people we already had within the workforce that I think field service is never really, and even now, with the podcast and we've never really marketed and publicized ourself as an industry.

Roy Dockery: So I think one thing is even with IFS and what you do on the podcast, it's like, okay, how do we reach back and say, how do we do outreach to high schools to let people know you can graduate from high school, go to a two-year technical school and then get a 50 plus thousand dollars a year job, how do you go to the technical schools and say, if you have people graduating with EET or associates degrees and information technology, let's move it forward because it's hard for us. One thing for field service, a lot of us, it's not like we have an office where we're hiring 50 people, I have 150 technicians spread across like 40 states in an entire continent.

Roy Dockery: So individually, I think it's a lot harder for us to do that outreach, but then collectively, when you look at the number of field service technicians in any given city, not necessarily in a given company, because we're talking about HVAC, retail, hospitality, restaurants, they're everywhere. But like you said, no one knows that. And I remember talking to my daughter's middle school principal and I asked him, I said, because he also had some relationships with the high school. And I said, if I asked the class of high school students right now who wants to make over $50,000 a year and travel 75% of the time, how many of them you think would say yes? And he was like, like 75% of them. And I was like, that's what field service is, but nobody knows what it is.

Roy Dockery: So right. One, we need an outreach arm. Let Sarah be the face of outreach to schools and in that space. Because I think we need to collectively foster that reality, because we all struggle from it. But even if you've got 8,000 technicians or 2,000 technicians, they're spread all over the country. So I think having that intentionality as an industry to come together to say, we need to reach into education, we need to work with workforce development, we need to work with vocational rehab through the VA and just say, these jobs are options, you don't need a bunch of experience, you need an aptitude, you need the right behavior, you need a skillset that's trainable, and then we can get you into the field.

Roy Dockery: So I think we've got to make it public, we've got to make it known as an industry, not just as employers. So we're going to have to collaborate a little bit instead of hiring all of each other's employees because in the next five years, all of those people are going to be gone, five to 10 years. So I think there's collaboration required in that to market that, like I said, in workforce development, in the education sector and in secondary and vocational education. So I think that'll be important. And then on top of that, we just have to commit. You've got to commit to doing it different, you need a different net, you got to cast in different water. You can't keep doing it the way that you have been. That might get you people for the next year or two. But like you said those people that are coming more are expensive. And then those people are just going to get hired by somebody else who will pay them more money. So we've got to learn to farm talent, and then we've got to know that that talent may come to us, but when they want to move to another city, they may go work for you. So it's like, we can't take that selfish approach because what we're all finding right now is that when somebody wants to work from home or needs a job that's maybe in the city versus regionally, when a lot of our people, my employees leave, it's like, okay, I love field service, but I don't really want to travel outside the city.

Roy Dockery: So then you go work for an ATM company. They're 40,000 ATMs within two hours versus 20 hospitals within a four-hour radius. So people are switching in between those companies to make those personal life choices and not like, we just have to be accepting of that. But if we're all working to increase the size of the pool by farming talent, instead of just hunting it, then I think we all collectively benefit. Right now we're just robbing Peter to pay Paul, as one of my managers loves to say.

Sarah Nicastro: Okay. So there's the PR issue. And then there's a couple other things I want to talk about. One is, we talked about the military, and that's kind of like, if people accept they can't get someone with five years’ experience, the default then is to go try and get them from the military. That's kind of become the new go-to, right?

Roy Dockery: Yep.

Sarah Nicastro: So that doesn't mean it's a bad source, it just means that can't be your only source. So what other sources are you exploring or finding success with when it comes to looking outside of now that as a new area of opportunity?

Roy Dockery: Yeah. And like you said, with the military, I'm ex-military, almost all my entire management team, we're actually all ex-Navy, but one thing we're noticing as well, it's becoming more competitive. So people coming out of the military with three or four years of experience now, they can demand or they can get $70,000 salary in like a non-metro area, because, like you said, that's the go-to now. So that's the new thing. But then also now you have no experience and expense. So now I have someone with no experience, that's actually more expensive as a candidate. So the main thing we've been successful with is really just changing how we're trying to recruit and what we're looking for.

Roy Dockery: So when you change your job postings, when you remove experience and specific industry knowledge, I'm not trying to hire a healthcare field service engineer, I'm not trying to hire a field service engineer at all because I know the industry has poor PR. We just had a meeting a couple of weeks ago at our HR department, and I said, find me people who worked at Chick-fil-A, I want customer service people. If you got Chick-fil-A and you've got a technical background, my managers have walked into Best Buys, to Geek Squads that are in their territories where we have job openings. But the main thing was, it's one thing to go and try to advocate or build relationships with, if we're doing stuff with handshake and building relationships with technical schools. But if when somebody from that technical school goes apply, but my job requirement and my job description still says two to three years of experience or an associate's degree or a bachelor's degree preferred, people are going to eliminate themselves. And so I think one of the problems we have is that even from hiring managers, supervisors and managers aren't really looking for people with experience, but our net is eliminating people who don't have it either through the screening process with recruitment in HR or because people don't apply to begin with.

Roy Dockery: So one thing that we found in getting more diversity and just different types of candidates, it's removing some of the obstacles that were actually just in our job posting. So remove experience, take the industry specific stuff out of it and just advocate for people. It's like a one ad for people, like not a technician. 

Sarah Nicastro: So what's some of the terminology, if you don't use field service, you don't use technician, you don't use healthcare, what does it say?

Roy Dockery: So we're recruiting for field service technicians. But when we put in experience, we want people with customer service experience, we want people who have a technical aptitude, so you don't have that technical experience. And so we've really just dumbed down those requirements so that we have more people to apply because once you can look at a resume and then get a feeling for a candidate, the issue was, my team wanted to hire different people, but they weren't applying, so it's like, I can't hire you if you don't apply. And we do it on a revolving basis, if we get a candidate that happened to apply and we look at their resume and be like, okay, they applied, even though from our job posting, it doesn't look like they were qualified.

Roy Dockery: So what we started doing is like, who have we hired lately that's like a nontraditional employee that's doing really well? And then so we continue to go and revise. And so that's, we hired somebody recently that was an employee at Chick-fil-A, recent tech school graduate, she's doing phenomenal. So let's put more weight on customer service, let's get people with more of a customer service background. So it's an ongoing kind of evolution. But the first thing we did was remove education requirements, because the vast majority of our employees do not have associates or bachelor degrees. They just don't. Most of them have military experience. We reduced the amount of military experience that we required or that we had as preferred, and then we started focusing more on customer service because we trust our technical training program.

Roy Dockery: We think we can get people up to speed technically. So we really want the right behavior, we want the right skillsets. People who are trainable, people who come up to speed quickly and mostly can interact with customers. We're in healthcare, it's a high stress environment. I used to tell people that I trained when I was in the field, this job is 90% communication and 10% fixing. So those are the skills we started looking for. And that's the same thing when you recruit. And anytime I consult with or speak to companies that are dealing with recruitment issues, that's the first thing I tell them, look at who your top performers are and tell me if they match your job description. And nine times out of 10, they do not.

Roy Dockery: Your best software engineer doesn't have a software degree, your best field service technician doesn't have an EET degree, he's the guy from Home Depot. I was talking to one guy, it was like, it was the CEO's son. And we thought we were going to hate him because he was a high school graduate, but he's our best applications engineer now. And he had no experience whatsoever, he would've never gotten that job if he wasn't related, if it wasn't nepotism, but he was good at it.

Sarah Nicastro: So I mean the point that brings up though is then you have to be willing to take some risks, right?

Roy Dockery: Yes.

Sarah Nicastro: Because it’s calculated, but in that example, he got the job because he was somebody's, whatever. But the point is you might need to try some different things to see what works, but you're better off doing that than just not trying anything.

Roy Dockery: Yeah, because you have no choice. You have to do something different. And it's like you said, it's a calculated risk. If you're hiring people who are heavier on customer service, then that means your management team has to be more intentional about training on technical. But at the same time, when we hire people who are very technical, we terminate more people for behavioral issues than we do for technical competency.

Sarah Nicastro: We were at the table yesterday, Marcela from Eppendorf said the same thing, I hire on soft skills, I can train anything else. So if you think about that, you can get good soft skills from a lot of different places. So to your point, if you invest in being able to train on the technical stuff, it opens up a lot of opportunities. Training, that's another podcast. We're not talking about that today. But there are a couple more things I want to get to.

Sarah Nicastro: One is, so we talk about making the application process more appealing so that, or I guess eliminating barriers so that you can get more people to apply and not field themselves out based on some words that are in there. But what about the job itself? Because this is the other thing you and I have talked about a bit in the past is the idea that people looking for jobs today want different things than people looking for jobs five, 10, 15, 20 years ago did. And a lot of field service organizations haven't necessarily changed the structure of their, not just, compensation probably is the most regularly changed thing. But looking at, how are we describing the role, what parts of it are we emphasizing or what changes could we make as a business that we might not have thought we needed to make, but we are capable of doing to offer more flexibility or something that is appealing to people that we want to bring into the company today?

Roy Dockery: Yeah. And I think it has to do with the type of, one, the kind of services that we can dynamically offer as an organization. So field service has high demand, travels. Sometimes you got to be flexible, you're on-call. That's an eliminating factor for some people, especially people have to deal with childcare and things of that nature, having to run a call at two o'clock in the morning with no notice and you have a four-year old, that's just not a job that you can take. So one of the things that we've even looked at evolving over time is, we will interview somebody and then we'll have multiple openings and then we can make a suggestion, okay, maybe you take this role that is a resident for this particular hospital, and so that's all you have to do. You cover that site and you have on-call, but it's once every four weeks. And so you create that flexibility. And a lot of it has to do with how forthright and open the candidates are right about what their needs are, which I think is improving now.

Roy Dockery: A lot of people didn't feel like they could stress what they needed and the flexibility had. They thought, think it would put their job at risk. And so I think one, that's one thing you have to encourage people to be open, I don't want you to take a job that you then can't physically do as well.

Sarah Nicastro: I think it's another change from COVID too though. Because work from home became more common, flexibility became a more in-demand criteria. And I think it is something for field service companies to think about because each business is different. So there's no prescriptive answer, but we had a consultant on the podcast, not so long ago, Lauren Winans with Next Level. And one of the things she brought up is, if we know flexibility is and is going to continue to be very, very important, then again, it's another area to break out of, well we just can't. It's just field service we just can't and actually sit down and look at like, okay, operationally, are there ways we could, can we do some sort of rotating schedule so that it does become possible to provide that in some way or is there some halfway point?

Sarah Nicastro: Maybe it's not flexibility to this degree, but you could have an extra day off every two weeks. You know what I mean? Whatever it is to meet in the middle, if we know that that is such an important factor for people. There's recruiting in terms of getting fish to bite, to get in the door. But then there's recruiting in the sense of am I offering an employee value proposition that is appealing. And that means you need to understand what your target audience wants and needs. And that might be then a second phase of having to really examine where you're at and if you need to make some changes. Just because they're telling you they want flexibility doesn't mean that you just kick them out the door and... If you're going to hear that every time somebody walks in for an interview, then you have to start thinking as a company, what do we do with this data?

Roy Dockery: Yeah. And it becomes limiting from that standpoint as well, because there's a pool. In field service, I'm never surprised when somebody leaves. It's a difficult job, who wants to be on-call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. When I interview people, I'm like, we're crazy, we're a unique breed of people, but-

Sarah Nicastro: You're going to love it till you hate it.

Roy Dockery: Yeah, you're going to love it till you hate it. And it's a certain dynamic of people, but I think that's why organizations also have to be intentional about not just training people but developing them. 

Sarah Nicastro: That was the last point I wanted to talk about, which is, you have to figure out how to get more people interested in the career opportunities, you have to make sure that you are creating an employee value proposition that is appealing to the people you're trying to hire today, not the people that work for you now.

Sarah Nicastro: You have to come to grips with the fact that there are realities you have to contend with, you can't just offer the same thing you've always offered and expect people to be interested in it. And while there are constrictions on how much a given industry can recreate that value proposition, I think people, again, it's another area where people are kind of lazy, they just default to, nope, we've hired on experience, we'll do that. Nope, this is what it is. You take it or leave it. And that just has to change. But the last area I want to talk about is this idea of retention. And I like the point you made at the beginning about maybe field service is sort of the entry level where we can bring people in without experience, without education requirements, train them on the technical parts, as long as they have the soft skills and the aptitude to learn and then farm them up for the rest of the business.

Sarah Nicastro: So you kind of keep that continual flow. You have the talent you need when you need it, but you know going in, it's not going to stay there for 10, 15, 20, 30 years like it has in the past. So talk about that part.

Roy Dockery: So I had dinner last week with an employee that was retiring after 30 years. I'm like, so why do you see people coming in and going? But people define success in different ways. So success was to have a job that would let me retire with the pension and I can take care of my family. That's a very traditional kind of concept, but people want challenges, they want to do different things, they want to have transitions. I've had technically five jobs in the last 11 years, but I've worked at the same company. So I'm not someone who wants to keep doing the same thing constantly, but luckily I've been able to find additional challenges at work.

Roy Dockery: So I think when we bring them in, we've hired people from the warehouse to work in technical support. Within an organization, we have to be focused on what skills do we have within the organization. And then when we have those foundational skills and behavior, if you understand my customer base, if you understand my product, if you understand our processes and our workflow and our installations, where else can you be beneficial? So we have people that go from the field to be project engineers and then become full-fledged project managers. We have people become estimators, and then go from estimating to doing applications and design and go from that to being design analysts.

Roy Dockery: So you can bring them in and they get a feel of the company, but we can get value out of them, we can get revenue out of them. But when I tell my team, if we can retain somebody in the field for two or three years, I'm happy about that. I just think the type of people that worked in the field for 30 years, I just think there's less of them, regardless of like, some people will come in and they'll be happy. That's what they'll do. Other people are going to want challenges. They're more into software than they are into hardware.

Roy Dockery: So as they start working, they start leaning towards one part of the technology than other, then find them a role in that space instead of constantly robbing from other companies. And then you said there's a risk, there's a risk, I can take you from the field and put you in a more technical role and you won't get it. But you face the same risk when you take an external employee and bring them in. They may not meet your culture, they may not understand your customer base, they may not understand your products. So it's a risk, but we've just got to be, yeah.

Sarah Nicastro: And when it comes to the overall puzzle of what we're talking about here, maybe the fact that people aren't as willing to stay still in these roles is that actually something companies can use to their advantage. I think that part of that though is again, thinking ahead and making sure that you accept the reality for what it is and then work backwards on how to communicate with the employees about it. I'm not saying people only leave because they don't know the growth potential, but I'm saying companies today know growth potential is very important for new employees. So if you're not communicating from the beginning what that growth potential is for them at your company, don't expect they're just going to figure it out or know it or they're going to stick around and wait for you to communicate it.

Sarah Nicastro: If there's some way to provide some of that information up front on, here's what your potential is as a field service technician, but then beyond that, here's a bunch of different paths you could take within Swisslog and here's the different timelines that you could start exploring, whatever. I've seen people charted out very specifically or I've seen people just be a little bit more high level, but I think the point is you need to understand that these people from the beginning are going to want more. So how do you use that to your advantage instead of letting them just get picked off by other people?

Roy Dockery: Yeah. What's funny for me, so starting in the field and then moving up through the company and becoming a VP, I've been a Vice President now for over six years. So I started noticing... And when you say communicating that, I think sometimes we do a good job of communicating that during the interview and like, oh, the Vice President was in the field and the person who's interviewing you was in the field, but then that's it. So we don't keep communicating that. So I started noticing a couple of years ago, there were people who worked within our organization that never knew I was in the field, they thought I came into the company as a vice president. I'm like, no, I came in as a technician.

Roy Dockery: So even reiterating that story and keeping that narrative where... We were talking to the HR department, I'm like, I need to celebrate more when somebody leaves my organization and goes into design and applications or into estimating, because I don't want to make it seem like, they took from me, we're retaining, and even our HR department, did they joke, they were like, they have a ratio for me, it's called the internal development ratio. So it's not attrition for my team because half of my attrition is internal.

Roy Dockery: So they leave and go to other departments and we advocate for them, we recommend them. And we also try to do individual development plans, which I think is, right, you've got targets and you've got objectives that you've got to measure, which is how we've done performance management forever. And I love the fact that our company said, okay, we're going to do that. But then we're also going to have individual development plans for everyone, so where do you want to go, what is your short-term goal, what do you want to do in the next one or two years, where do you want to be in two to five years? 

Sarah Nicastro: And if you think about, that process serves multiple purposes. Because you're able then to understand what people like, where they see themselves, what their goals are and that helps you map them into different functions of the business. But at the same time, I think when it comes to retention, it also makes them realize that Swisslog as a company is invested in their long-term potential, not just their short-term ability to help the company meet metrics.

Roy Dockery: Yeah, and do the job, right? Yeah.

Sarah Nicastro: So in terms of engagement and satisfaction, it's not just smart because you get an idea of what you could present to them as their next step, but you're investing in the relationship with them and creating more loyalty. So that's kind of like the secondary benefit. You know what I mean?

Roy Dockery: Yeah. Because you don't want them just focused on the job. I know this job is rob Peter pay Paul, I know somebody else will pay you 10, $20,000 more than me to travel internationally until you get to go to Brazil. From a job perspective, it's very competitive. There's a lot of different places you can go work. And my management team was talking with HR, they were like, we don't try to sell people on the job, we try to sell people at Swisslog. Everyone in my leadership team comes from the field. Everyone, every manager, every director, they all came from the field. So it's like, we're examples of what we're trying to represent and just building it in that way.

Sarah Nicastro: That is a story you should be telling.

Roy Dockery: Yeah. And that's what we do. And we had that discussion with HR and I'm like, so that's why sometimes somebody's more expensive and we just pass on them. And it's not because they want to come here for a job that pays more money, no, we want to give people an opportunity to build a career. And I tell my employees all at time, I hold you responsible for developing your employees, even if it's developing them out of this company. So if we're developing people and helping them reach their individual potential and we don't have a position, then I'll give you a referral to go work somewhere else, because you're interested in the person and their career. So if they really want to go and they've been doing project management and we had one opening, but it's filled now and we may not have another one for a year or two then fine, I'll give you a referral to go work somewhere as a project manager, I'll let you shadow some of our project managers, so you have experience so you can intelligently speak to it during an interview.

Roy Dockery: I've got supervisors right now that I know are interviewing for management roles. I encourage my managers to go for director roles. And even my directors, I want them to be a Vice President, but I have three directors and there's one me. So two of you might need to go be Vice President somewhere else, or when they take my job, I'll go somewhere else. But I think that's the thing and you're right, there's more that you can sell in that story. But I do think organizations, because then that changes how the entire organization looks at field service.

Roy Dockery: So can you pull from sales, can you pull from engineering project management? What's an entry level position in engineering that you can transition to field service technician to? So if you build out that map of, and we kind of know, so we'll say, hey, one of our people went into engineering through this role or one of our people went into project management through this role, so we can kind of map it out. But as organizations to come together from a leadership perspective and say, okay, if we had success, and almost every company does, there's someone from field service in every department, but map that out for people and make it plain. And then that can probably help more with retention. And again, maybe not retention specifically in field service, but keeping that talent within your organization so that you don't lose the history and the experience and whatever passion they already have for what they're doing.

Sarah Nicastro: Okay. So in summary, let's say we had this conversation a few years ago, here we are having it again and hopefully people are ready to listen this time, what would be your closing words of wisdom for people that are now ready to hear what you're saying?

Roy Dockery: Take responsibility, it's our fault. We have to own it. I'm not one to defend HR, we all have our struggles with recruitment, but we incentivize the behavior we reward. If you keep getting candidates and are not the kind of candidates you want, but you keep hiring them, then human resources and recruiting is doing their job. So we have to own it. If we see the price of a new employee going up, if we see attrition from new employees that have been here for a year or two taking other jobs, then we've got to own that and understand what we need to do to better retain our talent and also to give people more opportunities to grow within the organization. But we just have to own it and we should be proactive. And we all have to react right now because we don't have a choice, but we also have to think past the immediate problem.

Roy Dockery: So like I said, we've got to start worrying about how do we do outreach to high schools that are doing alternative paths and people not going to universities for four years. How do we work with workforce development agencies at the state level, at the federal level, how do we bring back apprenticeships and really be able to offer an entry level position where we can trust. There's limiting things for field service, like credit cards. A lot of us got rid of company cards, a lot of us require people to rent vehicles. Most of that stuff you can't do under 21. So they're even fundamental roadblocks, and obstacles that we have that we could eliminate or that we could create some mitigations for that really allow us to develop the next generation of talent that we'll need for field service. But we have to own it and take responsibility and take action.

Sarah Nicastro: Roy, thank you for being you here with me. I appreciate it.

Roy Dockery: Thank you.

Sarah Nicastro: You can find more by visiting us at futureoffieldservice.com. You can also find us on LinkedIn, as well as Twitter at The Future of FS. The Future of Field Service podcast is published in partnership with IFS. You can learn more at ifs.com. As always, thank you for listening.

Most Recent

January 24, 2022 | 5 Mins Read

The Role of Employee, Customer, and Technology Trust in Transformation

January 24, 2022 | 5 Mins Read

The Role of Employee, Customer, and Technology Trust in Transformation


By Sarah Nicastro, Creator, Future of Field Service

Nearly every business is amid some sort of transformation today. The two most common forms we discuss here are digital transformation and business transformation, in the sense of evolving the company’s go-to-market and customer value proposition. What I want to discuss today is the critical role that trust plays in the success of transformation and the importance of prioritizing the development of trust among your employees, your customers, and with the technology you invest in.

As this Deloitte article, Ethical Technology and Trust, states, “In what we recognize as an emerging trend, some companies are approaching trust not as a compliance or public relations issue but as a business-critical goal to be pursued—one that can differentiate them in an increasingly complex and overfilled market. Every aspect of a company that is disrupted by technology represents an opportunity to gain or lose trust with customers, employees, partners, investors, and/or regulators.”

Building a Culture of Trust

I believe the focus on trust must start internally. If your customers don’t trust the company vision, top-level company leadership, or their individual managers, building trust with customers becomes nearly impossible. A culture of top-down mandates and forcefulness is a thing of the past – you need to focus on how you build a culture of engagement and satisfaction, and trust is fundamental.

This Harvard Business Review article, The Neuroscience of Trust, reveals that “Compared with people at low-trust companies, people at high-trust companies report: 74% less stress, 106% more energy at work, 50% higher productivity, 13% fewer sick days, 76% more engagement, 29% more satisfaction with their lives, 40% less burnout.”

Looking at these statistics, you can imagine how a high-trust culture pays off in business-model or digital transformation. Employees who are engaged and satisfied and who trust their leadership buy into the vision being presented and work more energetically toward the desired outcome – versus trying to pull the weight of a low-trust culture along.

When it comes to digital transformation specifically, the Deloitte article references earlier suggests considering the emotions of your employees and handling their concerns transparently. The article says, “Give employees a reason to trust. Much of the anxiety over AI and other advanced technologies stems from the fear of the displacement of labor. From an ethical perspective, this presents business leaders with a challenge: balancing the best interests of the business, the employees, and the wider community and society. It’s a task made more complex by the fact that advanced technology systems are not self-sufficient. While AI can replace some jobs, for example, it creates others that often require specialized skills and training. Companies can build trust with employees by advising them how technology may affect their jobs in the future. This could include retraining workers whose roles may evolve and who will likely work with automated systems.”

Business Growth is Contingent Upon Trust

While an internal culture of trust should be priority number one, building trust with your customers is equally important – the company culture comes first only because it fuels the success of your external efforts. Today’s customers have options – and their expectations are high, with trust being the barrier to entry. Just to earn business, let alone evolve or expand it, customers expect you to keep your word good, meet your commitments, and get the job done. 

According to PwC’s Trust in Business Survey, 49% of consumers started purchasing or purchased more from a company because of trust. So, for companies looking to transform their business models from product provider to As-a-Service, or from break-fix to outcomes-based, this evolution isn’t conceivable without a strong foundation of trust. For a customer to want to invest in a new, different, expanded relationship with your company, they must have a deep level of trust in your understanding of their needs, your commitment, and your abilities. 

From a digital perspective, technology has the ability to strengthen trust with your customers – or break it. You need to ensure you are applying ample attention, and investment, to your digital initiatives to ensure you achieve the former. 

Invest in Technology You Can Trust

While the emphasis on trust should be weighted toward your employees and customers, your technology investments are a through-line that – when executed well – can help you build that trust. Today’s digital landscape is exciting in the sense that it is more sophisticated and intelligent than ever, but also overwhelming in that it is more complex. 

The key to building a digital ecosystem you can trust is to focus on minimizing that complexity. As the Deloitte article states, one important aspect is a strong foundation. The article says, “Build a strong data foundation. Without methodically and consistently tracking what data you have, where it lives, and who can access it, you cannot create an environment of trust. A strong data foundation unifies stakeholders around a single vision of data accountability and delivers on secure technology that supports effective data management.”

Consider business needs and don’t be distracted by what’s “cool” simply because it’s cool. Be cognizant of failure points – streamlining as much as you can into a single platform helps to keep the employee and customer experience smooth and data integrity high. Start with solid execution of core elements, and only then look for opportunities to add more sophistication and automation. And get feedback as you go! Asking your employees and your customers for their input is a great way to strengthen trust (as long as they see their insights put to use). You can find some more great advice from our recent podcast guest Dr. Haroon Abbu, VP of Digital, Data, and Analytics at Bell and Howell who, in 2021, co-authored the book TRUST: The Winning Formula for Digital Leaders – A Practical Guide for Companies Engaged in Digital Transformation

What Drives Trust?

If you’re wondering what drives trust, I’d start with reflecting on what drives trust for you. What helps you to trust an organization – or even an individual? Are those concepts reflected in your company culture, your customer relationships, and your partnerships with technology providers?

For some external perspective, PwC reported in its Trust in Business Survey what respondents said were the top drivers of trust in company (asked of both employees and consumers). The top six responses were:

  • Accountable to customers and employees – 50%
  • Clear communications – 48%
  • Admits to mistakes – 40%
  • Delivers consistent customer experience – 39%
  • Appropriate employee compensation – 32%
  • Protects customer and employee data – 29% 

Each of these characteristics sound simple at face value but have varying degrees of complexity when it comes to the realities of execution. No matter the effort it takes, though, prioritizing trust is key to accomplishing the objectives we have in digital and business transformation. 

Most Recent

January 19, 2022 | 22 Mins Read

Bell and Howell’s Winning Formula for Digital

January 19, 2022 | 22 Mins Read

Bell and Howell’s Winning Formula for Digital


Dr. Haroon Abbu, Vice President of Digital, Data, and Analytics at Bell and Howell and co-author of the 2021 book Trust: The Winning Formula for Digital Leaders, a Practical Guide for Digital Transformation talks with Sarah about the differences between digitally mature and digitally developing organizations.

Sarah Nicastro: Welcome to the Future of Field Service podcast. I'm your host, Sarah Nicastro. Today, we're going to be talking about all things digital, data, and analytics. I'm excited to be joined today by Dr. Haroon Abbu, who is the Vice President of Digital, Data and Analytics at Bell and Howell, as well as co-author of the 2021 book, Trust: The Winning Formula for Digital Leaders, A Practical Guide for Digital Transformation. Haroon, welcome to the Future of Field Service podcast.

Haroon Abbu: Thank you. And great to be here, Sarah.

Sarah Nicastro: Yes. I'm excited to have you. Alright. So before we dig into some of the points we want to be sure to cover today, tell our listeners just a little bit more about yourself, your background, your role at Bell and Howell, that sort of thing.

Haroon Abbu: Glad to. My name is Haroon Abbu. I'm the Vice President of Digital, Data and Analytics at Bell and Howell, which is headquartered in Triangle Park in North Carolina. I've been with Bell and Howell for the last 12 years. If you don't know, Bell and Howell is a technology enabled services company with over 850 service engineers. Bell and Howell services industrial equipment from mail automation to robotics with a large install base in North America spanning multiple OEMs. The company also delivers comprehensive solution for retail click-and-collect grocery, pharmacy automation, and production mail industries. Currently I'm focusing on transforming the company through analytics and digital technologies, such as IOT, machine learning, artificial intelligence and field service automation. My team is building digital service offerings, such as remote monitoring by connecting both Legacy and new equipment through log file sensors, et cetera, and processing them in real-time in order to provide prescriptive insights and recommendation to our field service technicians.

Sarah Nicastro: Okay, excellent. So can you talk to me a little bit, Haroon, about what drew you to the field of digital transformation?

Haroon Abbu: Yeah, it's a great question. My undergraduate degree is in industrial engineering. I was always fascinated with operational improvements and efficiency gains, which my, which drove my choice of major. Then I did my MBA and M.S. in Engineering Management with intention of working in a managerial role in manufacturing. Right after my graduation, at that time, I worked in a company that was transitioning from print production to audio cassette manufacturing, and then to the manufacturing of compact discs and DVDs. So in that company, I saw firsthand how a company can be disrupted by rapid changes in technology and can eventually go under if it cannot keep up with the speed of innovation.

Haroon Abbu: When I started at Bell and Howell, I quickly witnessed the same challenge, which is transitioning from a Legacy Mail equipment manufacturing company, into state-of-the-art technology enabled services company, as well as a solution provider for cutting edge technologies in click-and-collect business. While working at Bell and Howell, I also pursued my Ph.D. on digital transformation, where I studied, how physical companies digitally transform themselves. I strongly believe that digital transformation, when done right, can add tremendous value to an organization in number of ways.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. No, it's a really exciting field. I actually recently wrote an article. I've had a few people in the last couple months ask me, "Do you think we should still be using the term digital transformation?" Right? And-

Haroon Abbu: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Sarah Nicastro: ... So I sort of reflected on that in the article because I do get where they're coming from and there's a couple different points that have been made. One is some people perceive that they have already transformed in the instance of the initial migration to a digital ecosystem.

Haroon Abbu: Right.

Sarah Nicastro: And then, is transformation the appropriate word if we're really talking about something that's more of an ongoing continual effort? What are your thoughts on that?

Haroon Abbu: Definitely. It's not digital transformation because it's table stakes. All companies need to go through digital transformation. We nowadays effort to has just digital. It's companies, how companies can innovate their business models using digital technologies-

Sarah Nicastro: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Haroon Abbu: ... Because digital actually magnifies the traditional metrics. In the olden days, if you're getting one X return on something, once we have the backbone under digital systems, then the impact is multifold because-

Sarah Nicastro: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Haroon Abbu: ... The investment is already made, then it's basically scaling up from there.

Sarah Nicastro: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Haroon Abbu: So it's basically how companies can use digital in their strategy.

Sarah Nicastro: Right.

Haroon Abbu: There is no business strategy in digital strategy because digital is the strategy.

Sarah Nicastro: Right.

Haroon Abbu: Because if they don't have digital, then it's very difficult to manage your business going forward.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. So what I said was, "You could call it the digital journey. You could call it the digital..." What was the other term I used? Something like that. The problem is-

Haroon Abbu: Yeah.

Sarah Nicastro: ... People hate all of those words. Do you know what I mean? There's always someone that says, "Oh, I'm sick of journey" or "I'm sick of transformation" or whatever. And at the end of the day, it really isn't so much what we call it, but a common understanding within the business that digital is an imperative part of the business and the strategy. Right? And I kind of laid it out into a continuum just based on the stories that I've heard and helped tell over a number of years of how companies tend to progress through that.

Haroon Abbu: Yeah.

Sarah Nicastro: I think honestly the definition and that common understanding can be a challenge in and of itself for businesses. What are some of the other ways you see companies struggling to really succeed with digital?

Haroon Abbu: Yeah. So digital, the classic definition that I use is it's the process of using digital technologies to create or modify business processes, culture, and customer experiences to meet the changing business and market requirements, right? So it's basically a fundamental change in the organization's mindset, systems, data, and tools, all that need to be together, needed to reposition the entire company and company's business model. So we, when I say we, I basically, it's the research teams that I work with at innovation departments of two prestigious universities. One is Business Analytics Initiative of North Carolina State University, which is headquartered here, which is located in Raleigh. And Innovation Department at RWTH Aachen University in Germany. So we first studied the phenomenon of digital transformation through an extensive survey that we designed called Patterns of Digitization survey. So this survey examined every aspect of digital and how it is implemented.

Haroon Abbu: We looked at over 500 companies, their business strategies, how they allocate resources, their design practices, et cetera. In addition to that technology angle, we also analyzed the people side of things, what we call soft skills-

Sarah Nicastro: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Haroon Abbu: ... How their leaders communicate, how they build trust in their teams, et cetera. And what we realized, or what we saw was that companies fall into two distinct groups. One is digitally developing companies. The other one is digitally mature. Far majority of those 500 companies where digitally developing versus digitally mature companies. The companies that focus mainly on technology rather than cultural and mindset aspects of digital are really struggling to implement it.

Sarah Nicastro: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah. That makes sense. Absolutely. And there's so many layers to this where you realize that it's also about incorporating new skill sets, right? So the role that you've taken on and in Bell and Howell is a really good example of dedicating more resource, energy, and effort to this practice. Right? And, sometimes I think companies struggle to figure out how they need to digitally advance without recognizing some of the new and different skill sets that are necessary within the organization to really go as far as they need to. Does that make sense?

Haroon Abbu: Absolutely. Absolutely.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah.

Haroon Abbu: Yeah.

Sarah Nicastro: While also to your point, making sure that the incumbent people are understanding the evolution and bought into where the company is going and the introduction of different tools or different ways of measurement or different practices of making business decisions. All of the things that come from, not just the introduction of the digital tools, but as reflected in your title, the result of that is the data you didn't have access to before. And, the way that you can analyze the business in ways that you couldn't do prior. Right? So there's the idea of digital tools is really the beginning of this journey, not the finish line. Right?

Haroon Abbu: Absolutely. Absolutely.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah.

Haroon Abbu: Yeah.

Sarah Nicastro: So if you look at a company that you consider digitally mature, who has done a really good job at this-

Haroon Abbu: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Sarah Nicastro: ... Versus someone earlier on in the process maybe a bit of a laggard or someone that still has quite a bit of work to do to digitally transform, what would you say would be the key differences that would sort of surface between those businesses?

Haroon Abbu: Yes. So we statistically validated these results. So the major driver for the differences between digitally mature and digitally developing companies is the differences in human dimensions of digital leaders, right? Digital mature organizations are managed differently. Their leaders align the human and financial resources with a strategy. They create an innovative culture, even within a Legacy environment like Bell and Howell, you create a collaborative environment, innovative environment, kind of entrepreneurial culture, promote open and transparent communication that enduring human traits of these leaders far outweigh the proficiency in the technology evolving field of information technology. Yeah.

Sarah Nicastro: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Haroon Abbu: The knowledge of the technology is important. But it's also how you exhibit, how you promote the, that culture.

Sarah Nicastro: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Haroon Abbu: How do you make digital part of your strategic priorities? It's the ability to engender trust of their employees. It's more about people than it's about digital technology.

Sarah Nicastro: Right.

Haroon Abbu: So it actually requires organizational changes to the customer centric that's backed by leaders.

Sarah Nicastro: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Haroon Abbu: So that's pretty much what we found is that the leaders, they trust their teams. They put leadership in place. They hire the right skill sets. They build credibility. They tell stories of when they're successful or their failure, so that employees are properly aligned to the theme of digital.

Sarah Nicastro: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Okay. Now, would you say that there are some, I guess, common trends in terms of as a company moves from digitally developing to digitally mature, if you look at the people part, right?

Haroon Abbu: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Sarah Nicastro: So, I understand what you're saying. The impact of leadership and how leadership views this transformation and understands its role in acting as a motivator and acting as a connector but not needing to act as a doer of all things. Right? And, really trusting the team. Would you say there's any commonalities, though, in the new skills or new roles that you see companies bringing in to help support and build this out?

Haroon Abbu: Yes. So, the key thing is when you hire new people, trying to have them understand the value about the data. So it's basically starting out with what is that you're trying to do with the digital.

Sarah Nicastro: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Haroon Abbu: It's not a buzzword anymore.

Sarah Nicastro: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Haroon Abbu: So what is your business goal? What is that your company try trying to do with digital transformation or digital tools? For example, take Bell and Howell. We were transforming a company from a manufacturing based mail production based company that was in rapid decline 10 years ago, five years ago, and create new business models. We were transforming ourselves into a technology enabled people powered service organization. And in order to do that, in order to service other OEMs in the robotic space and in other adjacent markets that we never handled before we needed new business models, including remote monitoring.

Haroon Abbu: And, we are able to connect because our existing Break-Fix model no longer works when we are servicing retail, one of the largest retailer with 5,000 stores.

Sarah Nicastro: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Haroon Abbu: We had to do more with remote monitoring. So how do we do remote monitoring? We had to obviously put the digital backbone with IOT machine learning algorithms where analytics data is the underpinning.

Sarah Nicastro: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Haroon Abbu: So we had to do that. And now, at this point at, we are remotely monitoring 98% of our service calls on this new click-and-collect, the retail focus product. And in order to do that, we need to win over our technicians. We need to start small and show them that, hey, there is value here.

Sarah Nicastro: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Haroon Abbu: You're able to resolve an issue in 10 minutes. And the remote monitoring platform, the digital backbone we put together is going to tell you what the issue is.

Sarah Nicastro: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Haroon Abbu: And then there is that contextual information. So you're able to fix a problem in 10 minutes, rather than having to roll the trucks and resolve, or take it for, three hours or four hours. We just cannot scale that model. Right?

Sarah Nicastro: Right.

Haroon Abbu: So they see that as sucks. So when they see that, okay, now I see the value of data. These guys are really modeling it, algorithm, using algorithms to minimize the attention needed to these machines.

Sarah Nicastro: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Haroon Abbu: So when those machines are calling home, meaning our home office, creating a service call, alerting them, and then if they cannot fix it in the same field service management system, dispatching a technician based on geolocation, based on skill sets, et cetera.

Sarah Nicastro: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Haroon Abbu: That's really a win. So they see that. And when they see that as successful, then the culture slowly starts to change.

Sarah Nicastro: Sure.

Haroon Abbu: So that, okay, there is innovation happening. There is value in data that I see, and then they are on your side. Right?

Sarah Nicastro: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Haroon Abbu: So yeah, technology played a key role, but do they need to know how we solve this using algorithms, machine learning, artificial intelligence? No, they don't need to know that.

Sarah Nicastro: No. Right.

Haroon Abbu: Yeah. They don't need to know the technology details. But just focusing on technology details is not going to win them over.

Sarah Nicastro: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Haroon Abbu: So right from the top management, we need to make this strategically intentional-

Sarah Nicastro: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Haroon Abbu: ... Analytics and digital is strategically intentional. It's not because everybody else is doing.

Sarah Nicastro: Right.

Haroon Abbu: No it's part of our strategy. We need to make sure this happens. And then we talk about it. We talk more about it. We share the success stories.

Sarah Nicastro: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Haroon Abbu: And then the whole organization becomes part of it.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah.

Haroon Abbu: We are not there quite yet, but I think we are making progress.

Sarah Nicastro: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Haroon Abbu: Same thing, we implemented KPIs, field service performance metrics. This is how we measure our success. This is how our OEMs measure our success.

Sarah Nicastro: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Haroon Abbu: That's defined throughout the company. And we measure it in real time using the digital platform that we put together.

Sarah Nicastro: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Haroon Abbu: So we see how those then cause improvements in our operational efficiencies, et cetera.

Sarah Nicastro: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Haroon Abbu: So that's, it takes, it's a journey, as you said. It takes time.

Sarah Nicastro: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Haroon Abbu: But digital for me is a lot more than technology. Technology is important. You need the right people to get to understand the technology.

Sarah Nicastro: Right.

Haroon Abbu: But it's bringing that, bringing people on board.

Sarah Nicastro: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Haroon Abbu: It's changing their mindset.

Sarah Nicastro: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Haroon Abbu: It's very critical for our success.

Sarah Nicastro: I think it's also, I agree a hundred percent, but I also think there's this kind of stumbling block. And so I mentioned that continuum, right?

Haroon Abbu: Yeah.

Sarah Nicastro: And there seems to be this stumbling block where, like you said, digital today is table stakes, right? So we're not talking about, should we and all of that stuff, right? It's a given.

Haroon Abbu: Right.

Sarah Nicastro: But I think you have some leaders who understand it's important and advocate for it. But where they get stuck is all of a sudden they have this wealth of data that they don't know what to do with. Right? So then it becomes, they've gotten a certain ways to the end game, right, which is really being able to not have digital tools for the sake of digital tools, but have digital tools for the sake of extracting the relevant insights and stories from the data to make better decisions or to solve more issues remotely or to create a new customer value proposition. Right?

Haroon Abbu: Yep. Yep.

Sarah Nicastro: And so from the analytics and the storytelling perspective, what is the best advice you have there for making sure that you are not just going down this path because you know you need to, but going down this path with the right outcomes in mind?

Haroon Abbu: Yeah, exactly. It's starting with the right outcome.

Sarah Nicastro: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Haroon Abbu: What is the business objective, right?

Sarah Nicastro: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Haroon Abbu: What is the business objective? What are the business questions you're trying to answer with data and what digital tools you need to do that?

Sarah Nicastro: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Haroon Abbu: For example, in Bell and Howell case, if our goal is to provide or invent or innovate new business models to grow our service business because we are no longer servicing our own equipment, we are servicing 50 plus other OEM equipment. So we needed a new business model, which is remote monitoring, remote collaboration tools, et cetera. So, that's our business model. We needed to innovate the business model from traditional Break-Fix to more on the predictive, prescriptive side, right? So, that was our business model innovation. So in order to do that, what did we need? We needed a digital backbone, right?

Haroon Abbu: Which takes these machine log information in real-time from these machines. And then we put together IOT based platform that built a model on, okay, if this and this, the error logs happen, this is your likely action. Basically, intelligent with algorithms and then connect that to our field service management system.

Sarah Nicastro: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Haroon Abbu: So, that service call gets created. And then it's visualized service call can be closed. It can visualize using Tableau platform, et cetera, et cetera. So, that was our business need. And that's how we solved using digital tools.

Sarah Nicastro: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Haroon Abbu: The second thing is we needed to improve our operational efficiency, which is one of the main starting block in any continuum. For example, that you're talking about focus on your operational efficiencies. In order to do that, we need to come up with some KPIs. We are out of this organization, but we did not really have a commonly communicated, commonly defined performance metrics.

Sarah Nicastro: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Haroon Abbu: And so we defined that based on some of the best practices. And then we developed a method to measure those metrics in real time for each OEM. And also for every technician, what's his tech utilization? What his first time fixed rate? What is his call, close rate? All that kind of stuff, so we can provide a scorecard with the idea that if we improve that we'll obviously achieve some operational efficiencies and then we'll also be able to present that to our OEMs. So they can also see how we are improving towards the whole.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah.

Haroon Abbu: So yeah. So all in all it comes down to, what's your main objective?

Sarah Nicastro: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Haroon Abbu: Which is tied to a strategy.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah.

Haroon Abbu: You have to tie that to the strategy and then go get the data. You may not have all the data. Or whatever data we think we have been collecting may be useless.

Sarah Nicastro: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Haroon Abbu: Right? So define the problem and then see if you have data. If you don't have data, put systems in place where we can collect the data and then improve, refine the data, so that will ultimately lead us to operational improvement or in the case of remote monitoring, et cetera, new business models.

Sarah Nicastro: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Haroon Abbu: That should be some of the analytics driven path towards digital. But analytics driven path for improvement are new business models using digital technologies and tools.

Sarah Nicastro: Okay. Alright. So speaking of data, in the book, you did this research and so you had this analysis of digital based on the statistics that you found.

Haroon Abbu: Yeah.

Sarah Nicastro: But you also incorporated interviews. So tell me a little bit about the importance and the value you found in talking directly with other digital leaders to put the content for the book together.

Haroon Abbu: Yeah. So as you said, we had compelling statistics based on the studies that we have done. But we wanted to go and talk to successful digital leaders.

Sarah Nicastro: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Haroon Abbu: So we interviewed 15 digital leaders in the U.S., as well as, in Germany. We know they're successful based on their track record. These are proven companies with proven successes in digital transformation. So they included CEOs and Chief Data Officers, business unit leaders from automobiles, medical equipment, IT services, and lot of different fields. So, these interviews showed us that the strength of their leadership based on what they told us comes as much from their personal character, as it does from their competencies to deploy digital technologies. So most of these leaders actually model human dimensions to build trust in their organization.

Sarah Nicastro: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Haroon Abbu: Most of the Chief Data Officers, what we have found is the average tenure is two to three years. So they need to make sure, and CDO roles are pretty much recent, so they're basically have to work together with a lot of other Cs, a lot of other business here leaders, we call them their boundary spans boundary, spanning capabilities.

Sarah Nicastro: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Haroon Abbu: So they need to be able to work with multiple departments and multiple people. So they need to have growth mindset. They need to have storytelling capabilities, et cetera. And after talking to these 15 digital leaders, we methodically, using content analysis, actually developed a scale to measure human dimensions of digital leaders.

Sarah Nicastro: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Haroon Abbu: So there are 15 human dimensions that came out of these studies as well as interviews. And actually there is a self-assessment tool on our website patternsofdigitization.com, where digital leaders can actually go and take that survey. And it actually shows them how they are doing on various dimensions like storytelling or ethical use of AI or growth mindset or humility, integrity, et cetera.

Haroon Abbu: It shows them where they are lacking so that they can measure themselves or they can have their team measure them. So that's part of our research, continuing research. They're also, we are also in the process of developing some tools that will help them improve their skills that are in deficit.

Sarah Nicastro: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Haroon Abbu: Sometimes these are, these seem to be trivial, but they're not really trivial. It matters a lot when you are implementing a major company wide initiative. How do you really make sure that they're successful? And as you know, most of the times technology, yeah. Implementation of technology is one thing.

Sarah Nicastro: Right.

Haroon Abbu: Even field service management system, for example. But it's after that, what happens? How is it internalized by the people, by the employees in the organization?

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. Yeah. That makes sense. What would you say, Haroon, has been the hardest? Personally, Larry Blue, the CEO of Bell and Howell has been on the podcast before as well. And I think the company has a really cool story of how you really reshape the identity of the business. It is a really compelling story. That being said, I'm sure it wasn't easy. So, looking back on that journey, what would you say was the hardest part of digitally transforming the Legacy Bell and Howell business?

Haroon Abbu: Yeah. Again, I've been here for 12 years. The hardest part is getting people on board. Right?

Sarah Nicastro: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Haroon Abbu: That's the hardest part because in a company that has a history dating back to, I guess, 1906, there have been several iterations. There are a lot of employees here with long, long tenure. So they've seen everything, right?

Sarah Nicastro: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Haroon Abbu: The thing is, why is this different? The same as anything else, so we have to show the value in what we are doing. That's more important. Plus, the support and direction from leaders like Larry Blue makes a big difference. Right?

Sarah Nicastro: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Haroon Abbu: So one of the thing that we have learned is, as I said, when we are successful in making a change to the business model, remote monitoring is a perfect example, people automatically buy in. So next time they ask, okay, can we get this?

Haroon Abbu: So that becomes part of the culture. The other thing is, when we work with multiple machines, even our engineering department, they would write a machine log like a log file in for a machine, before until we started this initiative, they would just write it, thinking that nobody's going to look at it.

Sarah Nicastro: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Haroon Abbu: Now they understand that analytics actually is taking that piece of error log that they're writing on the machine to drive remote monitoring, to drive when to dispatch a technician. After a couple of years now, engineers are fully on board with that.

Sarah Nicastro: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Haroon Abbu: When they design a new system, like the one we recently did, it's a grocery pickup machine. When they did it, it's completely designed for serviceability with machine logs, knowing that, analyst actually worked very well together on that initiative so that we can, they will write a machine log, et cetera, and even machine log, et cetera, write it in a way that we can use it for predictive and prescriptive maintenance.

Sarah Nicastro: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Haroon Abbu: So that took time. It didn't happen overnight.

Sarah Nicastro: Right.

Haroon Abbu: So as people see how you're successful or how analytics can be used in multiple ways to help the company, to help the service organization, to eventually help technicians and employees, that will make it different. So, we had some obstacles, but I think we are at a point where we have slowly started to change the mindset and we are seeing some of their successes.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. Yeah. That's really cool. And I think, in your role and you mentioned the role of the Chief Data Officer, the idea of someone who's harmonizing things is very important, right? Because one of the biggest barriers to success we see with digital transformation is it, companies attempting to do it in a very siloed way right? Which is kind of the opposite of what needs to be. Right? And so, I think that's an important point as well is to really think about not just how imperative it is to overall strategy, but how important it is to have that consistency and that collaborative view on how it can happen.

Haroon Abbu: Yeah.

Sarah Nicastro: Okay. Last question for today, Haroon. If you were to summarize, some key takeaways for folks listening on this digital journey, what would you leave folks with?

Haroon Abbu: Yeah, I would say that people are the key to digital transformation. Yes, bring in the right technologies. But you know, if you embrace Cloud, you can actually scale up or scale down technology elasticity of the Cloud gives you that opportunity to adopt these new technologies as you, as business conditions change.

Sarah Nicastro: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Haroon Abbu: And secondly, start small and get some early success and always try to build trust in the organization that way the benefits of digital can be felt across the organization. Lastly, as far as the industry is concerned, I know your audience is field service organizations. My take is that the data landscape, it's probably not as mature or as some other industries. So there is a lot more potential to innovate faster beyond remote monitoring. There's a lot more opportunity to use AI and ML. So, for example, most of the field people who are in the field service organization, Field Service USA conference that you and I attended, we mostly the operations side.

Sarah Nicastro: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Haroon Abbu: So I strongly believe that there should be more analytics representation, so analytics folks don't just work in isolation.

Sarah Nicastro: Right.

Haroon Abbu: They need to hear the real-time problems.

Sarah Nicastro: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Haroon Abbu: They need to hear it from the people who are running these service operations, right?

Sarah Nicastro: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Haroon Abbu: So it's always good idea to have that kind of balance so analytics can become main ingredient of success for field service organizations.

Sarah Nicastro: Mm-hmm (affirmative). For sure. Yeah. That makes sense. And, and I agree and I appreciate you coming and sharing your insights. I think it's a huge topic. There's probably a lot of different areas we could dig into in terms of the storytelling and all of that stuff. But, I like the point that it's just as much about people as it is about technology. I think it's a really important point. So thank you for coming on and sharing and, Haroon, if folks want to check out the book Trust, where can they find that?

Haroon Abbu: The website is patternssofdigitization.com.

Sarah Nicastro: Okay.

Haroon Abbu: There's a link to the book from that website. Also, there's more research in that website and also self- assessment tool where you can measure the human dimensions of digital leaders.

Sarah Nicastro: Excellent. Okay. So patternssofdigitization.com is where you can find the book. Haroon, thank you so much for being here. I really appreciate it.

Haroon Abbu: Thank you, Sarah, for doing this and your thought leadership in this space. Thank you.

Sarah Nicastro: Thank you. You can find more by visiting us at futureoffieldservice.com. You can also find us on LinkedIn as well as Twitter @TheFutureOfFS. The Future of Field Service podcast is published in partnership with IFS. You can learn more at ifs.com. As always, thank you for listening.

Most Recent

January 17, 2022 | 7 Mins Read

When Will the Burnout Bubble Burst?

January 17, 2022 | 7 Mins Read

When Will the Burnout Bubble Burst?


By Sarah Nicastro, Creator, Future of Field Service

The timing of this article *might* be related to my own burnout – my family had Covid around the New Year, and with the kids just back to school and my husband’s recovery moving slowly, it’s been an incredibly taxing few weeks. Of course, I am grateful my kids had very few symptoms and recovered well – and I know that while my husband is having a hard time feeling like himself, we are so fortunate none of us had any critical symptoms. Gratitude can coexist with stress, exhaustion, and anxiety, though – and the last few weeks have been a mix of it all.

However, I’m not writing this solely as a cathartic expression of my own struggles. This topic was already on my mind after having a conversation at the end of last year with a business leader who confided in me about his own burnout. We had an open discussion around how the stress of leading a company through the challenges of the last two years has begun boiling over into his own mental health. 

This leader is responsible for setting standards that impact an entire company’s health and well-being. He’s bearing the weight of supporting his team’s mental health while also trying to preserve his own. He’s finding himself facing some complex emotions about significant differences in belief systems, including his own, and how to continue to keep peace among not only the employees of the company but with the customers they serve. 

Burnout Impacts Everyone, From Leadership to The Frontline

Then you think about those on the frontlines. We read a lot in headlines about the doctors and nurses experiencing unimaginable stress in persisting through immense risk to their own safety and wellbeing to care for the masses. Teachers and childcare providers who, already underpaid, have now been shouldered with the responsibility of navigating angry parents, disrupted children, and a choice between putting themselves at risk or losing their livelihood. 

But, as we know, healthcare and education aren’t our only frontline workers. Those providing services share many of the same burdens, often without the same levels of recognition. They must continue to show up for work, even if they fear for their or their families’ lives. They may find themselves in situations with customers where they feel unsafe or confronted by opposing beliefs. They may be in the impossible position of having children who are unable to attend school or childcare without a support system to offer help.

As I was thinking about writing this, I took to social media to see what others were saying. 

On Twitter, Shep Hyken (@Hyken) said, “It is important for every employee who has any contact with a customer to realize that at any given time, they represent the company. They are the brand, the image – they are everything about the company.” This is a lot of pressure given the circumstances of the last two years.

Ron Ruggiero (@RonRuggiero105) says, “This is NOT a pandemic of the unvaccinated. It’s a pandemic of the working class. Had to: work with no PPE, laid off or hours cut, can’t work from the safety of home, get sick without paid sick time, burnout, called “heroes” without being treated like one, yelled at, and then deaths.” Reading these words, I feel so much compassion for what those in the service industries have faced while I’ve remained in my home office.

Women Are at Increased Risk of Burnout

We must also acknowledge the momentous impact Covid has had on women, especially working mothers. According to McKinsey & Company: “The pandemic had a near-immediate effect on women’s employment. One in four women are considering leaving the workforce or downshifting their careers versus one in five men. While all women have been impacted, three major groups have experienced some of the largest challenges: working mothers, women in senior management positions, and Black women. This disparity came across as particularly stark with parents of kids under ten: the rate at which women in this group were considering leaving was ten percentage points higher than for men. And women in heterosexual dual-career couples who have children also reported larger increases in their time spent on household responsibilities since the pandemic began.” 

I can tell you as a working mom myself, the juggling act has often felt nearly impossible – and I am fortunate to be working from home, employed by a very supportive company, and have help. 

Even pre-pandemic, the World Health Organization had classified burnout as an “occupational phenomenon,” characterized by three factors:

  • feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion;
  • increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job;
  • and reduced professional efficacy.

At the time of this article, it was stated that “The WHO plans to develop “evidence-based” guidelines for mental well-being in the workplace. Its member nations are set to implement the revisions to the International Classification of Diseases by 2022.” I don’t envy that task with the impact the weight of the pandemic has had.

How Do We Address the Burnout Bubble?

So, what do we do? A loaded question, for sure. And there’s both an individual and organizational responsibility here. As individuals, we have to prioritize and advocate for our needs and what will protect our mental health. While this looks different for everyone, commonly helpful practices like therapy, meditation, and exercise are certainly worth evaluating. 

But an individual, particularly one who has the professional weight of an essential worker and/or a lack of support system, cannot be singularly responsible for alleviating burnout. There is a responsibility among employers to get a better handle on the reality, severity, and criticality of this issue. And you can’t afford not to – we are at a point where companies across roles, across industries, and across geographies are struggling to hire and retain talent – to the point in some scenarios that businesses are forced to reduce operating hours and even close. This is telling us it is time to look at the topic of burnout and mental health differently. 

Arianna Huffington (@ariannahuff) says, “The Great Resignation is really a Great Re-evaluation. What people are resigning from is a culture of burnout and a broken definition of success. In quitting their jobs, people are affirming their longing for a different way of working and living.”

I continued my search to see what recommendations I could find for how to give this issue the attention it deserves and take real steps to change our current reality (rather than simply paying it lip service). Here’s some of what I found:

  • Numerous comments expressing the benefit of a simple start with a genuine willingness to address burnout and transparent communication with your employees about the topic, their current mental state, and what they need from you
  • A move away from the “productivity-at-all-cost” mentality to one that honors the need for downtime. Some comments on social pointed out that asking employees to prioritize more time off yet only allowing two weeks of vacation is not only laughable but resentment-inducing. It’s time to consider allowing more personal time – while unlimited time off may not be possible for workers in frontline roles, sorting out what higher degrees of rest is possible is essential
  • Don’t insult your workforce’s intelligence. As F. Jordan Carnice (@thebullgrog_) says, “Still puzzled that most companies’ responses to employee anxiety, burnout, and fatigue is another webinar on anxiety, burnout, and fatigue.”
  • Determine how you’ll measure burnout and whether the actions you take to improve it are working. STAT (@statnews) shared an opinion column on Twitter by Jan Muir, PhD, RN that suggest “Hospitals must track nurse burnout the same way they keep tabs on infections, errors, and falls, and give nurses higher pay and greater agency to make them feel seen, valued, and invested in.” Considering how we track this issue to ensure it gets the attention it deserves and the improvement it needs is a worthy goal for those outside of nursing, too.
  • Consider the concept of “cultivating endurance.” I can’t take credit for this term, which I love. This article from Entrepreneur discusses the idea of “cultivating endurance,” and emphasizes the impact on productivity when you balance intent output with periods of regeneration. Read the full piece for five steps to take. 
  • Prioritize Inspiration and Empowerment. In this article, author Celia Willis talks about the idea of coming back from burnout by breaking out of a constant state of reflecting on the past two years and focusing on reigniting the energy of her team. She shares her tactical steps to address burnout, which are worth the read.

While I don’t have all of the answers and can’t any offer quick fix for breaking out of burnout, I do know this topic demands more of our attention. I would like to see the burnout bubble slowly deflate rather than burst, and that will require some real effort. If you have any advice you’d like to share on how you’re battling burnout yourself or addressing this issue within your organization, I’d love to hear from you!

Most Recent

January 12, 2022 | 29 Mins Read

Sharing Strategies to Close the Skills Gap

January 12, 2022 | 29 Mins Read

Sharing Strategies to Close the Skills Gap


Sarah facilitates a discussion with Cedrick Rochet, BU Operations Manager at Intel Corporation; Newland McKelvey, Core Delivery Director at Fujitsu; Krish Venkataraman, Head of Global Operations, Transformation & Customer Success Asia Pacific, India & Japan at Hewlett Packard Enterprise; and Kshitiz Agarwal, and independent consultant about the unique and creative approaches their organizations are taking to improve recruiting, hiring, onboarding, engagement, and retention.

Sarah Nicastro: Thank you, James. Hello, everyone. Happy to be here with you all today with a wonderful panel. We're going to have a discussion on this panel about the skills gap, the labor shortage, the talent gap, you hear it referred to in many of these ways. And talking about some of the actions companies can take, both on the people side and on the technology side, to address this challenge. So, as James said, my name is Sarah Nicastro, I am a part of IFS and I actually run a thought leadership resource called Future of Field Service. So I interview folks regularly about their business transformation journeys and am thrilled to be here with four great guests today. So I'm going to ask you all to introduce yourselves briefly. Cedrick, do you mind going first?

Cedrick: Yeah, sure, Sarah. So hello, everyone. My name is Cedrick, I'm currently working at Intel Corporation, so it's a processor company. And specifically in the branch of Intel called Internet of Things Group for Autonomous Driving Cars. So all the latest fancy stuff there. And so a little bit about me, so I have basically 10 years in engineering in the last 10 years, much more on the business side where currently I am running the operations of the business units.

Sarah Nicastro: Okay.

Cedrick Rochet: So that's it.

Sarah Nicastro: Thanks for being here. Newland?

Newland McKelvey: Hello. Hello everyone, my name's Newland McKelvey. I'm core delivery director of Fujitsu, so responsible for day-to-day delivery of the managed services that are provided to a big, major public sector body. And actually prior to that, was responsible for the setup of trader support service, which is the customs intermediary supporting organizations dealing with the sort of outcomes of Brexit need for those things to be handled in a new way. And I've been with the company a few years, actually, James, we've just been speaking, we were talking last week and I realized I joined Fujitsu before James was born. So one of those quirks of life, but yeah, so glad to be here.

Sarah Nicastro: Excellent. Krish?

Krish Venkataraman: Hello everyone. My name is Krish Venkataraman. I'm part of Hewlett Packard Enterprise, which you know needs no introduction, those in the IT industry. And I'm looking after the Asia Pacific and Japan customer operations, global operations, and the customer experience. Part of that, that's my area of focus. I'm based in Singapore, like what Newland said, maybe I joined this company before James was born as well. So that was back in 1988, so it's a long time. Thank you, very happy to be here. I look forward to a great session. Thank you.

Sarah Nicastro: Thank you. All right. Kshitiz?

Kshitiz Agarwal: Thanks Sarah. So hello everyone. My name is Kshitiz Agarwal and I'm currently working as a self-employed consultant where I'm helping small businesses with their clean energy transition. I'm a former site service director with Mitsubishi Power. And one part of my role is to develop the teams for these energy transition and prepare our training strategy. So I'm really looking forward to learning from all of you and sharing some insight. Thank you.

Sarah Nicastro: Okay, great. All right, so as James said in the introduction, this recording is going to live on for eternity, so we're going to make sure we make it a good talk. So I want to start off just by everyone weighing in a bit on how is the labor shortage or skills gap impacting each of your businesses. Okay, so let's just kind of level set with what is this issue meaning to you in your organization. So we can just go around again, if that's okay? Cedrick, if you could start?

Cedrick Rochet: So yeah, so currently labor shortage is quite an interesting topic at Intel because every world area has actually different dynamics. So for what, Intel being based in the West Coast, we have tremendous talent pressure on the West Coast of the US. And also in quite specific spots where you have other IT or technology companies, such as Ireland or Munich area or Singapore also, I mean, quite a few spots, Malaysia, for example, where we have competitors that are present also because we build the ecosystem around as we grow, there are also factories around ours over time. And so essentially right now, it is a little bit of a challenge for skills, specifically experienced individuals. And at every levels, from the engineer that is starting until the senior vice president that are being taken from one competitor to the other. So it's touching us at every level.

Sarah Nicastro: Okay. All right. And Newland, what about you?

Newland McKelvey: Again, with Fujitsu, and sort of echoing Cedrick, it's a global issue for a company like ourselves as well, where we've got global delivery centers as well as regional centers. And the experience and skills shortage is impacting across the board. And that can be in deep technical specialism or even in more generic skills, like experienced project managers in development or service setup and transitions, equally down to simple things like, or more simple things, like actually even standing up a support center now. There's just such a huge demand across the base and a lot of competition out there. And it's getting the right people in, but equally retaining and actually encouraging people from years ago instead of going to IT, I find ourselves doing other things that we'll probably talk about later.

Sarah Nicastro: Sure. Yep. Okay, Krish?

Krish Venkataraman: Yep. This is great question. And good input also from Cedrick and Newland. The way I look at it is also I used to wonder at times on the one side, we will take any countries' numbers. They'll say there is X number of people unemployed, at the same time, there are Y number of openings, roles that are there that they can't find the people. So be it in any industry, be it in manufacturing, technology, customer service industries, anywhere, the gap more I see that as the fit between what we need and what we have. And whether the people are building to see themselves as a different person. For example, there's a one quote I wanted to share with the team. It was predicted in 2012, hey, you're going to have two sets of jobs, the jobs that somebody will tell the computer what to do, and then the jobs that the computer will tell them what to do.

Krish Venkataraman: Okay. So these two divides, however, we all know in our whole day, different times, we act in different roles. There is one task I do what my computer tells me to do, and 10 minutes later, I'm doing a task that I tell the computer what to do. So it's not always this one side or the other. Now but the challenge here is how do we accept that? How do we internalize that? And how do we help the people recognize that and play that correctly? That's where I generally see some gaps as well, because I may have good set of candidates, good set of pool of people, but they are not having that right skill set and right training to do the right thing. So how do we bridge that gap is definitely a thing we'll be talking further, but that's how I see as the gap.

Sarah Nicastro: Okay. All right. And Kshitiz?

Kshitiz Agarwal: So basically, I'm from energy industry. So I had a little bit different perspective and different set of a challenge. So right now, because the energy industry is going through the massive transition. So it is a kind of an imbalance between the skilled workforce, as well as adaptation to the required or new skills due to digitalization. And this is happening, from my experience, this is happening because of two reason. One is specifically because of aging workforce. And secondly, it's because they are not enough new or young people coming into the industry, especially to the blue collar job that had created massive gap between the industry. So as Krish said, it's the right matching the skills as well as matching what is available in the market is right. But at the same time, I think the perception of the industry or perception of the job taken toward the market or toward globally basically, is also important in this, play a key role in the skill gap.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. So I'm looking, as we're talking, I'm looking at my long list of questions and realizing there's no way we're going to get through all of them. There's a lot to dig into related to this topic and it's one of my favorite topics to discuss. So instead I'm going to try and make sure we get to four questions at least. And then if we have time, we'll come back to some of the others. So the first thing that I think is interesting is really having a conversation around what we're calling this issue. So you hear it referred to as the labor shortage, the talent gap, the skills gap, the experience gap. And those are all really different things. And so I think one of the first questions we have to ask ourselves, for each of our individual businesses, is what is this problem to us? Which of those is it?

Sarah Nicastro: So what I mean by that is, I think historically... Now we're on a panel with people from different industries, different geographies, so we have to kind of look at things from a high level. But I think historically, most organizations, for most roles, are accustomed to hiring based on experience. And so I think one of the biggest issues with this topic is that I don't know that I believe we have a skills gap or a talent gap. I think there are people with skills and there are people with talents, they just may not have the experience that we, as organizations, are accustomed to be able to hire based on. And so I did a presentation on this topic a few weeks ago and it was around controlling the controllables. Because the labor shortage, the actual statistics around how many people are available to hire in any given location, isn't something you can necessarily control, but your perspective on this as an experience gap versus a talent gap versus a skills gap, those are things you can control.

Sarah Nicastro: And I think the first thing we need to do is take a look at our historical recruiting and hiring practices and ask ourselves: Do we need to adjust to today? So if we're always looking for people with X number of years experience, is there a way to achieve the same outcome by looking for different criteria in the folks that we're looking to hire? So the first thing I wanted to talk about is just your thoughts on that and any you've made within the business, or have thought about making within the business, to sort of shift from looking for experience, to looking for the skills, traits, characteristics, abilities you need, and finding ways to provide some of that experience. So that's the first point. Does anyone want to volunteer to go first?

Kshitiz Agarwal: So yeah, I can start. First of all, the thing is we cannot generalize the skill experience and the talent. It depends on the geographies, it depends on the industry. In some industry, it is required to have more experience than other, because it might be life in that situation. So we cannot generalize that. But I think from the industry where I am right now, traditionally and currently as well, the priority is always given to experience than young members. But because of this gap that we are facing between the aging and the young people right now, companies have started looking at the different perspective. One of the perspectives is as simple as looking at the talent or new workforce from the global perspective, rather than geography location. That is the one way they're tackling it. Another way they're tackling it is engaging to the indirect recruitment process, which is more they get engaged with the new graduates right from the time in their university, and then recruit them and train them.

Kshitiz Agarwal: Apart from that, from my experience, there's... We all heard about the apprenticeship program, especially in Germany. Those programs actually, over the period in history, they prove themselves very, very effective way, especially in mechanical industry or electrical industry. And I believe more and more organization right now are coming up with these program, apprenticeship program and the graduate programs, to bridge that gap so that they can train the people or train the new employee right from the base foundation level to the place where they need them to be at to bridge this gap.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah, that's a really good point. And I certainly was not suggesting we just put people that are not capable of a certain job in role. It was exactly what you're saying. How do we become more creative about ways to sort of farm talent instead of just looking for it ready-made. So things like what you're saying are exactly my point, which is it really comes down to, as organizations, we may need to do more work than we've done historically because we just don't have a wealth of people to bring into the business that have 5, 10 years’ experience. So we have to look at how do we give them the training, the experience, the time they need to be capable, but take some more responsibility for doing that. Yeah, go ahead Newland.

Newland McKelvey: Yeah. So I was going to actually just going to build on what's has been said, because I think, in terms of apprentice programs, grad programs, et cetera, those have all proved, across many industries, including IT, whatever, really, really beneficial. But one thing that we've been doing over the last few years, and not just ourselves but I've seen it elsewhere, is when we look to recruit or appoint new roles, we don't just look within, I'll call it, the professional communities for want of better description, but actually look even internally outside that. For instance, so when you're bringing somebody, and I've seen examples where someone from a finance background has become a manager of a development team over time. And the reason for that is that the good thing is that they know the company, they maybe got a few years to understand, if you like, the mechanics of the organization. So they don't have that as a learning curve.

Newland McKelvey: Then supporting those people from sort of those diverse non-technical backgrounds, who have good management skills, to actually become managers in an area where we desperately need someone come along and really help build teams, et cetera. Where they've got the skills, it's just bringing the technical level up as well to support that. And I think that's helped us several times in the past where we've had gaps.

Sarah Nicastro: And a lot of the conversations that I've had on this topic, Newland, kind of echo that approach, which is if you find the right, whatever you want to call them, core skills, soft skills, you can provide the technical knowledge needed in many cases to compliment that. So that kind of opens up doors for you to look in different industries, different areas, things like that. Also, I recorded a podcast on this topic at an event I was at last week and one of the things, I think Cedrick you said, this isn't a challenge for just entry level workforce, it's a challenge all the way up. But one of the points that came up in that conversation is that a lot of younger workers, they don't come into a role and plan to stay there for 20 years. They want progression. So if you can kind of restructure the way you look at your recruiting and hiring practices and figure out how to map them up within the business, it gives them the progression and growth that they want, but also helps you when comes to filling roles above just the entry level.

Sarah Nicastro: So Cedrick, what have you seen in terms of ways that that Intel has adapted here?

Cedrick Rochet: So Intel is a very interesting company. Before being at Intel, I was working at Emerson Electric, which was a very industrial company. And now being at Intel, I see a very culture shift, mostly, maybe because Intel is West Coast based where also ecosystem and the startups is over there. But actually as much as an industrial company, you have people that were staying 5, 10 years on a job, when I was a younger professional, I was seeing that. Nowadays, when I am at Intel, actually, you see, well, the person is expected to stay maybe three, maximum five years on the role before moving up. Now what's happening is that also, I have to be honest, Intel has a huge competitive advantage is that we have a huge skills and talent pool within our employees. I mean, we are a rich company.

Cedrick Rochet: And to give you an idea, the quality department of Intel is about a thousand people, 800 of them have PhDs. So just when we speak about talent pool, that's what we need. To have people with PhD and MBAs, standard. You cross them everywhere almost. So when you take these people, you can almost have them going from one job to the other with too much problematic. Now that said, you still have to retain these talents. And it's not because you have great foundations, as I was saying, but you need also to close the talent or the gap that is a problem that you have to solve on that moment. And compared to other companies, at Intel, we have an internal volunteering program. So how does it work?

Cedrick Rochet: And also this is also coming from the West Coast, it's basically you have for over five years, you accumulate vacation days and at some point you go on sabbatical. Meaning that for five weeks, in a batch, you go out and when you come back, you still have a job. Now what's happening is during these five weeks, somebody needs to take care of the job. And so we create what we call GIGS where somebody that has nothing to do or is interested maybe in this role, can apply so as a temporary gap filler, if you want, and test the job itself. And maybe as a person moves on to the next job, basically somebody is kind of seeing what's going on in that role and has to be experienced. I mean, five week is not tremendous experience, he's not going to break anything really. But still you get a look and feel about what it means or are you feeling ready for taking on this job, maybe in another organization.

Cedrick Rochet: I mean, Intel, we have the, the advantage of the size. So we have a huge internal job market that address many, many people. And so in order to fill these gaps of talents gaps that we might have, this is one of the way, by doing this so-called GIGS, temporary work that is outside of your standard job that can help on filling that gap. Something that I've never seen in any other companies that I've been into before Intel.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. And you bring up really good points, Cedrick, which is you mentioned the approach at Intel is far different than that of Emerson. And so I think you have that a lot with companies that are more on the modern, innovative type of culture versus something that has more legacy. And I think that's where these type of conversations become very important, because that doesn't mean that someone with a completely different culture can just mimic what Intel is doing. But I think this is an area where companies need to look at what others are doing and maybe just have some thoughts. So it doesn't need to be a blueprint for how they go back and do it, but just some different, new, fresh ideas to bring in and to try some different things.

Sarah Nicastro: Because I think we can all agree that this problem demands more creativity than perhaps we've leveraged before. So Krish, I want to come to you and ask certainly if you have any insight on kind of where you're finding new candidates, that's fine. But the other part of sort of the recruiting side is for new places to find folks and maybe changing the criteria upon which you use to hire a bit, but also making sure that you are speaking the language of the people you're trying to hire and making sure that the roles are appealing to the candidates that you are addressing today. So I'm wondering if you could talk a little bit about any changes that have been made or any work that's been done to make sure that as you're recruiting, you're offering an appealing opportunity for people that you're looking to bring into the business.

Krish Venkataraman: Great. Thanks Sarah. So let me start off answering that in a couple of parts. First one, the way we look at things is, as you know, Hewlett Packard Enterprise operates in 190 countries. So there's no one size fits all for us. The challenges are different in different geographies. So what we are doing as a starting point is see a need to rebrand the way we sell a role to the candidates. What appeals in different geographies, we need to be cognizant of. For example, in some geographies, the people want to know how am I contributing to the vision of the company, how am I part of the success story, how am I part of the community contribution that we are making. So that's very important for them. We also want to take the value properly. It's not just a job, it's not just a role.

Krish Venkataraman: We take the total value proposition of being part of Hewlett Packard Enterprise in different dimensions. So it's beyond just compensation and benefits. Looking at the career advancement, work environment, culture of the organization, and also the ability for an individual to shape the way they want to take their career development, personal development, forward in any direction they want. So that culture of the organization promotes that very well. People could walk across and do a shadow assignment in another part of the organization, no barrier. People could ask for a stretch assignment. Somebody could be maybe in finance, but they want to go and do a stretch assignment in marketing, vice versa, or some other areas, even in geographic stretch assignment. So all those facilities are there for the people to take advantage of that. And it also helps them to shape, determine, take control of their own career path and career direction.

Krish Venkataraman: And nobody's telling them what to do, but the options are there. So that's the real important cultural shift and the framework that we have in place to support that. Now in terms of how we look for also candidates or also, we need a good diverse set of candidates. So we we talk about the diversity equity and inclusion. So we want to make sure that that is practiced at all levels of the company. And actually, it's also part of my key focus area. Every year I measured on how many of those mix I am managing and continuously nurturing those mix of different things. It's not just the gender diversity, cultural diversity, and various other forms that we do want differentiate between how people want to express themselves or how they want to identify themselves, but how they can be part of the team and complement each other.

Krish Venkataraman: And we have a thing called Employee Resource Group, which is an internal community that's really, really supported right from the CEO level, to grow this further. At the same time, we also shifted our focus a little bit, we're using automation, for example. Quite often, this, what you call, unconscious biased comes in in the way we are writing something, on the way we are expressing something. So using a lot of automation to identify them very early, filter them out. For example, the way a job description is written should be very, very neutral, location neutral and agenda neutral, all sorts of neutrality being brought in consciously into that. Even the employee value proposition, all the external internal communication, there is a lot of effort and focus also drives that. And people feel that, hey, I'm part of this organization that do not differentiate this and values diversity. So we see this definitely helping both.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. So you brought up a couple really good points. And I did a podcast a while back with the woman who runs talent globally at Tetra Pak. And it was all about the move to outcomes-based recruiting and hiring. So I think it's a great episode for anyone to go and look up, but it's this idea of, well, there's more to it than just job descriptions. But what you just said about job descriptions, there's this idea of are we putting words or things in here that are going to have people leave themselves out that may be a really good fit? So are we limiting ourselves? How do we kind of get to the root of what is the outcome of this role and leave it with strictly things related to that so that you get a good broad pool of diverse candidates to apply?

Sarah Nicastro: The other thing is this idea of, and this probably sounds obvious, but you would be shocked how many companies aren't doing it, which is when is the last time you updated or revisited your employee value proposition. Do you know what is important to candidates that are coming into the workforce right now? It's not just about money, it's not just about collecting a paycheck. They want to feel heard, they will want to be empowered, they want to feel they're making a difference, they want to feel a part of something bigger than themselves, they want opportunities for career development, they want flexibility. So starting to look at are we providing those things and are we articulating that we're providing those things. Because what matters to candidates today is different than it was 5, 10 years ago.

Sarah Nicastro: So this kind of segues us into the next topic I want to talk about, which is retention. So Cedrick, if you can kind of start off and just share. This is kind of a natural segue because you bring people in with sort of this value proposition. And then it becomes a game of making sure that they are engaged, empowered, that they're having a fulfilling employee experience so that they want to stay. So what's your take, Cedrick, on retention?

Cedrick Rochet: So retention is quite, I mean, it's quite a vast topic. And over the years, essentially, to keep employees, companies are, I mean, at least at Intel, we are trying many different areas and trying to tailor, actually, to where even to the person is in his life cycle. From the young engineer that comes into Intel, that wants to revolutionize a world, that has plenty of energy and coding and things like this that wants to do this, to the younger adult that, I mean, later adult that wants to start a family. And so we have programs such as parental leaves, where basically I want to take care of my kids, they are bored and so on and so, but without the fear of losing your job at the same time. Then for later, when you are more experienced, then basically it might be going into an expert track or into a leadership track.

Cedrick Rochet:  So you have, for example at Intel, for that, your salary... I mean, many times, and if I go back to my Emerson Electric experience, many times if you want grow, it was just go up the ladder, more people you manage, the bigger you are, da, da, da, da, da, da. At Intel, actually, there's a difference between a leadership track, which is exactly it's the traditional, the more people you manage, the better, da, da, da, da, da, da, and you get the salary increase. But there is also the engineering track, so basically you become a specialist from the young engineer to a principal engineer to a fellow who is on standards committee that is influence standards directions at the national level. And the great thing is actually the same thing as a leadership. It doesn't have the same name, but essentially you have the same grade, we call that grade internally, but you can be a senior vice president and just be a simple engineer, but because you are basically helping on steering committees for international standards, you are at the same level or considered at the same level of grade as maybe a senior vice president.

Cedrick Rochet: So by creating these two possibilities for more experienced people to grow into what they aspire, basically you get much more retention and you adapt to basically the different stages that a person might be. And of course, I mean, and you have plenty of internal trainings, that is quite standard in every company. You have another thing that actually, and a little bit provocative, that we are doing also at Intel that I've never seen before, is what we call returnship. So basically when a person left the job because they want to raise their kids and come back 10 or 15 years later saying, well, now my kids are grown up, they don't need me anymore, so I would like to go back to the workforce. Well, you still need the period of adaptation and we call that returnship where we allow people that have been potentially 10 or 15 years out of the workforce to get started again. And this is something that I've not seen in many other companies that have been to.

Sarah Nicastro: I love that idea, Cedrick, especially because when you look at the impact that COVID had on women in the workforce, and I mean just how we need to look for ways to help and to build bridges for them back in and all of those things. I'm conscious that we are going to run out of time and James is going to get mad at me because we haven't gotten to questions. Newland, so here's what we're going to do. James is going to bear with us for just a moment. Newland, if you can answer the same question about retention and then for Krish and for Kshitiz, I have one other question and then we'll get to the audience questions. So Newland, what are your thoughts on retention?

Newland McKelvey: So for people coming into the company new, we've set a strategy that retention starts from onboarding, and that onboarding starts right at the first interview, your first of the recruiting engagements, and continues throughout. So by the time somebody lands in the company, they've already experienced both interface with their management, they'll have a body, they'll have had different events, and that's the external recruitment. Equally, going back to Cedrick's analogy of moving people about internally, we do have sort of something similar, it's called career pathways. If someone's keen then wants to move into a role from that, moving role internally can be quite a step change. And again, it's a similar principles, because you don't want someone coming into a team and finding it's the wrong role.

Newland McKelvey: So the first thing is, is what Cedrick's outlined, equally as well is then making sure that onboarding process and induction and everything else really works for people. And then the final thing is also the concept of career, which Krish and others have outlined, it is broader than the vertical. It's very much a you're looking for cone-shaped people where they've got a number of areas of expertise and more general knowledge, but rewarding that as well and recognizing that, so it's not just a vertical hierarchical pay and reward, but actually rewarding and what they bring and the outcomes that we talked about earlier, trying on build that.

Sarah Nicastro: And this is where the complexity comes in. Because you can understand what's important to your talent pool that you're looking to hire, and you can tell them that you're doing all of those things, but if they come in and that is not the reality, then you have no chance of keeping them. So you have to be marrying the work on the recruiting side with really making sure that you're evolving the employee experience and offering people a rewarding place to be so that they do want to stay. Okay, all right, we're going to try and do this in two minutes. You guys each get one minute and I want to ask... Krish, we'll start with you and then we'll move right over. I want to ask what role has technology played in alleviating, assist, helping with this challenge?

Krish Venkataraman: Okay. So in terms of technology, the basic thing, for example, let me give an example of automation. When we use automation to redesign the workflow and the operating model becomes so elegant makes the flow much more agile, collaborative, and also nonhierarchical, and it empowers the people at the right point to make the right decision so that there is no need to go back and forth. So clearly the technology has played such a big role here and it can be leveraged for many other areas in a similar way. And we find that to match that... So what does that mean is we need education people with different set of background, with a different set of knowledge and skills, to take the full advantage of that. One of the challenge we always find is even though the technology is there, the people are not really ready to go on and take full advantage of that. So if we have that cultural shift and the technology enablement with the right people at the right the skillset, I think we can the best out of that.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. Okay. And Kshitiz, your thoughts on technology?

Kshitiz Agarwal: So technology is playing a wider role right now, especially in mitigating this skill gap, what we're talking since the beginning. So for example, I was involved in developing a training program using AR and VR, augmented reality and virtual reality, to train the people on the health and safety side while working on the site. And similarly, there's also in energy industry specifically, there's an increased use of robotics, whether it's a remote control or autonomous robotics to do those job which are not required a human interaction. And not only it bridges the gap, but it also makes a safe working environment, which is more important at this moment. And from the point of view of the retention, again, technology is again making a huge difference as Krish rightly said. It bridges the gap, that hierarchical gap between the different people. And it enables different people from one role to easily shift from one role to another role and one job to another role, which they consider as a progression in their career path. So, yeah.

Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. So I always look at technology on the tactical side, the strategic side. So tactically, what are the ways we can leverage technology to help alleviate areas of this challenge? So is our current workforce optimized and fully utilized. So when you look at scheduling and things of that nature, are we appropriately using the people we do have? And then automation, are there aspects of work that are not value-add that we can automate to allow more capacity for our workforce to do really important things? I think a lot about knowledge capture and knowledge management. You have such a volume of expertise leaving the workforce, are you capturing that knowledge so it can continue to be leveraged? And then the point got brought up about augmented reality and different training tools to get people able faster to get into the workforce and to be impactful.

Sarah Nicastro: On the strategic side, Krish, I completely agree and it's obviously a completely different conversation. But the idea of what new roles need to exist? What reskilling and upskilling do we need to do to make sure that we're leveraging technology strategically as a part of our value proposition? Okay, so James, come on in and yell at me for going over. And I'm sorry, but it's such a good conversation, we should have allotted more time.

James: Yeah, no, don't worry. I'm not one to get mad. I'm not going to shout anyone. Let you guys do your thing. That was great. Yeah, I'm just conscious of our next speaker who's probably waiting in the little pre-check and worried that I'm not there. So we've got time for one question I think. We'll give hard stop after five minutes, just so I don't panic her. So question here from Christine: There are any recommendations as to the split you should have between retained employees versus outsourced contractors resourced to deliver digital innovation?

Cedrick Rochet: I will take this one if I may, because this is, actually, I think I would say it's a hot topic, not in every areas of the company, but in this. And most of the time what we are doing is that we are looking at whatever we are doing is the position a long-term. And what we mean by long-term is three years. So will be there jobs to be done for the next three years for a person to come on board. If yes, we open a job. If not, then we look at a contractor, contingency worker. And some areas of Intel, we have very few contingency workers. In others, which is much more customer project based with very short time turnarounds, then basically we use much more because we cannot predict really what is the next skills set the customers will ask us to support them.

Cedrick Rochet: And so it's very much becomes very customer oriented adaptation. But it doesn't mean that at a strategic level, we see... I mean, contingency workers or outsource workers cost a lot more. So there is also other times, strategic reviews internally to try to find the right balance. To be honest, we haven't found it yet. We look for it, but all the time trying to balance between the business objectives on one side, but also having a much more stable head count or strategic gaps that we might need. And it's always a balance between the two. And for that one, yeah, we try to do our best, but sometimes it's not that easy with business and our expenses.

James: Anyone have anything they want to add there just quickly?

Newland McKelvey: The one thing I would add is that odd enough to sort of let the lens that Cedrick applied slightly different in our type of organization, where we're actually looking at whether it's an area where we're growing, expanding, versus one where if we have a gap, but reality it's a legacy area. And if it's wherever we're growing and expanding, we want to bring in very specialist skills to help recruit, retain, and actually develop our own internal workforce. But the ultimate aim will be that. Whereas if it's legacy, we'll focus more on moving some of those people on and using contractor, external staff to sort of supplement. So we've got that sort of moving wheel of people internally as well. Krish, I'll let you speak.

Krish Venkataraman: Thank you. Quickly, one area we look at it, James, is transformation. Organizational transformation. Organizations go through continuous transformation. It's not always that the organization may have the right skills, knowledge internally to do the transformation. They need that external help to do the transformation, and then the internal core organization can continue to move onto the new platform and operate, but the need to shift them to move that. That's where I think the external sourcing would be very helpful.

James: Brilliant. Thank you guys. I would love to let everyone else chat for another few minutes, but I'm afraid we have to call it day there. All I'd say is when we overrun a bit like this, it's always suggestive of a great conversation. So thanks so much guys. I'm sure you'll all stay in contact and likewise. Sorry to anyone who didn't get their question answered. If you are going to the agenda tab, you can find each of us speakers there. You can message them directly. Or you can put them in the event feed, or just email them to me and I'll pass them on, you'll definitely get your questions answered. So for now, just go ahead and exit this stream. We're back in 10 minutes for our final session of the day, with Rainy from Nokia. I'll see you all then. And thanks to our panelists.

Sarah Nicastro: Thank you everyone.

Most Recent

January 10, 2022 | 3 Mins Read

If We Don’t Master First-Time Fix in 2022, We Never Will

January 10, 2022 | 3 Mins Read

If We Don’t Master First-Time Fix in 2022, We Never Will


By Sarah Nicastro, Creator, Future of Field Service

To reframe my headline into a more positive statement: I believe 2022 will be the year we master first-time fix. Why? It simply has to be! Those of you who follow my content know that change management is a topic I will rant about. Well, first-time fix is coming in at a close second. 

You’ve heard the saying, “In the age of information, ignorance is a choice.” I feel the same about first-time fix. In the age of information, failure of first-time fix is simply unacceptable. There are too many tools at your disposal to not dig in and seize the opportunity to succeed in an initial visit. Now I’m not suggesting any organization have a goal of 100 percent first-time fix; perfection is never a reasonable objective. However, I do believe that those who really struggle with first-time fix – at this point – have no excuse and are missing the mark of what service today means. 

If you consider the far-reaching, negative impact of repeat visits, it is a service standard that demands more of our attention. You have the cost of not one, but two (or more) truck rolls. You have your technician’s time, which in the current climate of labor shortages and talent gaps is even more golden. And besides their time, how do you think failure to fix impacts employee experience? Put yourself in the shoes of a frontline worker who is on-site with a customer, often already frustrated, and must communicate their inability to get the job done. 

And we haven’t even touched on customer satisfaction yet. In a time where outcomes are demanded, the frustration that surfaces when a repeat visit is needed is not only immense but can be reason alone for that customer to seek service elsewhere. Because accepting subpar service isn’t a luxury your customers are willing to afford you – not when many of your competitors have leveraged the tools at their disposal to not only master first-time fix, but to evolve service delivery and expand service offerings in ways those struggling with first-time fix likely haven’t even thought of. 

As we continue down the path of As-a-Service and outcomes-based offerings, failure at first-time fix will not only impact you in the often-mentioned ways; it will erode your profits and diminish your reputation. To maintain competitive advantage, you must realize that something like first-time fix is table stakes in today’s service landscape.

Predict & Prevent

Quite frankly, on-site service shouldn’t be your first line of defense. Leading organizations are adopting technologies like IoT and augmented reality that allow them to predict and even prevent issues that would previously require on-site attention. When issues do occur, remote resolution is becoming more and more common – and expected among customers. 


When an issue does require on-site attention, you should have the ability to know in advance what your technician will encounter on-site so that you can prepare accordingly. This means matching technician skills and assessing urgency, ensuring the availability of parts that may be needed, and using modern communication methods so that customers have a reasonable service window and have validated their availability and confirmed the appointment. 


Even with proper preparation, your technician may run into an issue he or she needs help with on-site. They should be properly equipped with customer history, access to a variety of documentation and assistance resources, and should be able to rely on technology like remote assistance if collaboration is necessary. 

So, let’s make 2022 the year we resolve to master first-time fix and shift our attention to more strategic focus areas and innovation. Pretty please?

Most Recent

January 5, 2022 | 10 Mins Read

2021 Highlights and 2022 Headlines

January 5, 2022 | 10 Mins Read

2021 Highlights and 2022 Headlines


Sarah starts the New Year off with her recap of the highlights of 2021 and a look ahead at the topics she’s excited to dig into in 2022.

Sarah Nicastro: Welcome to the Future of Field Service Podcast. I'm your host, Sarah Nicastro.

Happy New Year! When this episode airs, it will be the first week of 2022. As you can tell by the bits of North Pole behind me, I'm recording this at the end of December. So, we're going to do an episode today just talking a bit about the highlights of 2021 and some of my thoughts around the headlines I'd like to see in 2022.

So, I'm often asked for predictions and I'm not a fan of predictions for a couple reasons. One is none of us can predict what's coming. I think COVID has been a case study in that, right? We never really know what's coming. The second is I think when you look at the topics that we cover here at Future of Field Service, we're really talking about a continuation of a lot of themes, a maturation of trends that is coming together and culminating to really bring immense opportunity to the industry.

So when I'm asked for predictions, I always feel this pressure to come up with something new or unexpected, when in reality I think a lot of the headlines that we'll see in 2022 are growth and progression on trends that we've been talking about for a bit.

So, those are the things we're going to dive into today. So, highlights of 2021. The first I would say is we survived. I don't know that any of us expected to still be in the situation we're in right now with the pandemic, but we're here and we're plugging along and we are getting things done. We've found a way to persist through all of this, and so that's what we're going to continue doing one day at a time.

We did have the opportunity to get back to some face-to-face events in 2021, and I myself thoroughly enjoyed that. I was able to attend the Service Council Symposium in Chicago in September, Field Service Palm Springs in November, and I was also able to take my first trip out of the country since COVID began to visit the Netherlands to attend IFS Connect, and provide a keynote there, which was a really wonderful experience. I had the opportunity to connect with some folks face-to-face that I had thus far only met through Zoom and Teams. So, that was certainly a highlight for me to be able to get back to engaging face-to-face.

We are up to, I believe at the end of 2021, 143 three episodes of this here podcast, which I just am so thankful for. The ability to have these conversations and share them with you all, the wonderful, wonderful guests that I've had on and gotten to know, really. It's just been a very fulfilling experience for me, and I hope you all have enjoyed being along for the ride.

The other thing that I really enjoyed about the podcast in 2021 is we had the opportunity to really diversify some of the guests. So, we had folks from really all over the world. We had folks from Malaysia and Singapore and Australia and Finland and Iceland, and so I just really, really have enjoyed that as well. Getting to see how the trends and conversations differ from region to region across the globe, and also just getting to know some of the wonderful people that I've gotten to know.

I have had the pleasure throughout 2021 of running a customer community group at IFS, and that has been a wonderful experience for me as well. I have a group of just about 40 folks that we have actually met very frequently in 2021 about twice a month, and we have focus groups of an hour at a time where we come together and talk about different business trends and challenges and opportunities. Really just in a situation where we all haven't been able to travel for quite some time, we started these to really have that sense of community and connection and to be able to build collective knowledge, and it's been just a wonderful experience.

So there's much, much more that happened in 2021 that was fantastic, and if I were to try and go through every highlight, we would be here for a very long time. But it was a good year and I appreciate you all being a part of this podcast. I'm incredibly thankful for the wonderful guests that joined me on Future of Field Service throughout the year, and there was a lot of great highlights.

So, if we shift gears and talk about 2022 headlines. I'm not going to say predictions, I'm going to say headlines. So, the way that I put this together was to think about some of the conversations I've had throughout the past year, throughout the past years really, and how I would like to see those progress in 2022. The conversations I'm very interested to continue and see evolve essentially is what I'm looking at here.

The first is a whole host of topics really around the employee experience and employee engagement. I think we all know that the great resignation is posing immense challenges for industry, after industry, after industry, region, after region, after region and business after business. It's an issue that I think has been a long time coming, but is becoming critical for folks to address. There's some different layers to this, right?

I think if you look at some of the content that we've done throughout 2021 as a platform to start the discussion this year, we've had some wonderful conversations. You look at the responsibility of organizations to become more creative in how they recruit and hire and what their employee experience looks like.

I actually have a podcast episode coming up that hasn't yet been released with Roy Dockery. He was one of my first guests on the podcast, I think it was episode two. We sort of had this conversation I think before folks were ready to hear it, and we recently revisited that conversation and that podcast will be coming to you soon. But his point is as businesses in this space, we need to take more responsibility for solving this problem, rather than just kind of dwelling in it. So, that'll be coming.

We took a look at how companies are doing that, right? So Tetra Pak, Bonnie from Tetra Pak joined, that was episode number 85. We had Bureau Veritas come on and talk about how they're building the future of work. That was episode 129. So, those are episodes that are great to go back to and sort of think about how we can continue this conversation in 2022.

I think the topic of mental health is going to be very important for us to address this year. I know that I talk about this quite a bit myself, because I like to normalize the conversation and share my own experiences, but I think collectively when we look at the impact this has had on all of us, this being the pandemic, it's just every everyone's tired, everyone is a bit worn and a bit burned out. I think that as employers and as businesses, we really need to elevate the way we are considering how we can help related to mental health.

I had a great episode with Jordan from QIAGEN, that's episode 105, and he was very open about how he has realized this is such an important issue with his team. He's in Australia and some of the things he's done, and so this is a conversation, I think, that's going to be imperative. Also just leadership, right? What are we doing to create a culture within our companies that employees want to be a part of, that they feel fulfilled and they are happy and they want to stay, right? We can't force people to stay in role, but we need to look at what we're doing to impact that.

A couple other episodes I'd point out. Just recently I had an episode with Karin Hamel from Schneider Electric. Episode 140, where we talked about five areas of focus she's considering when she looks at building the future of the frontline workforce. Also had an episode with Lauren Winans, who is the CEO of Next Level Benefits, she's a consultant in this space, about creating a strong employee value proposition. That's episode 132. So, all of those will be great things to check out if you have some time to go back and kind of set the stage for where we can take that conversation this year.

The next area is really around digital. Again, this is kind of an umbrella with a lot of different sublayers, right? But I think the idea here is I anticipate 2022 is going to be the year that it clicks for a lot of companies that they need to become far more strategic in their digital strategy, right? So, companies know that they need to be deploying digital tools and they need to be considering the digital experience and things like that, but it's still very disconnected. It's still in many cases, not in all cases, of course.

So I think there's a lot of sort of refinement, I also think this is an area where some businesses are going to realize ... I wrote an article last year called It is Time for A Digital Rebirth? So, I think it may also be a situation where folks realize that they need to go back and kind of start fresh in certain instances.

Some of the podcasts from 2021 that are kind of great lead-ups to continuing this conversation in 2022. One is a conversation I had with Pekka from Cimcorp, that's episode 110. His was a conversation really around modernizing our approach to IT, which again, I think is a very important subset or pillar of sort of becoming more adept at digital.

I had an episode with Russell who was formerly with Rolls-Royce, Russell Masters. That's episode 128, and we talked about the need for more digitally-adept leaders, which is super important. I had an episode with Eduardo Bonefont from BD, episode 139, who told a really interesting story about how related to their digital tools and digital investment specifically, they decided to press pause and take a chunk of time to kind of reflect on what was already in place and address some employee feedback.

Which the idea of what's your digital reputation among your employees, and are you making decisions with their best interests and their voice in mind are very, very important things. The elimination of silos as it relates to digital strategy, I think, will be an important conversation to continue, and evolving into how are we leveraging digital and data to tell stories, and how does that result in new and different employee value propositions? So, lots to discuss there.

The other big topic that I'm excited to continue exploring is the progression on As-a-Service and outcomes-based service offerings. Had some great episodes last year with Kaer. That's Dave Mackerness, episode 136, told the story of how they have evolved to a completely As-a-Service business, wonderful, wonderful insights.

Schneider Electric Australia shared their story in a two-part series, 113 and 114 of how they kind of tackled it in a microcosm approach and made a big impact in their region that will spread across the business. I did an episode with Kevin from TSIA on some of the myths around As-a-Service, so there's some great stuff to dig into there.

Towards the beginning of last year, I had an episode with Tim Baines from the Advanced Services Group talking about the blueprint for servitization. I also had a great episode last year, number 104, with Jennifer Deutsch from Park Place Technologies. She's their CMO and she came on talking specifically about the marketing of services and service businesses, and it was super interesting. I think that's another area that as we evolve the business models and the go-to-market strategy, there's a lot to consider around how are we communicating this evolution to our customers in a way that will resonate? So, lots of cool stuff to discuss.

Finally, I'm super excited to continue the conversation around sustainability. This is of growing concern and interest across the globe, that we had a few episodes in 2021 to sort of initiate this conversation. One was with Sasha Ilyukhin from Tetra Pak talking about the intersection of service and sustainability. It was episode 131. Similar conversation in terms of that intersection with Bureau Veritas, episode 133.

Had on Dr. Andreas Schroeder of the Advanced Services Group at Aston Business School. He was on a few times this year. He's a great person to talk with, but specifically 127 was about this topic. So, I think that's also an area that there's so much to dive into both related to how companies improve their own efforts around sustainability and how that also translates into new service offerings for customers.

So I've been doing this for a while, and I've been in this space for a while and I often get asked how do you keep writing about this stuff? Don't you get bored? It's all of these layers that exist in each of these topics. There's these sort of buzzwords or these categories of conversation that people know are important, or have heard, digital transformation or As-a-Service. It's really when you dig into those things and you start to talk to people that have done it or are doing it and understand all of the layers that go into that type of change and that type of transformation. That's what makes it interesting for me, that's what keeps it interesting, and I'm thrilled to be here sharing that all with you.

So I look forward to some great, insightful, fruitful, actionable conversations this year. Thank you so much for joining me here on the Future of Field Service Podcast. I know it's been around for three years now, which is hard to believe, and I'm looking forward to a wonderful 2022. So happy new year, thank you for being here, and I'll speak with you all again soon.

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January 3, 2022 | 6 Mins Read

Five Headlines I’m Excited to Write in 2022

January 3, 2022 | 6 Mins Read

Five Headlines I’m Excited to Write in 2022


By Sarah Nicastro, Creator, Future of Field Service

Happy New Year, everyone! There’s something so inspiring about fresh starts. While 2021 didn’t bring us as much reprieve as we may have wished from Covid and its ripple effects, I’m entering 2022 cautiously optimistic that we’ll find a next normal this year that will give us at least some respite from the immense stress of the past two years. Whatever the year may bring, I’m thankful to be sharing it with you all – and we’ll work through what comes together, just like we always do.

With that said, I’m often asked at the end of a year/beginning of the next to offer my “predictions” for what’s to come. I have never been a fan of this practice. I understand why folks do it – the headlines draw a lot of clicks. But let’s be honest – none of us can predict the future, and I don’t enjoy the forcedness of trying. The other reality is that much of what will take place in 2022 is a continuation and maturation of some of the trends we’ve been “predicting” for a while – we’re at a level of sophistication with technology and innovation in service that the excitement isn’t in any one “next big thing,” but in the nuance of mastering the layers of change that come with ongoing evolution and transformation. 

So, spoiler alert – no predictions here! But what I would like to share are some thoughts on the headlines I’d like to write in 2022. To me, these are the top-of-mind conversations leading into the New Year that I think deserve our attention and will benefit us all to have:

#1: Employee Experience Takes Priority

We’ve spent the last five or so talking at length about the customer experience, and while that’s no less important than it has been – in 2022, employee experience will take center stage. It simply must. The Great Resignation will force companies to reflect on everything from their company culture to the strength and quality of their leadership to the employee value proposition to how much (or how little) opportunity exists for career development, and much more. 

Organizations will be forced to take responsibility to get more creative in how – and whom – they hire. Leaders will need to do and give more in the form of mentorship, encouragement, and recognition. We’re all realizing that the stellar customer experience we aim to deliver is impossible without engaged and satisfied employees, and in 2022 we must do what it takes to understand what our employees want and need to be happy and work tirelessly to deliver that. 

If you’d like to review some excellent podcasts from which we’ll continue this conversation in 2022, here are some recommendations:

#2: Mental Health Gets the Attention It Deserves in the Workplace

You cannot dispute the depths of stress and worry and trauma that have been experienced over the last two years. Of course, there are varying degrees – some have lost loved ones, some have had to juggle working with children at home, and some are forced to show up to work with colleagues who have very different fundamental beliefs than they do. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg, really. Not to mention the fact that even pre-Covid, mental health deserved far more attention in the workplace than it was getting.

We’ve begun to take efforts to normalize the topic of mental health in the workplace, but we have a long way to go. There’s a lot of room for improvement when it comes to how these discussions are handled – and encouraged, what resources are available and how they’re used, how leaders lead by example, and how we deal with the realities of providing a safe place for those struggling to come when they do. 

Again, if you’d like to check out some of the conversations we’ve had thus far on this topic, you can find those here:

#3: Companies Weave Digital into Their Identities

I just wrote an article at the end of 2021 about some of the confusion around Digital Transformation and in 2022 we need to gain more clarity around the digital continuum. Digital isn’t something we need “to do” but rather something that needs to become a part of our company’s identity. This means no more siloes, no more disjointed approaches and strategies, and moving beyond fragmented systems and tools.

Digital as a part of our identity means it is within the business’ DNA – it’s a part of every conversation, every function, every role. Digital leadership is strong and digital reputation is considered. Digital is being leveraged to streamline internal operations in a way that enables the best customer experience as well as efficiency, and it’s being used externally as a part of a company’s value proposition. As a company masters a foundational level of capability, they look for layers of sophistication and intelligence to layer on.

There’s a lot to discuss – and for many to do – to get to this point. We need better strategy, systems that streamline complexity, and insights that tell stories and allow for intelligent decision making. If you’d like to review some excellent conversations around digital, here are some top picks:

#4: The Service Value Proposition is No Longer Service

Here’s the punchline: customers don’t want service. They want uptime, outcomes, peace of mind. They want all of the complexity that goes into making “it” work to be invisible. They don’t want to buy “things” – they want knowledge and insights and perspective that helps them be and do better. 

Whether we refer to this evolution as Servitization, the move to delivering outcomes, As-a-Service, or the subscription economy, it means that we need to re-evaluate how we’re doing business and how we’re talking about service (hint: it shouldn’t be an “offering”). Companies need to be equipping themselves with the technological underpinnings that allow for guaranteed outcomes and need to be reconsidering their identity – moving away from manufacturer of X or servicer of Y to provider of (insert your differentiation here). I wrote an article about the idea of storytelling here, and I would love to explore this more in 2022. 

We had some great conversations about this topic in 2021 and featured some who are leading the charge. You can review those here:

#5: Sustainability Spurs Service Growth  

With the growing realization of how much more effort we need to be putting into saving our environment, and new standards and regulations being introduced around the globe, there’s a lot to discuss around sustainability. Even more specifically, there’s an immense amount of opportunity here for the introduction of new services – as well as a natural fit in how a focus on sustainability lends itself to the changes that Servitization introduce in terms of longer-lasting products and a more circular approach. 

I’m excited to see where this conversation goes in 2022. You can check out some of our previous discussions here:

What are you most interested to read or discuss in 2022? I’d love to hear! I’m always open to your feedback and input and look forward to continuing the conversations with you all this year. 

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