Service Workforce Transformation

A practical guide for equipment and machinery manufacturers on how to set up and maintain a winning service workforce

Equipment and machinery manufacturers are facing huge challenges when it comes to providing after-sales service. As technology goes more digital, there are fewer people qualified to work as service technicians. And those who are qualified are not necessarily attracted to the job. So, the challenge for industrial manufacturers is two-fold: make sure that your existing service workforce is qualified to enter the digital age and that there are always enough service technicians available to meet your customers’ demands. Under the banner of “Service Workforce Transformation” (SWT), In this new whitepaper, Deloitte has outlined the building blocks organizations should implement to make it happen.

Service Workforce Challenges

A series of disruptive forces is profoundly changing the way service is delivered. The existing service workforce is not only struggling to keep up with new technology and changing customer requirements, but new talent is also extremely hard to recruit – here are the main challenges:

  • Hard to get and hard to keep: Service technicians are hard to recruit in the first place, and technicians already on staff need an attractive career path to retain them. On top the pandemic has given rise to a “Great Realignment” in which employees are reconsidering everything from the kind of employer they want to work for to the role they expect employers to play in supporting their sense of purpose and values.
  • Unattractive travel: The pandemic has made jobs that require travel even less popular and a lot of work has been shifted from the shop floors and meeting rooms into back offices – in response not only to the pandemic but also to remote machine monitoring. Some service technician travel will certainly remain, but industrial manufacturers will have to find a smarter way to organize it to unburden travel-weary technicians and reduce emissions.
  • Need to re-train: With more and more digital features in equipment and machinery, including the possibility for online monitoring and analyses, the skill set of today’s service technicians is changing rapidly. Service technicians, now more than ever need skills to analyze data, develop predictive maintenance schemes and much more. 
  • New future roles: Roles for future service technicians will change and they will more and more need to act as a second sales force establishing personal bonds with the customer. Or they might serve as an “antenna” for the emerging needs of the customers. Or they could become company “ambassadors” with the aim of strengthening customer loyalty. 
Service Workforce Transformation

Service Workforce Transformation Approach

Tackling isolated measures one by one in fire-fighting mode is not enough to solve the interconnected challenges outlined above. To build a lasting workforce structure over the next decades, you need an end-to-end service workforce transformation with four main building blocks:

Block 1 – Re-architecting work

The work service technicians do will increasingly take place in a service center, with fewer diagnostic tasks and fewer repair jobs done in the field. This holds the opportunity to “re-architect” the service workforce and its job profiles, moving beyond “regular” field repair and diagnosis activities towards enrichment with sales as well as online consulting activities.

Block 2 – Talent ecosystems and open talent models

We expect the number of people who are willing and able to work as a service technician to continue to fall, and many service jobs will remain unfilled as a result. Open talent models offer a way forward for employers. These so-called contingent workforce models have been on the rise for quite some time, especially in the US market. As we have seen in so many areas, the pandemic has accelerated this trend as well. A recent study by Gartner predicts that organizations around the world will expand their use of contingent workers to cut costs and make their post-pandemic workforce management more flexible. 

Block 3 – Up/reskilling

As indicated above, the hard and soft skills that today’s service technicians need in the field and in the service center are radically changing. Some will need to work primarily online and perform data analytics tasks. Others will need to solve the customers’ problems and make sure the customer relationships remain strong. This will require targeted up/reskilling measures in the spheres of data analytics and technology as well as relationship management and sales.

Block 4 – Employer branding and employee experience

Being a service technician is a demanding job that requires commitment, expertise and a certain tolerance for discomfort. There are, however, ways to make the service technician career easier – by offering more recognition and better career perspectives including attractive incentives and flexible work models. In this context, the ability of leveraging social media to communicate and positively impact the perceptions of potential employees will be one of the crucial elements.

How to put Theory into Practice

Installing the building blocks outlined above, demands a structured approach. We recommend to start the transformation by acknowledging that real change is behavioral change and move into the technicalities afterwards.

RE-FOCUS – Real change is behavioral change

Training and communication are basic requirements, but they may not be enough to really change behavior. The critical factor for a sustainable service workforce transformation within your organization is to create and internalize a new reality. Therefore, it is critical to identify new target behaviors as well as existing behaviors that need to change and to design and implement tailored interventions designed to alter behavior in the intended ways. 

RE-SIZE – Get the size right for your service organization

Map the current service technician workforce based on industry benchmarks. This will allow you to determine the size of the future organization, based on the operating model, organizational design and newly defined job profiles. Further quantitative analysis and additional criteria (such as geographic factors, specialization, customer structure) will help determine the final sizing recommendations.

RE-THINK – Re-architect work

As outlined above service work should no longer be about performing standard service tasks as productively as possible any longer. Instead, it should be about making the customer happy, establishing a trusted collaboration with the customer and aiming for long-term value creation, for example, by helping customers operate the equipment optimally, reach their sustainability goals or manufacture more efficiently. 

RE-STAFF – Find and implement innovative talent systems

A short-term solution would be to re-think the composition of the service workforce and try new ways to hire existing talent already working in the market, especially freelancers and project workers using existing platforms such as upwork or Fiverr. In the longer term, equipment and machinery manufacturers could form alliances with competitors or even organizations in related industries to create proprietary platform solutions that would allow them to share service personnel among the different service organizations. 

RE-TRAIN – Establish continuous service workforce transformation

In the short term, we propose on-the-job trainings for new tools and processes paired with incentive programs that drive widespread adoption of the technology. In the medium term, manufacturers can set up a campus-like training academy with a set curriculum taught by professionals from various fields. There might even be training alliances in the future that enable third party equipment repairs (depending on the respective competitive situation).

Our service technicians are our most important asset and the backbone of our success – we continuously invest to bring them up to speed faster, make their lifes easier and support them with the best tools and technology everywhere at anytime – together we strive to impact the satisfaction of our customers.
Frank Marschatz, Director Service Jungheinrich AG

RE-PURPOSE – Launch an employer branding campaign

Rethink the incentive programs for service staff, for example by readjusting existing KPIs or remuneration structures and giving staff more flexibility in terms of their workload and travel requirements. In the long run, companies should develop a comprehensive Employer Value Proposition (EVP); in other words, a unique set of offerings, associations and values that resonate with target candidates and employees. The EVP is essentially a set of clear reasons why candidates would want to join the company and why current employees decide to stay.

RE-ADJUST – Establish flexible service career paths

The only constant in life is change, and careers will inevitably ebb and flow over time. So, to retain experienced service technicians, it is important to offer flexible terms that fit their individual lives – for example, by allowing them to stay in the office or work from home as young parents, or by providing the prospect of assuming more responsibility and earning more income at other times in life. There should also be ongoing development options within the service organization and possibly also outside of it: a well-balanced mix of clear-cut career models plus multiple flexible options for all walks of life.


For more information on service workforce transformation, download the whitepaper “Service Workforce Transformation” here and get in touch with us.

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