In The Field

IMPROVING PRODUCTIVITYHere are ways to improve field worker productivity.

By Chris Lennon

When you have multiple work sites, your projects, information, and equipment are constantly moving between locations. This continual shift makes it difficult to keep track of assets in an organized manner. You may lose sight of off-site employees in the shuffle, too.

But making simple changes to your business processes can help you manage your field workers, build strong relationships with them, and drive them to be more productive. Here are three ideas to get you started.
Get to Know Your Field Workers 

Your employees are more likely to perform better and work harder for someone that they know. According to research from Gallup, employees are more likely to experiment with new ideas, advocate for their employer, and support their coworkers if they believe their supervisors show compassion. 

It’s not as easy to chit chat about family or hobbies when your field workers don’t work in the same physical location. You shouldn’t wait for opportunities to arise: be proactive in demonstrating an interest in your field workers. 

To make sure you invest in your field workers, ask yourself the following questions: 

  • What have I done this week for my off-site employees to make sure they know I care?
  • What feedback have I given to my field workers to show that their work is appreciated?
  • How am I showing compassion to my off-site employees so that they feel recognized?
  • How often am I communicating with my field workers?
  • How will I continuously learn more about each off-site employee's personal life outside the work environment?
  • Are field workers being included in company meetings and company outings?
  • Is my company culture inclusive of field workers?

Your management team should also be asking themselves a similar set of questions to make sure field workers feel valued as team members:

  • How can I ensure that I collaborate more often with off-site employees?
  • Am I setting realistic goals for my off-site employees?
  • How often am I providing feedback?
  • What learning or development opportunities am I offering to field workers?
  • Am I offering open communication channels for my field workers?

If your company offers perks as a form of employee appreciation, extend these perks to your field workers, too. If you provide snacks to the employees in your corporate office, send a care package to your off-site employees. Or if you bring in speakers for lunch and learns or seminars, give off-site workers easy access to the presentation. 

Provide the Appropriate Resources 

The absence of even simple tools can make it difficult for field workers to do their work. It’s important that you consider whether or not your off-site employees are set up for success by reviewing your company’s communication tools and technology.

Some resources to consider for your field workers are real-time communication channels, file-sharing and collaboration platforms, task management solutions, project management software, rugged devices, and even on-site equipment. Regularly ask your field workers what equipment they need to get the job done. Your employees will likely suggest some tools that can help them do their job better and increase their productivity.

Choosing to equip your field workers with smart devices is an important business decision to consider. By providing these devices to your off-site employees, they can make calls, look up work orders, and complete other tasks without needing to travel back to the office. These devices also help them stay up-to-date with office communications and important emails so they can respond in real-time regardless of their location.

Create Processes That Support Field Workers

Your managers should not be figuring out how to engage field workers on a per-case basis. Instead, your company should establish processes that set field workers and their managers up for success. 

Consider establishing the following processes in your organization:

  • A robust onboarding program. Onboarding is critical to employee success, and a visit to meet colleagues at the corporate office on their first day will help your field workers establish relationships. This visit can also minimize the chance of an “us” versus “them” attitude, which can harm the connection between headquarters and field workers. 
  • Communication expectations and norms. Establish best practices for communicating. How often will your management team be in touch with off-site workers? What forms of communication will they use for these regular check-ins? 
  • A help desk to respond to questions from the field. Off-site workers may have different schedules than the corporate office, especially when finishing a big project. Consider staffing a help desk for after hours to answer any questions from the field. You can also have the management team take turns being “on-call” to respond to field workers.
  • Regularly scheduled company-wide meetings. By hosting meetings on a regular basis, you can establish accountability within your company. These meetings will also offer you a chance to recognize specific employees or teams in front of everyone. This recognition will give your field workers a sense of accomplishment and pride if they see their efforts are acknowledged in front of the entire company.
  • Monthly or quarterly visits to headquarters. Establish a schedule for field workers to visit the corporate office. This visit will help develop a stronger relationship between your management and your employees, and will also allow time for additional training and professional development for your off-site employees. You can also consider scheduling your management team to visit off-site locations on a monthly or quarterly basis, too, so that they can better understand the job sites where your off-site employees are working. 

Ask your field workers what processes and procedures would make their work run more smoothly. You may get some great ideas from them, and asking for their feedback shows that you are interested in their feedback. 

Your employees may be in the field, but they don’t need to feel remote. Build relationships with your field workers, provide them with the equipment they need, and create processes to help field workers and the management team that supports them. They’ll be happier and more productive employees because of it.

Chris Lennon is vice president of product management at BirdDogHR. He is an active participant in the talent management community bringing over 18 years of experience to BirdDogHR. Lennon has presented at numerous industry events and has been quoted as an industry expert in leading publications like Talent Management magazine, CLO magazine, New Talent Times, TLNT and HR Bartender.

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