How to Manage Contingent Workers in Field Service

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The ebb and flow of demand for field service technicians is usually met by tapping into your company’s  general buffer. You have ten techs, for instance, and at any given time, eight of them are doing on-demand work, while two are training, doing preventative maintenance, or are helping to increase your client portfolio. When things heat up, those two join the others in the field, and you meet the demand.

contingent workers

Sometimes, that buffer isn’t enough to cover a spike in work. Major industry changes – a new and popular product release or a regulatory deadline, for instance – can create a need for technicians that a company simply can’t meet without hiring new employees. This is where contingent workers come into play.

Hiring contingent workers

In its whitepaper on contingent workers, Field Nation discusses three common ways companies can setup a staffing solution. The most important part of all three options is that they allow for on-demand staffing. That means not having to hire, onboard, and document workers when you need them. It saves time and means that you have more flexibility to get people on the ground right when you need them, not five days and hours of paperwork later.

First, you can build your own field service contractor force. This is the most hands on option, but provides for the highest level of oversight. In this model, your business effectively manages a roster of techs that can be called up from the minors at any time. You’ll have to manage all aspects of their hiring – interviews, tax forms, paychecks, etc. – but you know they’re the kinds of people you want to be working with. This is an excellent option for growing businesses, as these temporary workers can sometimes be segued into full time staff.

Second, you can build a relationship with a staffing agency. This is a more flexible, less hands-on solution, but it’s going to cost you more cash. Not only will you be paying for the tech, you’ll be paying some fee to the staffing agency. The trade-off is that you don’t have all the headaches associated with hiring and retaining employees. You’ll also be less likely to run out of resources – if you need eight techs but only have a stable of four, you’re in trouble.

Finally, Field Nation suggests the rising popularity of the Uber model. This is a system where employees are available on-demand through a third party, but not a staffing agency. More like a job board, where folks with the right skills are matched with companies needing those skills. The matchmaker takes some fee, but there’s less overhead than in a traditional staffing agency. The trade-off here is in the chance that you’ll end up with someone who doesn’t fit your company’s culture – the Uber driver whose backseat is full of trash. They’ll be able to get the job done, but there’s a lower chance that they’ll be your kind of employee.

Third party solutions

In the vein of Uber, companies like Field Nation and OnForce connect workers with jobs. As a field service organization, you can tap into the network of techs that use these platforms to fill jobs when necessary.

Most of these platforms are focused on single job fulfillment – the printer’s broken and we need a guy to go fix it – but you can also manage longer term projects. Work Market, for instance, lets you manage both of the basic IRS forms for contractors and employees – W2s and 1099s.

Which platform works best for you will depend on where you’re located, what kinds of work you need done, and which one fits your budget and financial plans. The range of quality you can find is basically unvaried by platform, as many sign up for all of the platforms to give themselves more exposure.

Final thoughts

Take some time to figure out what system is going to work best for you. As I said before, a growing business may want to make some personal connections to have a future worker pool to draw from. For larger businesses, you just want to get the work done ASAP, no bumps, no downtime. In that case, a third-party solution is likely to be the ticket.

I like the immediacy you get from third-party providers, but you’ll have to be willing to get the occasional mediocre tech. Maybe they don’t say thank you or smile or leave your contact information. These aren’t problems that make third-party solutions horrible, just not always ideal.

Check out our blog post on hiring and retaining contractors, for more insights into the financial steps that go along with field service contract workers.

Header by Rachel Wille

Looking for Field Service Management software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Field Service Management software solutions.

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Andrew Marder

Andrew Marder is a former Capterra analyst.

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