Webinar: CMiC & Fieldpoint — Where Construction ERP Meets Service Management Watch Video

The Future of Field Service May Rely on the Gig Economy

Published on Oct 28, 2021 | Field Service

There is constant pressure from field service organizations to find qualified and skilled technicians. Unfortunately, labor shortages have made it difficult for some businesses to complete all their work orders. With the culture of work changing and customers wanting on-demand service, field service is turning to the gig economy to fulfill their needs.

It is estimated that there will be a shortage of 8.2 million workers in the U.S. labor market by 2027. However, there is still plenty of work to go around, and field service businesses are willing to take on any worker with the right qualifications who can provide a high level of service to their customers.

These are better known as subcontractors, and often they work on their own or are part of smaller companies. But there is also a group of workers in the gig economy who don’t even work in field service and take on field service work as a side job. And due to the increasing number of calls field service businesses are taking, these workers are likely to be the future of field service work.

What is the gig economy?

The gig economy is made up of skilled workers who may not work full-time in their trade but can still provide service on an on-demand basis. The younger generation of technicians may refer to themselves as freelancers, or perhaps you have heard the term ‘side hustle’ to describe their off-hours job beyond their regular employment.

Gallup reported that by 2027, nearly 50% of U.S. workers would be performing side jobs to add additional income, or as a way to transition into something else they want to get into, or as a way to do work they enjoy. Whatever the case may be, they are making up a large portion of the field service workforce and are providing a flexible schedule for field service companies.

This new economy is characterized by non-traditional workers who are still very skilled and qualified, working independently, with short-term working relationships. Some worry that the gig economy undermines the employer and employee relationship, as gig workers often are willing to do work at lower rates and undercut costs since it is supplemental income and not their primary income.

However, some see it as an empowerment tool for their business, with people taking entrepreneurship skills and bringing them to the field service industry. Often gig workers want to maintain a relationship with someone who offers fair compensation and continuous work and would be willing to arrange a deal with a field service business if they were the first choice for additional work.

Currently, Gallup says 36% of U.S. workers have gig work arrangements, which is only going to rise in the future.

The gig economy comes with its share of challenges

While hiring a subcontractor seems like an obvious choice for a field service business that has too much work, hiring from the gig economy is not without its share of challenges. The barrier to entering the gig economy is low. However, the skills need to complete specific field service work are incredibly high. These workers may need qualifications and training, and gig workers may not have the necessary skills to provide the different services that a field service organization offers. They also may not be able to change on the fly should a second problem arise while on the job site.

When dealing with customers you have a relationship with; you don’t want to send these workers who may not have the skills needed to complete the job. That could lead to a loss of reputation and a lost customer. The workers must have the necessary skills to complete the jobs; however, sometimes those skills don’t match the requirements of the on-site work.

Those who want to use gig subcontractors need to properly vet these workers to ensure the skill set matches the job requirements. For example, ensuring the subcontractor has experience running cable or working on heavy equipment. Even down to making sure they have the proper tools for the job before they go to the job site.

And finally, the worker is going to be a representative of your brand. They will be meeting with the customer, providing knowledge and service. What is their customer service track record? Are they professional? Do they have what it takes to represent your company? By hiring them, you are placing them in front of your customers with your name attached, so it’s your reputation that would be harmed should something go wrong.

Read how Creative Realities used a custom integration to WorkMarket to hire subcontractors to deploy digital ecosystems.

Embrace what gig workers bring to your business

It’s not easy to add gig workers and subcontractors into an organizational structure that isn’t prepared for them. Gig workers often don’t work the same structure of any field service business. However, that doesn’t mean they can’t fit in. It may just be that the field service business needs to rethink how they do business with gig workers in mind.

One of the main reasons they are hired is because customers want flexible and on-demand service. Uber is considered gig work, and while field service is a lot more complicated than driving people around, the idea that you can call up for service is appealing to many people and can help you win customers. While you may not be performing major service during these on-call hours, having a gig worker ready to take on simple service calls can help win more prominent customers later.

Flexibility is critical, and that is where gig workers thrive. They want to take on work when they feel like it, which makes it rewarding, and add income when they feel like adding income. Managers need to be trained to better relate to this temporary workforce to get the most out of it. That means managers need to connect to the gig workers the expectations of working within their organization, what is expected of them, and how they should conduct business.

It’s also essential that field service businesses make themselves appealing to the gig economy. Mistreating your temporary workers earns a bad reputation, and that can get you shunned by future workers. Remember, these workers are flexible and can pick and choose whom they do business with. It’s also often their side job, so they are not relying on this work for their primary income.

The future of field service is gig working contractors

The workforce shortage in field service has made the gig economy very appealing. The desire to increase revenues means field service workers need to find skilled labor to complete work orders, and for that, they may need to embrace a different kind of worker altogether. By utilizing gig workers, they can start to offer on-demand service and enter areas of the industry they weren’t able to before with their newfound workforce.

Download our eBook today, ‘The Rise of the Contractors’, to learn more about third-party subcontractors and how the gig economy shapes field service.