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Making workplace hum for millennials requires new music

Field service executive weighs in on how to attract younger workers to industrial jobs.

November 2015

Dave Hart, vice president of global customer transformation at ServiceMax, speaks at the Fluke Measure of Innovation summit in Everett, Washington.


Today’s workforce is increasingly shifting from gray hair to tattoos. The younger workers want a different culture around them, more feedback and managers who provide a clear path to promotions. They hunger for technology and maybe gamifying some of the ways they measure their own career path.

That’s what field service expert Dave Hart told an audience at a Fluke summit earlier this year. Hart, who is vice president of global customer transformation at ServiceMax, helps run an organization with 60,000 field representatives. Pew Research reports that the generation born in the aftermath of World War II is disappearing at a rate of about 10,000 workers per day, and that drain will continue for more than a decade. Replacing them requires both attracting young talent, but also motivating them to stick around.

Hart shared numbers to back up what he called 50 shades of gray about to walk out your door. Forty percent of engineering positions are held by employees over 40. Within field service, about 20 percent of workers are over 55, he said.

“So everybody in this room who runs an organization, an operation right now, you have a wealth of talent … about to walk out your door pretty soon,“ Hart said.

New workers bring an abundance of potential and talent, but they don’t like using paper and they aren’t satisfied by the same sort of human resources and benefits that their parents may have liked. They want paperless instant access to information and they might want frequent feedback about how they are doing in comparison to their peers.

Just making sure you have a high-level of technology on the job is great, but don’t kid yourself. This group of people who use iPhones has been called the “igeneration.”

“This isn't game changing, as far as they're concerned. This [technology] is table stakes. They're expecting your organization to have this kind of technology. And if it doesn't, frankly, you're uninteresting to them and unappealing” Hart said.

One of the examples he discussed is Fluke Connect, a mobile-phone app that allows trouble-shooting and maintenance testing shared across mobile devices and tablets. A group of college students designing a solar-powered car explain in this video how they used these tools, including an infrared camera that helped them quickly improve their solar gain.

One thermographer who has used the Fluke Connect system, Eric Black, who is also an independent Fluke sales rep, described one very popular aspect of the infrared cameras.

“You can take digital images with the app, so that once you sync up your data with your meter or your thermal imager, you can take a separate digital picture using your phone and embed that right in. You can send that off to a manager for a decision on how soon it needs to be repaired or if it can be put off to later date.”

Besides great technology on the job, millennials also have a different way of seeing their careers. They may not like a traditional yearly performance review talk with a manager.

Playing games may not sound like career advancement, but Hart said millennials like gamification tools that show them the expectations for a certain job and give some sort of reward for each task completed. “Create a tool that allows them to play a game. Are you doing what you should be doing? And if so, we'll reward you for that,” he said.

Younger workers want to compete against their peers and get quarterly or more frequent feedback telling them how to get ahead.

The same-old things will not hold this younger workforce. One participant in the Fluke conference described a company with 25 percent attrition of younger workers because it did not change its culture.

There needs to be a handoff, as he said. “They’re not going to follow us by having us do the same things that make us comfortable.”