We previously examined how to achieve productivity improvements for Field Operations, which emphasised the steps that management should take to transform the field operations process. However, it is also imperative that the field teams themselves are empowered to identify and deliver opportunities for improvement. This is a long-term strategic commitment that utility organisations should prioritise to ensure their field workers have the correct knowledge, tools, and platform to actively identify opportunities and solve problems at their own level; all the while encouraging them to be more engaged in the continuous improvement of the organisation. This guide will help to understand the main starting points and drivers when seeking to empower your field operations teams.
Understand Field Teams’ Challenges
Prior to considering how to empower Field Operations teams, it is crucial that management spends time trying to understand the team’s current challenges, and how they are approaching them. If field teams are not keen to engage with their organisation on their challenges, then identifying the root causes of their frustrations may help to unearth the reasons why. Our research indicates that sporadic journey planning, the availability and location of parts, and poor outputs from job initiation are some of the most common struggles experienced within Field Operations. Recognising these challenges will help management analyse how best to solve the disengagement of field teams, and begin to discover the best approaches to empower them to solve problems at their own level.
Field Team Engagement in Decision-Making
For any initiatives, changes, or improvements that impact field teams, it makes most sense to involve them from the very outset. Positioning the field operators at the heart of decision making, and providing a platform for staff engagement, will encourage them to make improvement suggestions and contributions; helping to increase the success of user adoption and acceptance. Listening and acting upon their front-line insights will make them feel more empowered and valuable to the organisation. Overall, the ideas and insights of employees should inform organisational strategy, whilst also solving their field challenges through equipping and supporting them in their job.
Training the Field Operators
Knowledge is a powerful factor that empowers field teams to achieve great results. By training them in areas such as problem solving, standard work techniques and processes, field teams can be transported to a whole new and improved way of seeing, doing and thinking about their work. Consistently challenging their thinking will help to increase their working capabilities, and allow them to become far more self-sufficient. Focusing on training will empower the field teams to seek out opportunities for themselves to become more effective at identifying opportunities for improvement; allowing them to take action to solve problems across the whole range of field services.
Nurturing a Culture of Improvement and Trust
A strong organisational culture, which encourages its field teams to be part of its improvement processes, is essential to help increase employee engagement and empowerment. Nurturing this type of culture will help to shape your field team’s behaviour, by encouraging them to work more closely with the organisation, through which they can identify ways of improving their operations and remove the source of their personal frustrations.
Field operation teams can also be empowered through the mutual trust between themselves and their management. Leaders must trust them to plan and manage their work and become their own problem solver, whilst the field teams must trust that the leaders have the best processes in place in order to allow them to do their jobs most effectively.
Ultimately, it is a responsibility of the Leadership team to empower the field teams to engage and interact with the organisation. They must set the benchmark on which to build and deliver improvement, and it is their job to ensure that all field operators agree on this standard of work. They must be attentive and operate in the most transparent way, to help build a strong organisational culture and allow field teams to understand what their role is in relation to achieving the goals of the organisation.
Those utility organisations who commit to empowering their field operations teams find that their workforce is far more productive, self-sufficient and capable, and it can make a real and measurable difference to productivity improvements. Empowering your field teams will deliver better customer satisfaction, ensure work is completed at a faster pace with fewer errors and interruptions, and ultimately increase worker motivation and morale.
To learn more about transforming your field operations process and how to empower and support your field workers, we recommend reading the Field Operations Puzzle.
The Field Operations Puzzle
This article explores the challenges within field operations, including the ever-increasing requirements of both the regulator and the customer, and how they can be met.