Fieldman Blog

How a Management Platform Can Resolve the Labor Shortage

Best Practices
Management Platform  Resolve Labor Shortage
As we reflect on the beginning of 2022, around ten million jobs are unfilled in the United States, and many businesses, including utilities, are struggling to operate at full capacity. It started earlier for utilities; the industry faced labor shortages long before the pandemic. And this won't change in the immediate future. Twenty-five percent of the utility industry's workforce is expected to retire by 2023, according to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

What can companies do when so many people are leaving their jobs or not returning? How can they attract employees to exchange meters and detect gas leaks? And why did the Fieldman team decide to write a story about it in its blog?

MIT Sloan School of Management designed a strategy to help companies fill their labor shortage and become more attractive for potential employees. IT platforms play a huge role in this strategy. 

Zeynep Ton, a professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management, believes the only way to fix the problem is to offer better jobs. "People at any level deserve good pay and benefits, security, flexibility, and work that feels engaging," she says in an interview for HBR. 

Companies that have many low-wage workers they depend on should consider raising compensation. "I have found in my research that paying the market might work for certain job titles," says Zeynep Ton in the HBR podcast. "But for the lower end of the economy, where the median wage has been less than $15 an hour, market wages don't work so well because what you're benchmarking is also poorly paid by other companies. Organizations need to make people essential to winning in their business." 

In 2019, McKinsey predicted a more extensive spread in wages. "In the long term, automation is likely to increase productivity and allow wages to rise for workers with more advanced skills," wrote Michael Chui and Jan Mischke in their article. They claimed that automation and companies' digital transformation would increase wages. 

Scholars and executives agree that applying wage rises is a tough decision for top managers because there is no way to roll them back once they are done. Not a single worker would tolerate a pay cut. Many changes must be applied at all company levels, meaning executives and middle managers should reform how their company operates and how it saves costs. 

Among the companies that have succeeded in this journey is Costco, one of the leading retail organizations. The median wage at Costco is more than $24 an hour (compared with the $13 median pay in retail). In October 2020, Costco raised the minimum wage to $17, increasing it a second time in one year. How can Costco pay that much for their employees and offer the lowest prices to customers? What helps Costco be among the 25 major U.S. companies with the happiest employees?

Costco leverages its investment in people and empowers its employees to cut costs everywhere. The company designs the work processes so that workers can be exceptionally productive. The retail giant is not alone; other companies also successfully invest in their people. QuikTrip, a convenience store chain with gas stations, and Spanish supermarket chain Mercadona are among them. 

One of the most effective tools to help lower costs is an efficient IT platform. Modern IT solutions allow companies to create very efficient workflows, saving employees valuable time and providing excellent customer experiences. Technologies can automate scheduling and dispatching, appointment reminders, route optimization, and data collection, minimizing return visits and improving productivity and profitability overall. For utility call centers and utility vendors that must meet a tight timeline from startup to completion, a cloud-based project management platform like Fieldman could be the answer. 

Another advantage is that cloud-based platforms are very affordable for all businesses because they don't have licensing fees and upfront payment demands. For example, with Fieldman, there is no upfront infrastructure and no hidden costs. There is no need to manage application installs and reinstalls due to upgrades. All you need is to send a link via text or email, and a worker is up and running.

If a company already has an IT solution, it's a good idea to reevaluate it. Does it still produce workflow efficiencies as it once promised? Are new features added that help your business? Outdated software is typically expensive to service and cannot skyrocket a company's productivity. And not all software vendors prioritize research and development.

"Many service companies find themselves in a vicious cycle of high turnover and poor performance, but they are still profitable," explains Zeynep Ton. And they say, "Well, we are profitable, so why should we change?" "But you are only profitable until you're not," she adds.