By Dan Smith
It’s no secret that the hiring environment is tough and many businesses are short staffed. Employers, including facility management, need an edge to attract and retain quality employees. Providing mobile work apps could provide such an edge for operations and maintenance (O&M) teams.
According to the Pew Research Center, 100% of people ages 18-29 have a mobile phone, and 96% have a smartphone. A 22-year-old has never known a world without the Internet, YouTube, or Google — all of which have become a part of their daily existence. For these born-digital employees, there’s a presumption that their jobs will entail working with a mobile device or some other current technology.
Yet many O&M teams rely on antiquated enterprise apps (or even, paper-based processes) that take months to learn and years to master. New mobile apps with the same capabilities as the legacy enterprise apps have become commonplace — not only providing a modern look and feel, but also offering the intuitive navigation, “do anything from anywhere” constructs, and no/low learning curves common to most mobile apps.
In the O&M sphere, the average age of an employed operations and maintenance manager is 48 years old(1), and job postings are up 26% over the pre-pandemic baseline(2). The industry is struggling to recruit new workers, and one of its primary sources of talent is vocational/technical schools where the students are typically using the latest technologies as part of their day-to-day studies. Featuring mobile apps and other tech in your recruitment materials, and also embedding videos of technicians using these technologies on your website, can help persuade applicants to give your job opening another look.
The rationale is pretty simple: entry-level employees don’t want to invest time in learning a system or skill which will soon be obsolete — it’s no different than when young engineers and technicians refused to learn how to use a slide rule once handheld calculators became commonplace in the mid-1970s. There are plenty of YouTube videos featuring show-downs of a proficient slide rule user doing complex calculations faster than someone with a first-generation calculator. But as we all know, that calculator evolved to be a PC in the 1980s, a supercomputer in the 1990s, and the massively parallel cloud computing we enjoy today, while the slide rule evolved to be, well, the same old slide rule. New employees want to invest their time gaining expertise with today’s leading mobile apps, which then puts them in position to be at the forefront as mobile tools evolve to potentially include cutting edge technologies such as augmented reality, computer vision, artificial intelligence, and digital twins.
Investing in mobile gives your new employees, and your veteran employees, the opportunity to develop sought-after skills that are relevant to the larger job market and their careers. Perhaps more importantly, the investment also allows your new hires use their born-digital mobile skills to help your more experienced employees learn from them while they’re still learning the craft or trade. Instead of being the “rookie” on all things, these new employees can immediately be a sought-after resource for those long-term employees transitioning to the new mobile tools, creating an exchange of knowledge that translates to faster skill development on both sides, and more notably, creates personal bonds that lead to greater job satisfaction, organic mentorship, and lower turnover.
When I visit with operations teams, I frequently see staff of all experience levels sitting in front of a desktop computer, but using a mobile device to get their work done. “Our staff prefer to use mobile apps,” the manager at one such office told me. That alone is a good indication of where the future of O&M software is headed.
As you hire entry-level staff, they will expect to be equipped with mobile tech. If you already have mobile tech, wheel it to the front of the stage. If you haven’t yet invested, you may soon discover that you’re not only at a competitive disadvantage due to the efficiencies it brings, but also at a recruiting disadvantage when trying to attract new employees. Don’t give your recruits a reason to select a different job over yours.
Smith is vice president, sales & marketing at InterPro Solutions, a firm that offers a suite of mobile Enterprise Asset Management (EAM) solutions designed exclusively for IBM Maximo®.. He has more than 25 years’ experience in the software industry. He holds a BS in Industrial Engineering from Columbia University, and an MBA in Finance from New York University’s Stern School.