How to Measure Technician Productivity & 15 Ways to Improve It
Labor is one of the biggest expenses in any field service business.
Ensuring that our technicians are productive seems like an obvious way to make our business more profitable.
But how do you go about measuring technician productivity, and exactly what should you be tracking?
Let’s take a look at how you can evaluate and improve technician productivity.
- What is Productivity?
- Why Does Productivity Matter?
- What Metrics Should You Track?
- What is a Good Productivity Value?
- 15 Ways to Increase Technician Productivity
- Increase the amount of work
- Dispatch more efficiently & accurately
- Reduce non-billable activities
- Hire the right people
- Improve parts processes
- Provide the right equipment
- Organize your workspace
- Standardize processes
- Provide suitable training
- Streamline customer approvals
- Prioritize accurate diagnosis
- Utilize technology
- Keep score!
- Create incentives for achieving goals
- Create a great place to work
- Downsides of Addressing Technician Productivity
- 5 Steps to Tracking Productivity
- Ready to Start Measuring Your Technician Productivity?
What is Productivity?
Before we dive into measuring our technicians, we first need to understand what productivity means, and why it matters to our business.
In broad terms, productivity means how much work (or output) is produced for a given amount of time (or input).
For a technician, this usually translates to a measure of how much of their day was spent completing jobs, versus travelling or restocking or waiting for something or someone else.
It’s important to distinguish between productivity and efficiency, because although they’re related, they measure different things.
Efficiency generally describes how quickly work is completed once a job starts. In other words, it’s a measure of how much time (or effort) something takes compared to what was estimated or the average taken to complete a similar job.
Efficiency can be useful for calculating the capacity of a technician, whereas productivity allows you to see how well technicians are being assigned work and how much of their time is adding value to your business.
Why Does Productivity Matter?
There’s a direct connection between the productivity of your technicians and your bottom line.
By measuring and tracking technician productivity, a business can see how well they’re making use of their labor force, and also whether any changes they make to business processes have the desired impact on performance.
Productivity helps a business to see whether they have enough work for technicians to keep them busy for their scheduled hours, and how much they’re spending time waiting around for the next job.
The more time your technicians spend in non-billable activities, the less money your business brings in, and the more money you’re spending on your staff for no direct return.
If you’re not tracking specific metrics to help you understand how productive your team is, you could appear to be constantly busy, and still not achieve your profit goals.
By keeping score, you have something to track your progress against and to keep you motivated towards your goals.
What Metrics Should You Track?
Productivity can be measured in a variety of ways, depending on the type of business and activity, and the business goals.
And there are multiple metrics that you might want to track for your technicians, including:
- Total jobs assigned per technician
- Jobs completed per technician
- Hours spent per job
- Average extra hours per job
- Total hours “on the clock”
- Total hours spent working on jobs
- Labor costs per job
- Labor invoiced per job
To help you get clear on the relevant KPIs for your business, you might want to review our guide to field service metrics.
But when it comes to measuring technician productivity, you’ll want to focus on the hours they were available (i.e. on the clock) and the hours they spent actively completing jobs, which will allow you calculate their productivity.
If you haven’t been measuring the performance of your technicians up to this point, you’ll need to discuss this with your existing staff to minimize friction and misunderstandings.
By tracking productivity, you’re making your business more profitable and resilient, which benefits everyone in the business and your customers.
Set clear expectations around your KPIs so that your team know how they’re being measured and the benchmarks you’re aiming for.
How to calculate technician productivity
The general formula for productivity is the ratio of output to input.
For technician productivity, we look specifically at the ratio of hours worked to the hours employed.
Hours worked = Time spent actively completing work orders
Hours available = Total time engaged as an employee or contractor
Technician productivity formula
What is a Good Productivity Value?
The goal with technician productivity is to get it as close to 100% as possible.
This means that they’re spending as much of their time as possible engaged in revenue-generating work for clients and customers.
The higher their productivity, the more value they’re creating for the cost of engaging them, which is generally a fixed amount.
Aiming for productivity of 90% is a good place to start, but you’ll want to consider your unique business environment, the type of work and the capabilities of your technicians.
And the current value of your productivity is less important than how much you can improve it, because a small increase in productivity can translate to a huge improvement in your bottom line.
For example, if you have five technicians, with a charged-out labor rate of $100, and you raise their productivity by just 10% (say from 60% to 70%), that could translate to additional revenue opportunities in the order of $2,000 per week or around $100,0000 per year, without having to hire additional staff.
15 Ways to Increase Technician Productivity
Assuming that our technicians are employed for a fixed number of hours per week, if we want to increase productivity, we’ll need to focus on increasing hours worked.
But how can we do that?
In reality, there are many points during the course of a technician’s day that can generate unworked time and reduce productivity.
You can also look at this in terms of efficiency – doing the right things – and effectiveness – doing things right.
By increasing effectiveness, you increase the output of your technicians, and by increasing efficiency, you reduce the input required, both of which contribute to increased productivity.
Here are 15 strategies to help you increase your technician productivity.
1. Increase the amount of work
One of the biggest factors that contributes to low productivity is simply not having enough work for your technicians to do.
Your business needs to start tracking job count and looking at it on a regular basis as a measure of how much work your business currently has on the go.
If this number is too low, you may need to increase your marketing activities, your lead to sales conversion rates or upsell rates.
If you can’t increase the amount of work, you may have to consider reducing the number of field staff, or reallocating them to other roles, in order to increase the overall productivity of your technicians.
2. Dispatch more efficiently & accurately
Assigning jobs to technicians is an important part of the process that can greatly influence the productivity of field staff.
If jobs remain unassigned for too long, technicians may waste time travelling or taking on non-billable tasks instead of focusing on completing work orders.
Having a quick and easy way to allocate jobs, that technicians can see in real-time, ensures that they’re focusing and working on customer jobs as much of the time as possible.
Additionally, it’s important that jobs are assigned to the technician with the right skills and experience.
Allocating a technician that’s not a good fit to a work order increases the chance that they won’t be able to diagnose the issue correctly, or that they’ll have to schedule repeat visits to complete the job.
Visualising the current workload and location of technicians in real-time also allows dispatchers to assign work to technicians to minimize travel and wasted time between jobs.
If you’re still using paper or spreadsheets to assign work orders, moving to the right software package can streamline scheduling and dispatch of your jobs.
3. Reduce non-billable activities
As tempting as it is to grab your technicians on the way past to help with unloading trucks, managing the spare parts desk or assisting customers on the sales floor, this negatively impacts their productivity.
These kinds of activities are generally non-billable, meaning that they often don’t contribute directly to producing income, at least not at your technician’s usual rates.
Other non-billable activities that your technicians may be engaging in include travel to and from sites, cleaning up, returning to complete jobs or waiting for parts, instructions or permits.
The more time your technicians spend on these non-billable tasks the less time they have available to spend on tasks that you can bill out to customers.
This “unapplied time” is still costing you money in the form of the technician’s wages but is no longer generating revenue for the business.
And if your technician is highly skilled, the cost of these small amounts of non-productive time can add up quickly.
Aim to reduce the amount of non-billable time for your technicians to as little as humanly possible.
4. Hire the right people
Another factor to consider when trying to maximize your technician productivity is whether you’re hiring the right people.
Although a more highly skilled technician may cost more per hour, their experience and abilities generally correspond to a higher efficiency in completing tasks – whether that’s in diagnosing issues, fixing equipment or managing their jobs and time.
Focusing too much just on staff costs may lead you to hire less skilled workers, who could struggle to complete jobs quickly or accurately, and end up decreasing your overall productivity.
Investing effort to attract – and retain – skilled technicians can pay dividends for your business through higher first-time fix rates, increased job throughput and reduced maintenance and downtime of customer assets.
Learn from your past – and current – hires about what works for your business and your customers in terms of employee skills and experience and create a profile of the ideal technician that you can refer to when expanding your team.
5. Improve parts processes
Turning up to a field service job and discovering you don’t have the right parts to finish the task is a massive time waster for technicians.
In such a situation, technicians are forced to reschedule the job for another day, leaving it incomplete and requiring an wasteful return visit.
Inefficient parts processes throughout your business can lead to technicians receiving the wrong parts, wasting time waiting for parts before they can proceed with a job, or running out of parts mid-way through the day.
Streamlining your inventory management processes will ensure that your technicians have what they need, when they need it, so that jobs can be completed without delay.
And tracking parts usage in real-time also allows your back-office team to reorder parts as soon as they’re needed, further reducing delays in job completion.
6. Provide the right equipment
Technicians generally need some kind of specialized equipment to do their job, whether that’s diagnostic tools, heavy-lifting equipment or computers.
These days it’s not realistic to expect technicians to provide or maintain all of their tools, and anything you can do as a business to service and update those tools will help with productivity.
If equipment isn’t working properly, or takes too long to do the job, then this will drag down the performance of the technicians trying to use it.
Invest in the right equipment for your business and ensure that you dedicate resources to keeping it both regularly maintained and updated.
You’ll also want to keep abreast of current trends in your industry with regards to new technology and tools, so you can take advantage of cutting-edge developments to gain the edge over your competitors in productivity.
7. Organize your workspace
A workshop or truck that is a mess of old parts, recently used equipment and disorganized inventory makes it significantly more difficult for technicians to be productive.
It’s in your interests to ensure that the spaces your technicians are working in are clean, organised and clutter-free.
Your technicians will spend less time looking for the right tool or part, or tripping over debris and machinery, and more time focusing on getting the job done.
Create systems that keep inventory stocked and organised, and tools stacked away securely yet within easy reach.
Make sure also that there’s enough space for both storage and working, so that technicians don’t have to keep shuffling things around just to be able to do their jobs.
As a bonus, your technicians will be happier from working in such a neat and tidy environment.
8. Standardize processes
Tasks that are done differently each time and by each different technician is a sure-fire way to decrease efficiency and accuracy of jobs.
To ensure that your technicians are spending time on the right tasks, and doing them the right way, standardize your service processes.
You can begin creating these based on your current technicians and then distil the best of these into an operating procedure that all technicians agree to follow.
Document these in some form, whether that’s as checklists, manuals or workflows, and ensure that they’re referred to constantly by the team and updated regularly.
This will reduce the amount of time spent on unnecessary tasks and increase the chances that things are fixed correctly the first time, thereby increasing technician productivity.
9. Provide suitable training
Hiring the right people for your team is just the first part of the staffing challenge.
Technicians making errors on certain types of jobs, or who take longer than average to complete a work order, may simply lack the necessary training to do specific tasks well
By investing in suitable training, both reactively but also as part of an ongoing strategy, you increase the performance of your technicians.
You may need to train technicians on new technologies and equipment, or help them strengthen their existing technical skills, so they have the information and abilities required to fix jobs faster and more accurately, and tackle more complex tasks.
You may also see an increase in overall performance as technicians apply their increased skill set more generally to their work and begin seeing themselves as a valued member of the team.
10. Streamline customer approvals
Waiting for customer approvals, either on completed jobs or to proceed with the next stage of a task, can be crippling for a technician’s productivity.
Because this is more a problem with the businesses’ processes than the technician’s capabilities, it may go unnoticed because it doesn’t directly impact how well a technician does a task.
But these bottlenecks will still hinder the ability to complete or proceed with jobs, requiring task switching and potentially allow multiple open jobs to pile up.
Using a fully integrated work order management system that includes field mobility, allows technicians to capture customer approvals in the field and receive real-time updates on authorizations.
It can also allow the business to automate more of the approvals process, reducing data entry, paperwork and double handling, and keeping things moving along as quickly as possible.
11. Prioritize accurate diagnosis
Although it may be tempting to rush the diagnostic phase of jobs in order to get going with the “real work” of fixing the problem, no amount of effort spent fixing the wrong issue is going to solve the actual issue.
If a problem is incorrectly diagnosed, it will most likely lead to technicians taking longer on jobs than required, and the customer may need a second repair job done when the underlying issue is not fully resolved.
It may also mean that the business loses sales, because there were repairs required that could have been billed as additional revenue.
It’s important to prioritize diagnostics in your business to ensure that technicians make the most of their time and fix problems efficiently.
This may mean upgrading diagnostic equipment, providing additional training specifically around diagnosis, or creating a business culture that emphasizes the importance of accurate diagnosis.
12. Utilize technology
Along with having the right tools and equipment, it’s important to make use of current technology to optimize the productivity of your technicians.
There are many software platforms to choose from to suit your business and customers, that will allow you to seamless manage work orders all the way from the initial call through to the job completion.
And by using a fully integrated platform, both your technicians and your back-office staff can know what’s happening with customers at all times, while reducing paperwork, data entry and administrative tasks.
Utilizing such technologies will also allow your business to more accurately track, report and analyze performance metrics and identify opportunities for improvement – whether that’s in processes, staff or service offerings.
Technology can also help your technicians provide a more accurate and efficient service to customers, which flows on to increase customer satisfaction and productivity.
13. Keep score!
Tracking performance metrics is a powerful way to increase staff performance.
If no-one’s keeping score, how does anyone know how they’re doing, know what’s most important to focus on, or care about the what they’re doing?
By making key information available on dashboards and reports in real-time, staff know how they are performing in terms that matter to the business and they’re motivated to improve, potentially competing with themselves or other team members (in a friendly way).
It also helps them to understand how their actions contribute to the success of the business as a whole, and achieving specific goals as a team or individually can be a cause for celebrations that increase morale.
14. Create incentives for achieving goals
Tied to this is the idea of creating specific incentives for your technicians to achieve certain performance levels.
Once you’ve set targets that you want a staff member to achieve with regards to their productivity, you might to consider adding in a little motivation.
This could take the form of bonuses, tiered rewards, tickets to an event, a night out or a weekend away.
The exact form of the incentive is less important than that it’s something of value to the technician.
You may even find that they start coming to you with even more suggestions on how to make their workday even more productive once they have something important they’re working towards.
Make sure to offer these kinds of incentives to all of your technicians so that each of them has the power to achieve and receive more.
15. Create a great place to work
Many of the previous suggestions are likely to increase a technician’s enjoyment of their job because of the environment, culture or experiences they create.
And that increase in enjoyment translates to a higher quality of work from your technicians.
But it’s also important to set out explicitly to create a great place for your people to work.
Simple things like ensuring that the lighting works and is sufficient or providing an air-conditioned workshop or van can go a long way to creating satisfaction at work.
But it’s also about creating a great business culture, where the technician’s individual skills and needs are accounted for, where communication between all parts of the business is open and honest, and where achievement is encouraged and celebrated.
Showing through your actions that you care about both your staff and your customers will also help your team members care more about fixing your customers problems, and doing it well.
And the culture of every great business that creates amazing productivity comes straight from the top.
Downsides of Addressing Technician Productivity
There are some risks that you’ll want to consider as you examine your business and look for ways to increase the productivity of your technicians.
Firstly, you need to be careful with communicating any changes, new KPIs or ways of doing things, so that your team has the chance to provide input and feedback, so that they feel like part of the process, instead of having it imposed on them.
Secondly, as the ones on the front line of your business every day, they’re perfectly placed to see where the issues currently are, that may be impacting productivity, so make sure to create easy and open lines of communication and really listen to what your technicians have to say.
Thirdly, you’ll need to avoid the tendency to micromanage your team, as you start to measure and improve your business outputs.
Equip your staff with what they need to do their jobs, provide them with feedback in the form of performance metrics, and then stand back and let them do their jobs.
5 Steps to Tracking Productivity
Many businesses admit that they don’t routinely track technician productivity.
And if you’re one of those businesses, it can be a bit daunting to get started.
If you follow these five steps, you’ll be well on the way to understanding how your business is currently performing, where you want to go, and what you need to do to get there.
- Set a baseline for the current performance of the business
- Set goals for the business to use as a framework for prioritising and deciding
- Remove obstacles that get in the way of your technicians doing their best work
- Provide rewards to keep your staff motivated and focused on what’s most important
- Keep improving by constantly measuring, reviewing and tweaking these factors
Ready to Start Measuring Technician Productivity?
By implementing even just some of the above strategies for improving technician productivity you’ll see improvements in your business performance and profitability.
And as your technician productivity moves closer and closer to 100%, you’ll know that your team members are spending their time well to serve your customers and make your business healthy and resilient.
Many of the suggested approaches are easier to implement with the right business and service management tools in place, that’s easy to use and provides real-time feedback on performance.
Book a demo today and see how NextService can help your business measure, report on and improve your technician productivity.
And download the NextService product guide below.