Introducing new technology to field engineers in a county government environment can seem like a daunting task. Here’s a bit of hindsight that illustrates how good intentions, inclusion, and real-world practice led to ‘accidental’ success.
- Last week I met with a group of about 30 county government field facilities maintenance professionals ranging in age from 23 to 60.
- These guys drive big trucks, wear coveralls, and can fix anything. I drive a VW, wear a suit, and generally throw my wife into a panic anytime I bring tools in to the house.
- The tool of note for this meeting, however, was an iPad. So the playing field was level.
- The goal of the meeting was to get all these guys set up and trained to use their iPads to do inspections at buildings and facilities throughout the county.
There are a hundred approaches to training and I’m no expert in any of them. But I figured with guys that do real work with their hands for a living, leave the PowerPoint and the printed instructions at home and just let them do it.
Downloading the App
I thought for sure given the age range at least some of guys wouldn’t have experience downloading an app. Shame on me. Not so. There were only 2 guys that couldn’t get an app installed because their kids had gotten hold of their iPads and changed their iTunes passwords. And at least three asked if they could put the app on their iPhone too, and went ahead and set themselves up.
Once everyone was squared away with the app on their device I hit a quick intro that I had prepared that really attempted to drive the value in terms of the kind of time that it could save them.
As is often the case, the decision to put something in place for these inspections happens at a director/supervisor level. During the pilot, though, I had taken some time to go out in the field with a couple of the guys so I had enough feedback from them to show the group how using this app wouldn’t just be another thing they need to do, but something that would make their work day better.
Once my intro was complete (4-5 minutes) a few of the trainees had already run thorough an inspection in the app and started not only asking great questions, but giving practical examples of how this would help them. Better examples than I ever would have come up with because they live it every day.
By the time we finished with questions I looked at the clock and we had only used 45 minutes of the hour set aside for this training. Needless to say, everyone was happy to get out of there early.
So it turns out that by sheer happenstance, honestly with no preconceived notion of how this would all go down, we got a productivity app launched to the county facilities maintenance crew with little resistance.
A few things I learned…
- Taking the app field trip with some of the folks who would ultimately be responsible for using it lent credibility and provided a valuable learning experience.
- The assumption I had that an older generation of field engineers wouldn’t embrace the use of a mobile app in their day-to-day was entirely false.
- Hands on is THE preferred training method for field facilities maintenance pros. If you want them to use an app in the field, put a pilot in place for a few weeks, show them the basics, and let them use it.
Introducing tech in the field for productivity can often feel like taking two steps backward in order to take one step forward. If you take the right steps, baby steps, toward adopting mobile apps in the field, there should never be a need to go in reverse.