Adopt the appropriate leadership style
In my last blog post I showed you how to calculate your engineers’ time utilisation and explained why this is an essential starting point for understanding who are your company’s top performers and which of them are potentially under-performing.
A good business and people manager understands that there are lots of reasons why an engineer may be under-utilised and takes the appropriate action. Just because he has a low percentage score doesn’t mean he is lazy or incompetent.
First, it might be worth looking at your own management of your engineers’ time. You need to consider things like:
- Is there enough work for him or is he waiting around for his next job?
- Are you managing travelling times effectively?
- Is he wasting time at estate agents waiting to pick up keys?
- Is he wasting time waiting to pick up parts?
Speak to your engineers, ask them where they feel time is being wasted. Make small adjustments like spending more time planning engineers’ jobs to minimise wasted travel time. This can have a massive impact on your engineers performance.
Once you’ve made a change, recalculate their utilisation after a week or two. And if there is an improvement, communicate it to your engineers. They will appreciate the positive feedback.
The final metric that I mentioned in my previous blog for measuring engineers performance is recalls – when an engineer is called back to a property to put right a mistake or fault that he has created.
For example, an engineer might be called out to fix a leaking tap but while fixing it he damages or loosens the u-bend causing the sink to leak, in which case you would probably be called back to fix the problem, and unable to charge for the additional time. Worse still, it might lose you the customer’s business.
Of course, many mistakes are not the result of sloppy work. Some are inevitable and cannot be avoided. The question is, are they evenly spread across all of your engineers or are some engineers responsible for a disproportionate number of recalls?
Diagnosing employee performance
Once you have all the key performance indicators (KPIs) to hand you can make a more accurate assessment of what are the true causes of under-performance and what action to take.
The simple matrix below is a tool that is often used by managers of service businesses to help with this.
If an engineer has a high capacity utilisation percentage and few recalls, he falls into the first category, i.e. he is both willing and able, a high performer who deserves recognition and reward for his sterling contribution to your business.
If an engineer has relatively high capacity utilisation but makes a lot of mistakes that require recalls, he is probably a willing, hard-working employer who could do with some retraining or mentoring.
If an engineer by contrast has a low capacity utilisation but few recalls, he may need to pay better attention to time management. Or else you need to motivate him to do more, perhaps with a productivity bonus incentive.
It is rare that an engineer falls into the fourth category – with both low capacity utilisation and a high number of recalls. However, it does happen. What action you take is up to you but clearly he is not as profitable as his colleagues so is not an effective team player.
You might consider whether you want to retain his services. On the other hand, it may be that he needs both some motivation and some mentoring. Shadowing such engineers on service calls might be one approach.
Training engineers, educating them on best practises in time management, and in some extreme cases, shadowing them to motivate improvement are all valid ways to boost your company’s profitability and improve customer satisfaction.
What’s more, employees appreciate it when they are managed effectively. With some simple factually based analysis you can help ensure that your leadership skills are perceived as fair – and that can be really motivating, so their job satisfaction is improved.
If your engineers are more fully utilised you can do more with less. Hiring new employees is obviously expensive so if your business is stretched it might be worth carrying out this analysis to see if you can manage without the additional headcount.