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From my perspective, this could mean that the bulk of service industries aren’t fully utilizing technology to optimize or reinvent their business models in order to attract more skilled service workers. From beauty treatments to auto repair services (full disclosure: this is what my company provides), I’ve learned one of the ongoing challenges for businesses in the skilled service marketplace is activating and retaining skilled labor.
Where’s the service marketplace today?
Before proceeding to best practices for labor procurement, I believe it’s important to examine the current gig economy landscape that encompasses a portion of the service marketplace. Recent news stories chronicling ride-share companies’ battles with lawmakers over labor classification tend to bundle and profile independent contractors as underpaid members of the gig economy’s commoditization of workers.
I believe some stories rarely make the distinction, however, between skilled and unskilled service workers’ experiences in the gig economy. In my experience, skilled service workers tend to have the option to work in traditional employment, but some choose gig work because it allows them to act as a small-business owner with more flexibility and higher earnings. According to a 2016 report by McKinsey & Company, independent contractors who proactively partake in the gig economy report greater satisfaction with their work lives than reluctant workers who work gigs because of a lack of options. Researchers also found that workers who’ve opted into the gig economy are happier with their choice than their peers with similar skill sets in traditional 9-to-5 jobs.
I’ve observed that skilled independent service workers have plenty of options and are in high demand. To capitalize on untapped technology opportunities in the service economy, I believe entrepreneurs should consider the required labor pool right alongside their tech stack.
My company is an online marketplace for mobile auto services, and we’ve found that the first step to growing a network of skilled auto technicians is creating a platform that enables competitive earnings and understanding that skilled workers have options. Below is our playbook for entrepreneurs who seek to attract, activate and retain a network of quality workers, as well as build a sustainable business:
Attract talent with competitive wages.
When determining a skilled worker’s market rate, factor in all of the options that worker is forfeiting to work with your company. Paying competitive wages will not only help you source better-skilled workers at the outset, but it will also help ensure quality output; I’ve found workers are happier when they won’t need to work excessive hours, which can lead to potential errors and injuries.
To set these wages, look at what traditional employers in your industry are paying, and factor in skill level, relevant experience and opportunity cost.
Work with small business owners.
The winner-take-all mindset can be a losing game in the skilled service marketplace. Consider reaching out to traditional business owners to offer your platform as a supplemental option for more income and customers. My company, for instance, has found success in partnering with small, independent mechanic shops instead of angling to put them out of business. It can be extremely beneficial to view shops as symbiotic partners, rather than competitors.
Create new core skills criteria.
Try attracting skilled workers who might not overtly fit your industry’s established standards. If you’re sourcing from a limited supply of uniquely skilled workers, consider expanding the pool to workers based on the number of hours they’ve worked in your field, with an expert issue a skills assessment to ensure proficiency. For example, in addition to the mechanics who work on our platform who have certifications from the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence, we’ve broadened the pool to include potentially overlooked — but qualified — talent.
Prioritize customer service.
If your marketplace bears any similarity to our customer service-centric model, then the skilled workers on your platform are likely a major touch point in the customer journey. That’s why I’ve found it imperative to filter for applicants with a customer service mindset in addition to deep technical skills.
Establish a set of standard operating procedures for your company that ensures you deliver a high level of customer service for both your fleet and customers. The concept of an SOP is universally applicable to a myriad of customer service issues, including customer service issue resolution and candidate skill criteria.
Retain quality workers.
Worker turnover can slow momentum and growth and lower morale. Based on our experience retaining mechanics, we’ve found that engagement is just as important as competitive wages to ensure long-term relationships. To do this yourself, regularly throw appreciation dinners, send gift bags and host forums to encourage and nurture feedback. The rapport you establish with your team can be a key to both scaling your network of independent contractors and iterating your product to make your platform a hospitable tool for your workers’ success.
Each new business model in the service marketplace is a unique animal that will continue to evolve across its lifetime. However, I believe a transparent and fair model can be applied to a bevy of skilled service marketplaces. From my perspective, these models could offer higher earning potential for skilled service providers at lower costs to the end customer by leveraging technology to enable mobile service delivery.
July 3, 2019 at 08:03AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs