Workforce Utilization in Field Service
Utilization rate is the percentage of time an employee spends on billable work out of all their available working time. A utilization rate of 80% means an employee spends 80% of their time on billable activities. The remaining 20% is spent on non-billable activities like traveling, meetings, paperwork, professional development, and other administrative tasks.
Tracking and improving workforce utilization is particularly important in field service work, where travel and record-keeping can take away from valuable time spent with customers. Keep reading to learn how to calculate utilization rate for field service operations—and what to do with the data once you have it.
How to calculate utilization rate
To calculate the utilization rate of an individual employee, divide billable hours by the number of available working hours in a given time frame, then multiply by 100 to arrive at a percentage.
(Billable hours ÷ total working hours) x 100 = Utilization rate %
(20 billable hours ÷ 40 working hours) x 100 = 50% utilization
(30 billable hours ÷ 40 working hours) x 100 = 75% utilization
(125 billable hours ÷ 192 working hours) x 100 = 65% utilization
When calculating billable vs. non-billable time, don’t forget to factor in paid time off and mandated breaks. You can do so by adjusting the working hours (subtract vacations and breaks from expected working time) or adjusting your expectations for billable time (the “ceiling” for utilization rate will be lower).
Utilization rate is a useful productivity formula for one employee or a small team.
To analyze a larger field service workforce, capacity utilization rate may be a better fit. Take the utilization rate of all employees and divide by the number of employees to get the average utilization rate for an entire department or workforce.
Capacity Utilization Rate
Sum of all employee utilization rates ÷ number of employees = Capacity utilization rate
(75+62+53+65+70) ÷ 5 = 65% capacity utilization rate
(40+45+65+70+66+58+63+61) ÷ 8 = 58.5% capacity utilization rate
(55+60+63+69+58+65+70+74+80+81) ÷ 10 = 67.5% utilization rate
Why workforce utilization matters for field service
Workforce utilization rate matters because the success of a field service business depends on maximizing billable time. Higher utilization means employees are completing more services, which drives more revenue — as long as the quality of service remains high.
When a fiber internet technician can complete more jobs in a day, a home healthcare nurse can see more patients in a week, or a mobile trainer can complete more training sessions in a month, those businesses are more productive and profitable.
Tracking the utilization rate of individuals and teams can help managers recognize and resolve operational issues. Several factors can drive down productivity and utilization rate in field service operations if left unaddressed: employees spending too much time on record-keeping, inefficient travel between appointments, too much “work about work,” or too many repeat visits due to lack of equipment or expertise.
How to use utilization rate
Utilization rate is a powerful data point—but only if it can be calculated accurately, tracked, and used. Here are three ways to put utilization rate to good use:
Consider utilization in the context of other field service KPIs
Utilization rate should be one of the KPIs you use to measure your field service operations, but not the only one. The utilization of your workforce is incredibly important—but so is delivering great service, keeping employees happy, and completing the work safely.
When analyzed closely, the utilization rate of a field service operation is usually a reflection of other KPIs. Addressing a poor or declining utilization rate requires knowing which KPIs are truly the issue. For example, consider a mobile worker who is spending every available moment with clients, but traveling long distances between jobs. To improve utilization rate, schedulers and dispatchers will need to plan jobs and assign technicians carefully to reduce travel time, increasing the number of jobs each worker can complete.
Successful field service management requires monitoring other relevant KPIs to get a clear picture of your operations. Consider KPIs like:
|Field Service KPI||How it relates to utilization rate|
|Travel time is the amount of time it takes workers to get to a job site||Excessive and/or inefficient travel will reduce the number of appointments that can be accomplished in a given day|
|First time fix (FTF) rate is the percentage of work that is completed on the first try (aka resolution rate, rework rate, or repeat visits||When a job requires multiple visits or technicians to complete, it decreases the time available for other jobs|
|Customer satisfaction is the quality of service delivered according to customer feedback, which is collected via surveys, reviews, Net Promoter Score (NPS), etc.||Fitting more appointments into the schedule is only beneficial to the business if customers are still receiving high-quality, safe, and thorough service|
|Critical work rate is the average resolution time for jobs deemed as emergencies, which is particularly important in time-sensitive industries||Certain types of field service work must balance utilization rate with the flexibility to take on unexpected emergency jobs at a moment’s notice|
|Employee satisfaction is the happiness and job satisfaction reported by employees in surveys, reviews, and other internal feedback mechanisms||A workforce that is overworked, undertrained, or otherwise unhappy will have significant turnover, which decreases productivity and increases overhead costs|
|Resolution time is the average time required to resolve a work order||When jobs take a long time to complete (due to travel, repeat visits, or other factors), workers can fit in fewer jobs overall|
Different businesses will prioritize field service KPIs differently. In some industries, the primary goal is service quality, so customer satisfaction is the most important KPI. In others, the primary goal is efficiency, so travel time and first-time fix rate are the most important KPIs.
The priority level of each KPI may also change over time. What works at one stage may not work forever, based on the evolution of technology, the target market, and customer behavior.
Software Pro Tip: Choose field service software that integrates easily with other elements of the field service tech stack to pull in data from payroll, invoicing, HR management, CRM, and other systems
Set a realistic target for workforce utilization rate
Once you know how to calculate utilization rate and how you want to use it alongside other field service KPIs, you can set realistic goals for your field service operations going forward.
What constitutes a “good” utilization rate will vary among industries and businesses. Business areas with significant compliance and paperwork requirements, like healthcare, will naturally have more non-billable work to do. Other factors, like location, can also make a difference for utilization rate. For example, a company that installs and maintains solar panels in a populous area can cluster several appointments in the same area, while the same type of business in a rural area will need to account for more travel time between jobs.
To set a realistic goal, add up all non-billable activities with input from managers and staff in the field:
- Travel time: How much time is spent traveling to and between job locations?
- Internal meetings: How much time does the employee spend in team meetings, department meetings, or 1:1 meetings with their manager?
- Professional development: How much time does the employee spend on training sessions (in-person and virtual), workshops, and other learning and development tasks?
- Record-keeping: What are the requirements for paperwork and record-keeping for customer appointments, and how much time does that take, on average?
This total will be your baseline for goal-setting. However, different roles will have different baselines for billable vs. non-billable work. Managers, for example, need to spend a higher percentage of time on people management, QA, and meetings than most deskless workers.
Create a plan to reach the target utilization rate
It’s important to set reasonable goals, and even sub-goals along the way, that are attainable based on current utilization rate and the nature of the field service business.
Once you know the time spent on non-billable activities, you can dig in further. If the amount of non-billable time seems too high, talk to managers and staff members to understand why. It’s likely that paperwork will come up—nearly 75% of field service technicians report spending too much time on paperwork!
You might find that the reason is sales-related, and there is not enough billable work in the pipeline to keep workers busy. It could be a process issue, with inefficiencies and process breakdowns slowing down the work. There could be a management issue, and individual team members are in need of better onboarding, training, or coaching.
A few tips to keep in mind as you plan to improve utilization rates:
- Consider the baseline for each role. If required non-billable tasks for a home healthcare nurse add up to 35% of working hours when working at max efficiency, the maximum (realistic) utilization rate for the role is 65%. Don’t expect to increase utilization beyond 65% without process changes, new technology, or other actions that reduce non-billable time.
- Set reasonable goals based on current performance. If a team of field inspectors has a 50% utilization rate, but non-billable tasks only add up to 20% of the inspector role on paper, there is room for 30% greater utilization. But increasing team productivity by 30% overnight is challenging, and setting overly aggressive goals can be demoralizing for staff. Set incremental goals instead, like improving 10% each month until reaching the target utilization rate.
- Balance KPIs appropriately. More than 80% of mobile workers report they struggle to balance speed and quality when delivering service and support to customers. Don’t prioritize utilization rate at the expense of other important elements of your business.
- Address outlier utilization rates individually. If most members of a team average 75-85% utilization, but one team member averages 50% utilization, try to understand why. The team member may need training, coaching, or better matching to suitable field service jobs.
Software Pro Tip: Some field service management tools offer built-in AI features that can help you create (e.g. AI-assisted data analysis) and execute (e.g. intelligent scheduling and dispatching) your plan
Track utilization rate to identify trends
To increase utilization rate, field service managers need to be able to identify and address trends based on service data. Use dashboards to display real-time data and generate long-term trend reports to help managers monitor the most important KPIs.
Operations leaders can review data for individual employees, teams, and even types of services (e.g. services with longer resolution times) to identify trends that affect utilization rate. With a clearer view of team operations, managers can address the issues they see: clarify expectations, provide coaching, fill technology gaps, and suggest process improvements to utilization.
Software Pro Tip: Look for field service management software that lets you choose metrics to display in real-time dashboards and recurring reports
Use the right field service software to improve utilization
Field service management software can transform the way you see utilization rate and what you can do about it. Skedulo offers intelligent scheduling and field service management features that can improve field service KPIs: optimize travel routes between jobs, automate basic scheduling tasks, select and fine-tune KPIs for management dashboards, and much more.
Skedulo gives field service companies the insight to manage large, complex mobile workforces. For example, American Red Cross Training Services reduced underutilization of instructors by 31% by using Skedulo to schedule more than 60,000 courses annually.
See how Skedulo can improve workforce utilization rate through intelligent scheduling and workforce management.