The Real Cost of Recruitment and Retention in the Field Service Industry

November 29, 2021 | Read: 11 minutes

Real Cost of Recruitment Blog

When it comes to recruitment and retention, the saying “you have to spend money to make money” is true. After all, it’s not just money that you’ll be spending…

It also costs valuable time to ensure you’re hiring the right field service staff. You’ll also need to use your energy wisely in order to retain employees.

Together, they’ll help you to keep operations running smoothly.

But both come at a price; whether it’s paying a decent salary to secure the right talent, fronting the money and taking the time to train staff, or keeping an open mind about attracting a younger workforce!

When handled well, however, they can pay you back handsomely in the long run. So let’s take a look at the real cost of recruitment and retention in the field service industry.

key steps to hiring engineers, look at the infographic

The state of recruitment and retention for field services

Of course, the main challenge for business owners and managers is to maintain a healthy cycle of recruitment and retention.

By having an awareness of your budget and of your business’s ability to manage staff, you’ll be able to keep other concerns at bay.

When staff feel valued, it will be reflected in the quality of their work.

It’s worth quickly pausing to think about the following before we dive into the post in more detail:

“For the sixth year in a row, skilled trade positions (electricians, carpenters, welders, etc.) were the hardest roles to fill.”

Field Service EU

How do we fix that? Well…

Workforce development starts with recruitment and continues with a full cycle of development, growth, and retention.

Field Technologies Online

Bruce Breeden wrote this for Field Technologies Online in 2017,  and his statement regarding recruitment and retention still rings true today:

“As field service leaders, we need to ask ourselves how we ignite the passion for field service, the industry, the dynamic field service engineer (FSE) role, skills, opportunity, and professional development. I believe our opportunity for recruiting and retention excellence starts with our leadership and passion for the industry, along with an equal degree of passion for creating a sustainable “system” to recruit, develop, grow, and retain field service talent.”

Field Technologies Online

Having a passion for what you do and the belief that it’s worthwhile can be an infectiously motivating thing. The points above are precisely what’s needed to reinvigorate the field service industry. Significant effort is needed to bounce back, not only from the pandemic but to cope with the recruitment crisis, too.

When you consider that “the average cost of employee turnover, based on the average UK salary, is around £11,000 per person,” (and it’s more if they’re a senior leader or well-qualified employee), you’ll want to ensure that money is spent on finding the right employees.


This way, you can avoid the cost of rapid turnover. 

Let’s investigate the cost of recruitment and retention to field service businesses. 

Identifying what action to take

A whole host of current events are reshaping the future of field services. From Brexit, to the pandemic, to an evolving workforce strategy that’s heavily influenced by technology, to name a few.

It’s in your interest to look at the current state of the field service industry and identify what you can do to change things. As result, you can impact your employees and create a legacy for generations who follow in their footsteps.

While the above statement might sound a bit grandiose, the idea of legacy is something worth considering.

After all, when you think about electrical, gas, plumbing, roofing, and other types of field service businesses, many were (and still are) homegrown, family-run businesses. It’s true that finding the money to invest, recruit, and retain staff can cause a great strain compared to larger corporations. Of course, it’s not impossible…

Even from humble beginnings, a business can grow to an impressive size and gain immense value. Just take Pimlico Plumbers as an example. The company’s founder, Charlie Mullins, started with just 1 van & 1 employee in 1979. He grew the business to 442 employees with 269 vans by 2018 with a worth of over £100 million.

While the above might be an extreme example of growth (an average of 10+ staff per year for 40+ years), the cost of recruitment is something to keep in mind. It’s useful to ponder, especially if you’re striving for growth in your own business.

The real cost of recruitment and retention

The cost of recruitment certainly varies depending on the experience, qualifications, and industry you’re hiring for.

[Businesses] need to budget carefully when taking on new staff to ensure they are not overextending themselves and creating unnecessary financial strains on the company.”.

Undercover Recruiter

You might want to hire five engineers to help you manage the demand for jobs. But if you don’t have the capital to successfully onboard these employees, it’s better to take a structured approach. You need to build yourself up slowly and confidently. A rushed approach can create a bad impression, and simply throwing money at a problem rarely works out well. 

The cost of recruitment and retention can vary wildly, as will your success in securing a candidate. 

As Undercover Recruiter continues to outline, a recruitment agency can end up costing you 20-30% of an employee’s final salary (an average of £5000). Meanwhile. the alternative of advertising on social media and using job sites could set you back just £200-400. 

Alongside recruitment expenses, you’ll also have annual salaries, bonuses, national insurance, pension funds, training costs, office equipment / an engineer’s gear, and other extraneous costs like field service software licenses to consider.

Altogether, you could be looking to spend close to at least £50,000 in their first year of employment. 

Of course, considering the state of recruitment at the moment, there are novel ways to try and incentivize new employees to join your business. Take the need for HGV drivers as an example@

While not every company has signing-on bonuses, some delivery businesses had been offering £2000 in sign-up fees (other reports go as high as £5000)!

Throwing money at the problem can’t be the only solution, though. You need a concrete strategy to ensure bringing a new hire on board goes well.

It’s all too easy to misconceive how complicated and expensive the recruitment process is. But having an awareness of the cost and strategies needed will give you valuable perspective. So, let’s consider the other side of the recruitment coin and how employee retention can help you sustain your business.

The cost of staff recruitment and retention (and strategies that can help)

Improving the retention of your staff can play a huge role in tackling your own talent shortage.

Of course, it’s a problem affecting the UK, as McKinsey states in their detailed report on the future of work. They highlight 3 ways that a business can address the skill gap (and reduce the cost of hiring and retention).

Upskilling staff

The first and most significant point highlights that businesses need to improve the staff they currently have on board.

Upskilling and “[building] new skills among existing employees” is a powerful way to impact your productivity. Done well, it means you can do more, with fewer people and less stress, too.  

They go on to explain that:

“The costs of firing and hiring can quickly become prohibitive, so the best way forward for the majority of positions is likely to purposefully upskill existing employees while replacing routine work with automated systems.”. 

Not only does upskilling employees help improve profitability, but it significantly improves an employee’s motivation and loyalty. After all, by showing you’re prepared to invest in them, they’re far more likely to stay! Practically, it’s also far cheaper to upskill current employees than it is to hire new staff.

Of course, by upskilling current employees, you’re going to make it easier to train new ones. This can keep costs down in the future as experienced team members can train new employees, too.

LoopHealth highlights this in their blog on employee retention but also suggests that a training programme “using outside resources and tools (such as workshops, online courses, videos, etc.).” can have a significant positive impact on employees, too.

The second and third points from McKinsey’s study discuss recruitment alternatives to help, too.

The second suggests that businesses can “rent” talent from external partners. This means making use of the “gig economy” and freelance/self-employed workers. Their third point suggests strategies for acquiring “talent from unconventional sources”, encouraging more creative hiring strategies.

Let’s briefly explore both:

The gig economy

When you consider the cost of hiring a full-time employee yourself, outsourcing by “renting” a new hire makes sense.

It saves you a lot of time and money from advertising, too. If your business is experiencing an increased demand for work, a hired hand can help you to temporarily fulfil jobs. 

You might even be able to attract that individual to full-time employment if the partnership works out well. 

Get creative with hiring

This is definitely a point about shifting your own attitudes toward hiring.

Don’t just look for the hard skills you need, but instead keep an open mind about the soft skills (i.e. someone with drive, passion, and a basic skill set that underlies their ability to learn).

It may surprise you how much easier it is to train someone up if they have the right attitude.

It’s often easier to teach someone the hard skills they need to thrive as an electrician, plumber, or gas engineer, even if they come from a wildly different professional background. 

“This gives [businesses] the opportunity to secure potentially high-performing employees at a low cost. Such individuals are likely to require some upskilling or retraining, but there are innovative capability-building approaches that are very cost-effective.”


With these alternative solutions and adaptive attitudes to upskilling your staff, you stand to save money while still attracting talent that will help your business thrive.

The impact of staff turnover on employee wellbeing

It’s clear that recruitment can take a financial toll, but it can also be mentally taxing. It’s important to keep in mind the impact it has on everyone from the business owners to the colleagues of the worker leaving.

Considering the workplace is a space where many of us spend a good deal of time, it makes sense that we form friendships and other relationships there.

When these fall apart, however, or are disrupted as they will inevitably be when a colleague leaves, it can cause problems.

For instance, “a whopping 70% of employees say that having a friend at work is the most crucial element to a happy work life. What’s more, 50% of employees with a best friend at work reported feeling a stronger connection to their organization.”


Having a good approach to dealing with staff turnover will ensure that when someone does leave, they leave on good terms.

If you want to improve the atmosphere at work and create a space people enjoy being a part of, then be sure to:

“Ask for frequent feedback to make sure that these opportunities are perceived as being relevant and useful.”


Really, it’s as simple as showing your employees that you care about them and their place within your company. To learn more about how to cope when someone does leave your business, take a look at how you can bounce back. 

More ways to improve recruitment and retention:

Undoubtedly, the cost of recruitment and retention can be high. The challenges facing the industry are nothing to shy away from either, though.

Of course, it’s only by having an awareness of the hurdles that stand in your way that you can hope to overcome them and, as we’ve seen, it’s perfectly possible to map out solutions that can help you.

By fostering strong working relationships and communicating well with your employees you’re much more likely to work productively together. You’ll enjoy improve communication and keep people motivated whilst productivity keeps ticking over comfortably.

To help, explore our 8 Key Steps to Hire Fantastic Engineers? You’ll find step-by-step guide to transform your recruitment quality!

key steps to hiring engineers, look at the infographic

I'm eager to tell compelling stories and share great advice that helps field service businesses to build on their success.

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