As I leave the electric utility business after 28 years as an engineer and analyst I would like to relate some thoughts on what makes this business special, even as it gives way to competition....
customers. Employee experience in crisis situations should increase their credibility. Employees get a chance to help customers directly.
Of course, experienced engineering- and operations-support people are vital. Maps and diagrams often are not totally up to date even when computerized. It is helpful when the engineer who designed the substation or purchased the breaker is standing by on the site to offer suggestions for repairs. For underground facilities, it is good to have someone around who knows "where the bodies (cables) are buried" when determining the location of a cable fault or determining the availability of a spare cable to energize.
Wielding knowledge from experience
When experienced utility company employees are severanced, they tend to stay in the same communities. If the severance process is not handled properly, a dismissed employee can turn from lifelong, goodwill ambassador to public relations nightmare. It is partly for this reason that an electric utility company should not treat severanced employees as possible saboteurs. Nor should it degrade long-time employees by inferring sudden incompetence or lack of "team play" before their separation.
There is no need to show them to the door on their last day or to prevent their interaction with the remaining employees during or after separation. If long-term employees had desired to harm their company they would have implemented devious schemes long before their severance. Former utility employees should not be restricted or intimidated related to their seeking a livelihood for the rest of their careers by non-compete clauses in their severance agreements, even if it means they join emerging competitors. In fact, they should be assisted in every way possible by their former employer toward success because these former employees are still identified with that utility by their neighbors and friends. Vince Lombardi is still remembered as the coach of the Green Bay Packers, even though he ended his career with the Washington Redskins.
Utilities might even consider part-time training assignments as a means of facilitating transitions for former employees. The extra expense will be more than repaid in good will and public relations. Many electric utilities are venturing far afield in different parts of the world and into new businesses to diversify and create higher levels of revenue growth. In this process they will be wise not to cut out their hearts at home by alienating life-long supporters. These utilities may someday practice "sticking to their knitting" as many former conglomerates have done. If they do not preserve the valuable assets they have in the talents and good will of their experienced employees, there may be no home territory to return to. I hope this is not the case as I look back on the fate of my former associates and their companies. t
Sidney L. Spencer recently was offered and accepted severance from Centerior Energy where he was a market research analyst.
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