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Restructuring Utility Leadership

How Exelon uses its human resources department as a strategic weapon.

Fortnightly Magazine - September 2005

regulator, customer and shareholder expectations change continuously, it's necessary for leaders' skills to constantly evolve.

Yet, at the same time, we have to be proactive about identifying and securing talent who will bring to our organization the experience that we're currently lacking. These are leaders who can add value and help push us to the next level of achievement. That is why when we have a role to fill or to replace, we just don't want a body—be it someone in the organization or someone from outside. We want talent that's going to come in and contribute and raise the bar for the entire organization. That is why it was so critical that we formed a partnership with your organization. By understanding where we needed to go and utilizing your network of industry insiders, you were able to help us recruit seven of our senior officers from outside of the organization and industry.

Shields: Which leadership and management skills does your organization value the most?

Snodgrass: We need people from different backgrounds, with experiences and capabilities that cut across an entire organization. Right now, we have an adequate supply of strong technical talent; however, for our senior-level talent, we really need people who can manage the relationships with numerous constituents—the state, local and national politicians, regulators, consumer groups, environmentalists, and so on. We need executives who are strategically minded leaders, able to challenge the while also establishing strong relationships with these various audiences. In addition, the utilities industry also needs leaders who possess a strong financial background.

Shields: Interestingly, much is being written in utility publications about going "back to the basics." What does this mean for the utilities industry?

Snodgrass: We exist to keep the lights on. We can't do anything else until we excel at this. So, if someone wants to call that "back to the basics," then I would agree that the basics are critical. It's the fundamentals of operating the business in a safe and reliable way. However, "back to the basics" shouldn't mean that this business is going back to the way we did business in the traditional, regulated environment. We cannot lose sight of our long-term strategy and the sophisticated skills that are required to achieve these goals.

Shields: When looking for talent externally, do you target specific industries from which to recruit, and why?

Snodgrass: To remain competitive, we need to be customer-focused 100 percent of the time. This is why other industry experience, particularly in highly competitive industries, is critical for Exelon. Consumer goods and services companies, obviously, are well-versed in being customer centric. We also look for talent in very capital asset-intensive companies and for people who have gone through a period of cultural change, such as within the banking and telecommunication industries, and we seek diverse talent, experienced, competent women and minorities.

And, while I can't stress enough the importance of having a breadth of industry experience, it's more important for us to hire talent from those companies with the best practices and proven results.

Shields: Prior to joining Exelon, you spent