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Baby Boom Blues

A series of articles, reviews, and strategies for the anticipated utility workforce shortage.

Fortnightly Magazine - July 2006

example, won’t bring the quantity or quality of people utilities need to shore up their workforces. As a result, companies are taking a more strategic approach to addressing talent challenges—analyzing their particular situation and tailoring their plans accordingly.

“One size doesn’t fit all,” says Craven Crowell, managing director with Mercer Management Consulting in Boston and former chairman of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). “A utility can do many things to recruit, develop, and retain employees, and if you try to do everything you can get overwhelmed. You need to look at what is likely to work in your particular circumstance.”

For most companies, it boils down to a combination of data-gathering and analysis, strategic planning, and tactical execution (see “HR Roundtable”, p.31). Solutions include both innovative and time-tested methods for strengthening the talent pool, recruiting high-quality personnel, developing and retaining employees, and making the best possible use of legacy talent.

“We know how important it is to transfer the knowledge base from people who have been in the utility business for their entire career,” says Scott Piernot, vice president with Realtime Utility Engineers. “We are in a high-growth mode and our services are in high demand. But we’re making sure our key players are not just doing engineering work, but are acting as mentors for training our bright and upcoming engineers.”

Above all, success in closing the talent gap will require a commitment by the company, at the highest levels of management, to act both quickly and intelligently to address critical personnel challenges.

“For a while, utility leaders weren’t engaged in this issue at all,” Winkler says. “Then we went through the stage of running around like your hair is on fire, in the belief that everyone is going to run out the door and a catastrophe will occur. Now we’ve done the analytics and projections, we don’t see any kind of catastrophe. Is it serious? Yes. But there won’t be a crisis if we start preparing now.”

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