The utility talent gap is widening. New technologies and evolving markets call for a more proactive approach to building the future workforce.
Diamonds in the Rough
Retaining mid-career personnel will be important to a utility’s success.
benefits’ values are directly linked to years of service. By so doing, the benefits serve as both a recruiting incentive as well as a retention vehicle.
In today’s virtual world, some companies are leveraging the cyber highway and hiring exceptional second-career talent from across the country to perform select tasks from their home. In those cases, compensation is based on product or deliverables. These employees are considered part-timers managed as a contract service.
Meanwhile, rethinking your approach to organization and job design represents one of the most impactful responses to this demographic challenge. This is not about doing more with less. Rather, the opportunity is about building additional flexibility into the organization through job assignment ( e.g., transitioning to a pay-for-qualification program). Select those business functions deemed critical to the organization and concentrate the limited resources around these. Outsource other less important functions.
Utilities need to once again focus on re-engineering the business processes, building opportunities around job families, and identifying opportunities for strategic partnerships with industries and universities. The expanded use of technical leads with a corresponding reduction of management personnel offers real payback. Taken as a package, utilities today need to creatively and proactively design relevant approaches that will speak to the needs of mid-career personnel.
Recruiting Entry-Level Personnel
Utilities need to better understand and leverage those elements that speak to the values of the millennium generation (those born after 1980). By customizing job offers around quality-of-life issues, which are central to that generation’s thinking, a utility can differentiate itself from all the others at relatively limited cost.
This also may be a unique opportunity to introduce women and minorities at all levels into a workforce that historically has been dominated by white males. Women and minorities represent a potential pool of expertise that must be considered seriously in the search for talent. Female officers from the Coast Guard and Navy who have engineering and science degrees, or who have served aboard ship in engineering roles and have extensive leadership experience in all-male environments, are a promising source of exceptional talent. Corporations should consider recruiting them a year before their enlistment is complete.
Universities and technical colleges also can be an excellent source of very well-prepared graduates, especially if utilities provide them access as undergraduates to company-specific power-flow models and simulators (which could be made available on second shift). By establishing these types of relationships, universities will move their curriculum closer to the specific needs of the specific company and significantly reduce the startup timeline.
Utilities also should consider contracting out specific transmission planning projects to universities. This type of contracting arrangement would enable the utility to develop a quality relationship with select students several years before they graduate. Similarly, by providing technical schools with traditional distribution-system mockups, the school would build their curriculum around a utility’s specific equipment. This, in turn, would save the company significant training time and dollars.
Exit interviews reveal time and time again that the majority of people who vote with their feet do so not because of money but because of