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21st Century Talent

Building a workforce for today’s utility landscape.

Fortnightly Magazine - December 2010

same time, 36 percent stated that their boards of directors are more engaged in assessing the leadership pipeline for succession planning.

All management must be committed to attracting optimal talent from outside the organization, deploying appropriate talent in jobs and on projects, developing technical and leadership competencies, managing talent for optimal performance, rewarding talent for success, and managing generational differences. Companies need to ensure their pivotal positions are staffed with premier talent, and that there’s a reliable pipeline of potential candidates ready to succeed retiring workers. For example, in the nuclear sector, forecasts indicate that 38 percent of current nuclear utility employees will be eligible to retire between 2009 and 2014. During the same time period, non-retirement attrition might be another 10 percent, according to Carol L. Berrigan, senior director for industry infrastructure and supply chain at the Nuclear Energy Institute (see “Statement of Carol L. Berrigan,” Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future, August 31, 2010) . To address the issue, the nuclear industry as a whole collaborated to develop the Nuclear Uniform Curriculum Program (NUCP) in partnership with community colleges to meet the industry’s demands for new workers in key disciplines. To be successful over the long term, this kind of program must be reinforced with effective and ongoing talent management once the employees enter the organization.

Technology Talent

As utility companies invest in their transmission, distribution, IT infrastructure, and new and existing methods of power generation, they’ll be demanding a lot from their employees as they support these and other initiatives and attend to day-to-day business. To mitigate the risk to their investments and the stress and strain on their employees, utilities need to balance their initiatives with the human capital necessary to implement and maintain new technologies. Companies that fail to do enough resource analysis before asking leadership for capital for specific projects might ask for less than they need, and thus end up short of workers to implement and maintain new capital assets. Like many companies, utilities can fall victim to focusing on the construction and implementation of new assets and capabilities, but not sufficiently take into account the ongoing need to maintain those assets. This puts the short-term and long-term success of new initiatives and the ability to attract and retain workers at risk.

While it’s important for utility companies to be able to attract well-educated, technology-savvy younger workers, they also need to educate their current employee base on the use of new technologies. Older workers are perfectly capable of learning new, complex skills. As a matter of fact, matching mature workers’ vast experience with new technologies can give a utility company unique perspectives that knowledge of new technologies alone can’t provide. This is particularly true for the largest part of the utility employee base represented by the physical workforce that builds, operates and maintains the infrastructure.

The learning and talent management systems available today can help companies better understand and compare the competencies, skills, and experience they have with those they need. These systems also provide integrated capabilities for assigning learning content, 360-degree and multi-rater