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Building a workforce for today’s utility landscape.

Fortnightly Magazine - December 2010

ranking; and determining actions the company can take to reduce turnover. If HR doesn’t clearly demonstrate the impact of a company’s turnover on its bottom line, company leadership might dismiss excessive turnover as having little financial impact and thus not make it a priority.

A number of methods can serve to give younger workers the things they look for from their employers, such as coaching and mentoring programs that pair young and experienced workers. This can go a long way toward promoting multi-generational employee teamwork. Other methods include giving young leaders challenging development assignments, networking opportunities, and more flexible work arrangements. Many of these and other methods of addressing the motivations and expectations of generations X and Y don’t require large dollar investments, but they do require thoughtful consideration and planning. Nevertheless, according to the utility CEO survey, only 21 percent of CEOs expect to make large or significant changes to flexible working environments.

Intensifying local recruiting programs can also curb early turnover. These include forming formal relationships with schools, unions, and agencies to promote internships and establish early industry loyalty. Some successful programs include PG&E’s PowerPathway program, which uses pre-employment candidate qualifications for line workers, and the Lansing Board of Water and Light’s First School to Training and Employment Program (First STEP), which consists of internship and outreach programs with local high schools.

Closing Skill Gaps

Some companies adopt a counter-productive mindset when it comes to the processes and practices they use to address their talent management needs. They think of talent management as a tactical HR function rather than as a strategic management function that HR facilitates and to which HR contributes expertise and value. This can separate effective workforce talent management from the potential bottom line impact in the minds of company leadership. They fail to perceive the importance of their talent management strategy because of its indirect ROI, and they thus underestimate its importance to the peril of the entire company.

This especially applies to a company’s pivotal positions, which perform a significant part of the strategically critical work of an organization. These positions usually don’t exceed 15 percent of the total number of a company’s jobs, and some functions might not have any such positions. Decreasing turnover in these positions is in a company’s best interests. A company’s talent management strategy is its plan detailing how it will acquire, deploy, develop, manage, and reward the premium resources it needs to fill its pivotal jobs. It’s a clear vision of the performance objectives, competencies, employment terms, and engagement each position must possess. To deliver on performance objectives, individuals in pivotal positions should have a clear understanding of the knowledge, skills, and attributes expected of them, and they should be compensated based on those measures of performance.

Boards of directors and top management appear to be getting the message. They’re concerned about a growing skill gap as experienced employees retire or otherwise exit the market. PwC research indicates 39 percent of surveyed CEOs see a lack of skilled labor as a major or significant constraint to growth. At the