Time was that operating changes drove communications changes, and employee acceptance was a given. The changes now permeating the utility industry, however, require us to think, and operate, differently. Operating and communications changes need to unfold simultaneously. If communications is constantly playing catch up to changing operations, employees begin to lose motivation and effectiveness. Eventually, customers notice and begin to complain. In the worst extreme, regulators take notice!
Regulators want competition to produce a better deal for consumers. To make that happen, utilities must reorganize, reduce operating costs and workforce levels, and redefine jobs. All of these create internal strain.
Since World War II, utility employees have enjoyed either written or unwritten commitments to job security. Today's rapidly deregulated, more competitive environment has nullified any such past "psychological" contracts with employees. Consequently, trust levels are at an all-time low. Instability and uncertainty, accepted in other industries for generations, now have a strong foothold in various parts of the telecommunications, natural gas, and electric utility industries.
Extensive changes are taking place in departments and job classifications. Technology will eventually phase out traditional utility positions, such as meter reading. Staff in "softer" functions such as public relations/public affairs or advertising (em not to mention the ubiquitous staff support analysts (em are increasingly endangered species. For corporate communications, this is a time of challenge.