Retaining mid-career personnel will be important to a utility’s success.
Michael B. Brown is a senior consultant with Hay Group’s National Energy Practice, where he serves as the practice leader for the ISO/Transco and RTO sector. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The utility industry traditionally has been in the driver’s seat when recruiting, providing excellent benefits and lifelong employment. With an abundance of candidates waiting in the wings, there was little to worry about.
But times have changed. According to statistics maintained by the U.S. Department of Education, 24,547 individuals were awarded bachelor’s degrees in electrical/electronic engineering in 1986. By 2002, the number of those graduates fell to 13,627, with only about 500 of those degrees—the equivalent of 10 graduates per state—in power engineering. Additionally, most of those degrees in 2002 were in digital electronics, a skill set not relevant to the larger needs of the utility industry.
With upward of 50 percent of the utility industry’s workforce approaching retirement, the industry’s leadership, at all levels, must come to grips with this enormous challenge. This looming demographic challenge is not simply a human-resources problem. For most of the industry, it poses a very real threat to the bottom line and touches upon the fundamental ability of the company to pursue its mission.
The path to survival will require non-traditional thinking around all the people levers—staffing, work planning, compensation, work processes, performance management, development, job and organization design, and, most important, leadership.