Monday, December 16, 2013

Utilities Industry Facing Workforce Changes with Generational Shift

According to a new report, workforce changes are re-shaping the risk profiles of power and utilities companies, which may require a systematic approach to help attract and retain core know-how, and transfer industry knowledge to a younger generation. The report--"Power and utilities changing workforce: Keeping the lights on"--from Price Waterhouse Cooper's Power & Utilities Group, finds that, among other things, an accelerated pace at which utilities are losing key workers. For example, the "voluntary turnover rate climbed by a full percentage point between 2010 and 2012, and for high performers and early tenured employees the rate of separation was especially high."

PWC suggests that, while other industries are used to high turnover, the relatively stable utilities industry may now have to rethink both their approach to process and their employee value proposition as they confront the industry's turnover issues:
[T]raditional "word-of-mouth," on-the-job training of utility workers is not sustainable. More than ever before, work processes and procedures should be documented and continuously improved. Explicit governance and controls procedures should be put in place and sustained. Moreover, focused and efficient knowledge transfer and succession planning approaches should align with the operational imperatives of the company.
The report suggests that utility companies have been able to postpone this day of reckoning, since the recession had either forced employees to delay retirement or stay in place as contractors. However, since veteran utilities workers have had the tendency to retain valuable institutional knowledge in their heads and to pass it on orally, this knowledge will be lost as the attractiveness of pensions plans draws this workers away from employment.

The report then outlines questions that utility companies must ask themselves about, and outlines approaches to take with respect to, three areas: (1) knowledge retention and succession planning, (2) operations, and (3) Technology and processes.

Source: Price Waterhouse Coopers Summary (December 2013)

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