Preparing for the Utility Workforce of the Future

The massive industry-wide investment in intelligent equipment and communications networks, the proliferation of new information system applications and data, and the new demands of customers armed with new knowledge and choice have converged to create a truly transformational pressure on the industry. Managing and training a smarter workforce that is prepared to deal with this transformation requires a new approach and new ways of collaborating.

In addition to assimilating new technology and changing market forces, our industry also is preparing for a sizable experience and knowledge loss due to retiring baby boomers. Replacing this workforce will demand new strategies and tools, and we will no longer to be able to replace “like with like.” The workforce we will hire in 10 years is currently in middle school. Long-term investments in STEM education and technical degrees will eventually balance the knowledge drain we are already experiencing. In the short run, however, the new skill sets and competencies required to leverage the investments in technology and meet evolving customer demands will require constant retraining and up-skilling.

As our technologies and solutions converge, we must consider new combinations of skills and competencies throughout our workforce. Multi-skilled front-line employees and empowered flexible management teams need to be armed with new information, processes, and tools. New information flows and overlapping systems require a significant expansion of analytical and decision-making tools and capabilities. Information technologies and control systems will move the authority and accountability away from traditional organizational models. Successful integration of vendor and supplemental employees with legacy and new workforce roles requires a deeper expertise of contract and project management techniques. Finally, all of our customer-facing activities will continue to undergo challenge and growth as we develop yet another new set of relationships with our customers.

Through work partially funded by United States Department of Energy, the Illinois Institute of Technology and West Monroe Partners have developed a unique perspective on producing short-term benefits while building the longer-term workforce management foundation for this new and evolving environment.

We suggest a focus on several activities:

  • Identify significant process changes and impacted roles
  • Focus on the convergence zones
  • Capture and codify new knowledge, skills, and abilities
  • Re-shape jobs with “to-be” job task analyses
  • Re-write job descriptions
  • Re-examine specialist versus generalist roles
  • Evaluate current and potential training opportunities, structures, and budgets
  • Frame the short-term and long-term programs
  • Develop a partnership for building your workforce of the future

West Monroe Partners assists utilities with developing and implementing cost-effective and flexible workforce management techniques and tools that evolve as technology and customer demands change. We understand existing workforce management and training approaches and can help:

  • Institutionalize and extend short-term and proprietary vendor training on equipment and systems
  • Avoid redundant and less than effective replacement of silo skill sets
  • Formalize new training based on integrated competencies and roles
  • Assist in building an effective content development and delivery partnership

Industry labor organizations are just beginning to address these new integrated roles, so there are even more opportunities to partner and evolve mutual relationships in that sector.

Please contact Jack Winter to support your workforce initiatives in this area.

West Monroe Insights
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