It’s always a simple process. Just remove the old meter and plug in a new one. Just inspect that fitting. Just hang that new communications device.
Too often, though, these seemingly routine tasks are hard to manage with a large workforce—and the questions arise. Why did we only install 50 meters today? Why are customers still complaining about intermittent service? Why didn’t we identify the malfunctioning device before the crew left the site?
No matter the task, managing workforce performance will always be difficult. Employees will have varying levels of skill and competing motivations, and they will encounter unforeseen problems. All utilities have these issues, and it is unlikely that they will ever go away even with the advent of the smart grid. As metering technologies change and utility customers demand better service, managing and constantly improving a workforce will continue to prove a critical task.
Derive data from your workforce management system
Utilities often rely on workforce management systems to address these types of issues. These solutions can be anything from a rudimentary collection of spreadsheets to a sophisticated system that tracks employees and automatically assigns work directly to an employee’s tablet computer in real-time. Whatever the system, one of its greatest—and often untapped benefits—is the information that can be gleaned from the data it supplies about workforce effectiveness.
Data facilitates constant improvement. How many orders did each technician fill today? How long did the technician work on the fitting? How many tests were performed? Why is productivity highest on Tuesdays? Is the most productive technician following all of the safety policies?
Apply the right analytics
With the right data, you have the building blocks necessary to start monitoring and assessing where your workforce is excelling and where it is struggling. Of course, any type of analytic is only as strong as its applicability to the business; the data needs to tell a story that is interesting to your senior management and your workforce. Properly scoped and implemented workforce management systems can provide a wealth of knowledge and monitoring capabilities—but if they are not tuned to key business drivers, they will likely become nothing more than another then a system churning out ignored e-mails.
Define and monitor the right metrics
Defining key business-driven metrics, therefore, should be the first task in building a data-driven approach to utility workforce management. This can be a complex and iterative process, but once you have defined these metrics, your organization can begin to monitor them and benchmark them against internal or external standards. Supervisors and leaders, alike, should review these metrics on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis so that the whole management team is aware of workforce performance trends and can take action as well as plan for any future budget variance. Furthermore, having access to this type of data allows you to test innovative process improvements to prove their worth, and it facilitates agreement on new process standards.
Drive continuous improvement
In short, good data can help transform a workforce and, more importantly, help a workforce drive to constantly improve. Utilizing the right workforce management system with the right business-defined metrics is the key to that continuous improvement.