Are new technology platforms a perfect fit for an aging workforce in utilities?

Posted on June 15, 2016

“72 percent of energy employers are having difficulty finding quality candidates to fill their positions, as they grapple with an aging workforce and a growing skills shortage.”- ELP.com, 2015

Yes, the above words capture the reality of modern utilities! While utilities are attempting to control this attrition, they are a bit out of luck as many utilities have not prioritized developing or expanding their workforce. Many factors have contributed to this, including the fact that historically, utility employees will often stay with one company throughout their career, making utilities less prepared to handle sudden and rapid turnover. Utility workforce retirement is more profound than personnel turnover because it represents a loss of critical knowledge. Further as utilities feel the pressure to become more efficient, future headcount will be lower as more productivity will be expected with less staff.

Also, the pace of change at utilities in recent years due to rise of distributed platforms have forced them to evolve into smart utilities that look to integrate new technologies into their existing procesSEW. Also some of these new technologies such as smart grids, smart meters, customer engagement platforms and workforce management have the capability to generate huge volumes of data based on behavioral patterns. With this data at the hands of the utilities and the loss of historical knowledge by the loss of an aging workforce, utilities are going to need to be innovative in looking for solutions to remain competitive in the future. They will not be able to hire their way to success but instead will have to look at transforming their business into a date driven digital organization that will excite a new generation of utility workers. Adoption of new technological platforms will be the key to success.

So what do these technology platforms look like? The average utility has significant field crews serving trouble response, customer service, and maintenance and construction activities. Basically the roles that are applied to field crews in general regardless of the utility, is (1) schedulers, (2) dispatchers, (3) administrative personnel, and (4) field supervisors.

The staff handling these tasks is often functionally, organizationally and geographically dispersed. Historically the software that utilities have used typically addressed one job type: emergencies, customer service, maintenance or construction. Accordingly, each department has multiple staff scheduling or dispatching each respective type of job.

However, in the environment of a shrinking workforce, this historical way of deploying software creates an opportunity. A single cloud based SaaS workforce management platform though can have immense cost-reduction implications which include reducing redundant job roles provides a utility with a new approach to workforce management through the digital universe. A modern skilled work force is required to adopt new technologies to perform their job safer and more efficiently and utilities need to provide such tools to keep such a new younger workforce engaged.

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At Smart Utility Systems, we build one of the most comprehensive mobile field service engagement SaaS platform. What it provides is (1) real time information, (2) mobile platform, (3) elimination of manual process and paperwork, (4) safety and compliance information, (5) asset tracking, (6) operational analytics and (7) work order management. This cloud based SaaS platform allows the utility to leverage their workforce more efficiently but also engages its workers to become more productive.

This allows utilities to track job performance of each employee, gather job related intelligence for effective decision making through live dashboards, trends, data and other parameters with the ability to send them personalized alerts to minimize the communication gap between the employee and the enterprise.

Are utilities geared to drive this next wave of workforce management?

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