Tips to Deal with the Aging Workforce in Utilities

The utility industry’s workforce is aging and this poses a huge risk in the coming years. Experience, understanding and know-how built up over decades resides with employees who’ve worked at a single utility company for most or their entire career. These employees are human knowledge banks, and as they retire, their loss leaves a gaping hole known as “brain drain.”

Utilities everywhere face the same issue – and many have failed to recruit new talent to replace their aging workforce. Approximately 60% of the utility industry workforce across the globe is over the age of 40 and many will retire in the next 10-15 years. The struggling economy of the past several years delayed the number of employee departures projected, but, the facts are that these departures will happen – and that it is just around the corner.

I spoke to a director of customer experience from a utility company at a conference recently and they indicated that they would lose about 50% of their workforce over the next couple of years. That will clearly be a huge impact to their workforce and will indirectly affect the customer experience as well.

How will you, as a manager or director of a contact center at a utility address this challenge?

Here are a few tips that help to address key areas such as people, policy, process and technology:

• Start now to determine steps necessary to avoid the loss of valuable institutional memory
• Begin to backfill critical positions focusing on those with the highest retirement rates
• Develop a plan to attract and retain a new generation of workers in this industry
• Improve internal collaboration, among disparate business units, and within the utility culture

Looking at these key areas will require an overall strategic plan. When developing this plan consider:

  •  Best practices from other industries that are also challenged with an aging workforce such as Government & Manufacturing. Reach out to see how they are recruiting, engaging and retaining their employees.
  • Innovative human resource policies. Coming up with workplace flexibility options can attract the newer generations with alternative and flexible work hours. Work-at-home or part-time options can also accommodate retirees, allowing them to return to the workforce, or continue working in a capacity that meets their needs.
  • Creative outreach and recruitment strategies to reach younger job candidates.
  • Include veterans and existing military in your recruitment efforts, knowing many leave the military once their commitment is up this is a great resource for employees.
  • Research new technologies to help with this dilemma such as knowledge and document management software solutions.
  • Investing time in business process automation – this can help you drive operational efficiency as one of the steps to automate work processes involves discovery, which means you can capture how the “as is” processes work from the employees prior to their departure.

For more information regarding the aging workforce challenge, best practices on how to meet it head on, and tips to help you plan for the future, please join me in an educational webinar, Aging Utility Workforce: Business Impacts and Strategies, on November 26th at 12:00pm EST. Attendees will also receive a copy of a new whitepaper that I co-authored, “The Aging Utility Workforce: Business Impacts, Technologies and Strategies to Address the Challenges.” This paper outlines how utilities reached this potential mass exodus of specialized workers, the impact to operations, and takes a look at how to reassess human resource policies in the wake of this change.

Bring your questions to the webinar or submit them here in the comments. Let me know if you have some ideas and best practices that have helped you to meet the aging workforce challenge!

Mechele