A New Workforce Will Drive Energy’s Future

by Bob Shively, Enerdynamics President and Lead Facilitator

Not too long ago, utility workers were overwhelmingly male and white, and they tended to stay at the same utility for decades of employment. Now studies show that in most utilities, as much as 50% of the workforce will reach retirement age in the next five to 10 years. 

UtilityDive’s ‘The State of the Electric Utility 2016 Survey‘ asked over 500 utility executives what the three most pressing challenges are for their utility. The most prevalent response, at 43% of respondents, was “aging workforce.” The expected turnover in employees will come at the same time that the utility industry is grappling with a likely transition to new technologies, new expectations from customers and regulators, competition from technology giants like Google and Apple, and a need to develop new business models. 

The composition of the workforce is also changing when it comes to gender and race:


I recently observed this while teaching a seminar of new engineers at a utility in the Southwest. Out of 20 new employees, only two were white males, and over half the attendees were female. 

Secondly, expectations for how workers will work are significantly changing. In a recent paper titled ‘Transitioning to Workforce 2020‘ tech company Cisco outlined changing employee expectations:

Cisco went on to suggest that traditional organizations will need to reform significantly by “letting go of some immediate control in order to keep the globalizing organization in better balance over the long run.” According to Cisco, necessary activities will include some or all of the following:

  • Synthesizing diverse viewpoints – more dialogue and compromise
  • Recalibrating timing and processes – allowing workgroups to work at their own pace with their own tools
  • Reforming existing policies – restructuring and disruption of current policies
  • Integrating new values – valuing creativity and innovation as much as efficiency and productivity
  • Shifting key relationships – lateral relationships replacing vertical with cross-functional groups
  • Concentrating attention on opportunities – maintaining focus through unforeseen conditions and market complexity
  • Engaging new and different stakeholders – reaching out to more partners, customers, governments, and communities
  • Allocating resources – flexible approaches to deal with fast-changing, hard-to-predict business conditions

Clearly the needed changes will be doubly hard for utilities given the imperative to maintain careful processes to ensure safety and reliability, and given the overwhelming influence of regulation in the industry. Utility leaders and managers must prepare themselves for what may be the biggest challenge of their careers.

One way Enerdynamics is helping current and prospective clients navigate a changing workforce is through its “Utility Business Acumen Series,” which assists companies in meeting their evolving training needs. Much of what we do can be customized for your company. Contact us at 866-765-5432 ext. 700 or by email if you’d like to discuss your specific needs, learn how we’ve worked with other companies with similar needs, and get details on the customized training program we can build to meet such needs.