The expanding reach of technology is shifting the way we recruit, hire, engage and advance our employees. As an estimated 50 percent of the energy workforce becomes eligible for retirement within the next few years, what key areas should be addressed to take advantage of technology at each stage?
Students are expressing a higher interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers as early as middle school, and strategic recruiting for the next generation of energy employees makes the most of this market. Building a strong candidate pipeline and raising awareness of STEM-specific opportunities will increase the chances for recruiting the top available talent. Creating partnerships with community groups and schools, hosting high school and college interns, and recruiting at the high school and community college level should all be considerations.
Young adults entering the workforce today expect technology to be a part of their everyday experience, and therefore, recruiting has gone online. The most-effective recruiting strategies leverage a social media presence that defines the company’s brand and offers potential employees a glimpse into the organization’s vision and values. Online job boards are the top channel for job searches, which means a savvy job seeker can navigate from an interesting social media post to a LinkedIn job search in a few clicks — from anywhere in the world.
As it turns out, 70 percent of that clicking and job searching is done on a mobile device. Optimizing your website to be mobile friendly will ensure that you aren’t missing out on the type of applicants you’re hoping to attract. Seattle City Light’s talent acquisition manager, Keith Gulley, explains:
“One of the factors in attracting great applicants to your company is to make applying for a position an easy and efficient candidate experience. It is important for companies to provide mobile applications where candidates can apply and learn about the company. This not only makes your company attractive, it also increases the likelihood that your talent pool will match your workforce needs.”
What content areas are prospective employees the most interested in seeing on your mobile careers site? According to LinkedIn Talent Solutions, top categories include current job openings, company culture and history, benefits information, and profiles of current employees.
The hiring process is dramatically different than it was 10 years ago. Sleeker systems for processing job applicants have made paper resumes a thing of the past, while allowing more-efficient data mining for minimum qualifications and desired skills. Recruiters and talent specialists can instantly determine how many resumes have been submitted for a specific position, and can search a database of applicants using keywords to identify matching skill sets. Interviews can be conducted via video from across a state or in different time zones, which saves money and time on both ends.
Computer-savvy applicants have an advantage when it comes to navigating the various ways these systems collect information. Knowing which type of document to upload to keep a resume in the intended format, or including some of the keywords that recruiters may be searching for, might mean the difference between getting noticed and languishing at the bottom of the applicant list. Job-seekers using this knowledge to their advantage can clear the first hurdles in a search process. Similarly, utilities that are able to stay nimble and invest in new solutions to find the best talent can increase efficiency and lower vacancy rates.
Advances in technology are also having an impact on which roles are being filled. For example, many meter reader positions are being phased out in favor of advanced meters that compile and collect usage data without a worker visiting the site. Across the country, this particular job is expected to see a significant drop in hiring as the function becomes obsolete.
At Seattle City Light, we have implemented an organizational change management program to provide retraining to meter readers who will be affected when their positions are eliminated. The goal is to minimize the impact of the declining roles, provide support for displaced employees, and help them stay with the organization.
The most-effective recruiting strategies leverage a social media presence that defines the company’s brand and offers potential employees a glimpse into the organization’s vision and values.
Janet Beck, a strategic advisor who works directly with meter readers, emphasizes the importance of considering workers’ emotional needs before going straight to a training plan. “First, you have to engage and connect with the employees and really listen to them. From there, you can go to needs assessment and training,” Beck said.
Career exploration, one-on-one guidance and skill-building help employees prepare to be competitive for other positions within the company. Beck also underscored that fluency in computer skills is necessary for success. While it may be second-nature for younger generations, current employees who haven’t had traditional desk jobs may need training in programs such as Microsoft Word and Excel in order to work efficiently and “speak the same language” as their colleagues. In an industry where skills and knowledge are typically acquired over years, if not decades, supporting worker retraining allows retention of that knowledge, while expanding proficiencies that benefit the employee and the organization.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, utilities are hiring more employees into roles that are technology driven. Positions working with geographical information systems (GIS), data analytics and power marketing have all seen an uptick in hiring in recent years. In some areas, employment more than doubled in the advanced grid segment (smart grid, storage and electric vehicle charging technologies). As the industry becomes more reliant on new technologies, the makeup of our workforce will continue to change, requiring the energy industry to adapt to new ways of supporting our workers.
Data and technology are providing the opportunity for more consistency in employee development. Where an onboarding process for new hires spread out over multiple locations may have looked different in the past, it can now be a common experience by using e-learning modules. In addition to delivering a reliable message, it can help strengthen the culture of a company by offering an equitable experience.
Data analysis of the feasibility and cost benefits of specific training options can inform decision-making, as well as define the focus of employee engagement efforts. We are no longer reliant on the “squeaky wheel” approach to planning for employee needs. Data can be used to build a case for where to deploy resources. The crucial factor is creating a strategic and equitable technology plan across the organization, and communicating that plan to employees and stakeholders. Where to start? Focus on speed, efficiency and cost savings, and then identify your top priorities to drive immediate business value.
One of the largest areas of potential influence is the ability for employees to use systems to self-direct their professional development. The old career path of staying in the same job until you move up on a predetermined, linear track is no longer the norm. The idea of a career ladder has been replaced by a career lattice. The idea is to make lateral moves in order to move up using different paths of advancement. The ladder approach meant that you would either move up or stop moving, regardless of individual needs over time. A career lattice puts more ownership into the worker’s hands, where the mobility doesn’t have to have a lock-step time frame, and it can pivot or adjust as needs change. A lattice approach requires an employee hoping to advance to a leadership position to have a greater breadth of knowledge about the organization as a whole. It also allows the worker to develop his or her own vision of what the ideal career path looks like.
A learning/talent management system can be an effective tool in empowering employees to drive the direction of their careers. While there will always be required training in any job, technology has allowed a world of educational opportunities to be readily accessible. Supplementing in-person, instructor-led training with e-learning courses can open up a wealth of choices for the types of training available. It allows the user to build a specific curriculum to meet individualized needs.
Since implementing its learning/talent management system in early 2015, Seattle City Light has seen an increase in employees connecting with training. While we had no centralized, online learning option prior to 2015, instances of employees completing or partially completing an online course increased by more than 400 percent from 2015 to 2016 — as users became more aware of the option and more familiar with the technology.
A well-integrated system can also guide the implementation of a succession-planning model that identifies high-potential employees, pinpoints high-risk roles, and focuses on cultivating a deep bench.
Managers can suggest development activities to get valued employees closer to a leadership position. Employees can map out the path between where they are now and their career goal, while getting a sense of the training and skill-building they may need to get there. Plus, while it’s getting easier to identify and advance people into new positions, technology is also helping to transfer the knowledge acquired through years of work, especially from the wave of soon-to-be retirees.
By organizing, capturing and distributing the critical pieces of information, we can ensure that this knowledge is available not just for the next person filling the role, but also to future employees in that position.
What else can drive success? Addressing the generational gap in information sharing. Millennial workers are often looking for real-time information that is technology based in the form of blogs, wikis and podcasts. Retiring workers are more likely to look to scheduled conversations and paper-based tools.
So how can your organization ensure that you’re not being left behind? Embrace new technologies and capitalize on emerging forms of engagement, while acknowledging the full, employee life cycle.