Throughout or working lives, we’ve heard the cliché from every Board member at some point or another: “people are our greatest asset”. But too many times it’s come before a round of redundancies or during a time of financial turbulence or just as something to say when a new CxO is in front of shareholders. Mostly, we have the feeling that it doesn’t actually mean anything.
In utilities, we all understand that there is a skills gap. Globally. Engineers and experienced technical staff are retiring faster than we can attract new ones. Sure, people are working on the problem. There’s a real focus on increasing Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics (STEM) capabilities from organisations such as the STEM Education Coalition in the US. Last year, UNESCO launched the Global STEM Alliance.
That’s all good news. But what I find even more heartening is that in recent times, I see evidence of utilities businesses not only supporting this sort of 3rd party initiative, but actually doing something internally in their organisations to value their people more, manage them better and actually treat them as that asset they’ve always told us about.
UK Utility Scottish & Southern Energy is a great example. In April this year, they published a report that values their people at £3.4BN. They say it’s a first for a UK company. I can believe it. And it’s not just a PR exercise. Yes, they’re becoming a more media-savvy business (quite a step for a utility, remember…) and their HR Director blogs relatively frequently. But that is kind of the point: he’s not blogging about energy bills or keeping the lights on. He’s blogging about people. Their people. I like that.
Here’s a different example. In the US, a long-term Teradata customer is taking another approach to more actively understanding and valuing their people. Xcel Energy began their journey with Teradata looking at meter-to-cash analytics. Since then, they’ve expanded their data & analytics capabilities into many parts of the business – most recently into HR. They’re now actively using the data available to them to create and deliver strategic workforce planning.
And not before time: their analysis showed 44% of Xcel Energy’s workforce was already within 10 years of retirement. Clearly, time to act! Now, Xcel has the ability to more accurately predict employee churn, address talent gaps before they become a greater issue, and better inform leadership of workforce trends. Good news.
Of course, these are only two examples in a huge, worldwide industry. But I believe they’re indicative of a growing trend. In utilities, as well as in other STEM industries, I think we are seeing the beginnings of recognition that people really, really might actually be our greatest asset. Just like we always said they were.
If you’d like to hear more about what Xcel are doing on data-driven HR and people management, I can recommend the webinar they recorded earlier this year. Or, if you’d like to learn more about how Teradata can help you turn those tired old “people…” clichés into something real and valuable, we’d love to hear from you!
David Socha is Utilities Practice Manager at Teradata International. He works with local and account-focused teams to bring Teradata’s unrivalled data and analytics capabilities and knowledge to the International Utilities sector. Connect with David Socha on Linkedin.
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