Chapter 11: Challenges in Managing Utility Human Resources
A number of external forces are changing the shape of the public utility workforce. This, in turn, is presenting a number of important challenges to the practice of human resources (HR) management. The fundamental problem of simply ﬁnding enough workers with the necessary skills to replace the many aging ‘baby boom’ workers now entering retirement is certainly on the minds of most utility managers. There is no doubt that the United States workforce is changing from a majority of white males to a majority of minority males and white females. One utility industry observer has referred to this trend as the ‘biggest mega trend’ in the utility industry, and a time when utilities will soon be unable to acquire workers with the technical skills needed just to maintain the technology that has already been installed (Manning 2003). The nature of the industry itself adds to the diﬃculty of identifying and employing the best and the brightest of today’s college and university graduates. Deregulation, reorganization, privatization, bankruptcy, and system failure are some operational forces aﬀecting the industry that bring prospective employees to question whether they should commit to a utility career. In addition, many utilities ﬁnd themselves forced to deal with infrastructure that is aging and, in some cases, crumbling. Other forces that are re-shaping the industry include federal mandates to make expensive investments in environmental protection. Scandal and unethical behavior are additional themes seen today in many descriptions of the utility industry. This chapter will look at some...
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