Utility Week

UTILITY Week 28th April 2017

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UTILITY WEEK | 28TH APRIL - 4TH MAY 2017 | 23 Operations & Assets Market view H ow oen do we hear that "people are our greatest asset"? This sounds good. It might even be true. Typically, the best and brightest are thinking long and hard about how to maxim- ise return on investment from physical assets over decades, if not centuries. Yet our people assets are typically managed on a 12-month cycle. For utility companies, managing people assets is requiring some change of thought. Successive governments have announced a steady increase in retirement age and within the next ten years the state pension age will be pushed back to 67. Many front- line operators such as maintainers and tech- nicians, who are doing physically intense roles, will have to work 15 to 20 years longer than their colleagues do today. This is quite a change from recent times when many col- leagues le in their 50s with gold-plated pensions. This presents a challenge for the util- ity sector. Frontline maintenance work is oen arduous and physical and while the ongoing improvements in health and tech- nology help, even the rosiest predictions do not envisage people in their mid- to late 60s being as physically capable as today's 50-year-olds. It is not just a physical issue – getting the best from ageing "intellectual assets" is also a problem. As workforce demographics change, the generation who knew the quirks and eccentricities of the operations and net- work have been retired out – and with them a lifetime of on-the-job knowledge. To this day, long-retired colleagues are still being rung up and asked to recall the intricacies of the network when something has gone bang in the night. What happens when they are not around any more to call? This is particularly a problem because much of this intimate and intricate knowledge has never been written down. Managed carefully, extending the work- ing life of people assets can provide a signifi- cant opportunity. The challenge for utilities is to design jobs and careers that adapt with the workforce over time. Putting the right career management structure in place means what is lost in physical labour capability can transition to harnessing the intellectual capital of human assets. Starting this process now, when it applies to a smaller proportion of the work- force, will be much more manageable and a lot less costly than waiting until there is a multitude of employees companies do not know what to do with. The first step is to change perspective and take a future-back approach to career plan- ning, plotting the employee journey over decades. With careful thought, long-term planning and training, the workforce will be equipped with the competencies, aptitudes and attitudes to enable them to move into less physically demanding roles – roles that continue to utilise their experience as their lengthened careers progress. Consciously "re-purposing" people assets (that is, talent) ready for new roles, before they become physically unable to manage the demands of front-line work, ensures that motivation is kept up and vital knowledge is retained. Providing people with defined late-stage career pathways will help them transition into new positions when the time is right. Rather than facing the headache of an age- ing workforce as a costly asset liability, if planned for, these same assets could become a knowledge bank helping to power the organisation into the future. James Clement and Alex Graham, principal consultants, Egremont Group 'Re-purposing' people assets Managed carefully, extending the working life of people assets can be an opportunity. The challenge for utilities is to design jobs that adapt with the workforce, say James Clement and Alex Graham. PROPORTION OF DIFFERENT INDUSTRY GROUPS ACCOUNTED FOR BY THE OVER-50S (%) Agriculture Real estate activities Transport and storage Education Water supply, sewage Health and social work Mining and quarrying Admin and support services Manufacturing Construction Public admin and defence Professional, scientific and technical Wholesale, retail Electricity, gas, etc Arts, entertainment and recreation Information and communications Financial and insurance activity Accommodation and food services 0.0 10.0 20.0 30.0 40.0 50.0 60.0 Source: ONS Labour Force Survey Q2 2014 and author's calculations % Over 60 % Over 50 CUMULATIVE CHANGE IN UNEMPLOYMENT, BY AGE BAND, SINCE Q1 2008 1,000 800 600 400 200 0 -200 -400 -600 Thousands 2008 Q1 2009 Q1 2010 Q1 2011 Q1 2012 Q1 2013 Q1 2014 Q1 2014 Q3 18-24 25-34 35-49 50-64 65+ Source: ONS Labour Force Survey Q2 2014 and author's calculations

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