Recruiting new talent on all levels within the utilities industry is going to be critical in the next few years in order for the industry to thrive. But the game has changed.
Ty McCuiston, Human Resources Manager at Anixter, explains that the recruitment strategies that worked well in the past are no longer enough. He cites three main areas that can strengthen recruitment efforts: training, referrals and retention.
Training in the Era of Internships and Bootcamps
Many utilities work closely with colleges and trade schools to offer internships and other work arrangements for students. “It’s a great way to find talent long before they’ve graduated,” explains McCuiston. “Ideally those who intern will stay on or return for full employment after they graduate.”
Traditional apprentice programs for lineman and other skilled trade positions also remain important but they aren’t the silver bullet one might assume. Companies, like Commonwealth Edison Company (ComEd), with thriving apprentice programs still only hire about half of program graduates.1
Plus, the ways in which utilities must attract potential workers into the apprentice programs have dramatically changed. “The industry has started using marketing terms like ‘bootcamps’ to help sell these intensive training programs,” reflects Bill Pettit, VP of Strategic Sourcing at Anixter. “We’ve never done that type of marketing before, but it seems to resonate with the younger generations.”
Others are learning it’s never too early to recruit. National Grid representatives in Massachusetts visit with middle school students during October’s “Careers in Energy Week” to get a head-start on encouraging the next generation of the energy workforce. In order to meet the increasing demands of a 21st-century grid, says National Grid President Marcy Reed, “We [first] need to get students and others interested in STEM education and in solving the challenges ahead.”2
Employee Referral Programs
Perhaps one of the biggest changes in the new battle for skilled talent is the dawn of formal employee referral programs. New hires sourced through referral programs produce 25 percent more profit for their companies than new hires sourced via other means.3 McCuiston explains that these programs usually offer monetary incentives (sometimes thousands of dollars) to employees who refer a friend or colleague who is then successfully hired.
“Happy employees are your best referral sources,” McCuiston says. “Only, it’s important to make referring friends easy and valuable for them.” First, be sure the job listings can be easily shared on social media. Second, be sure the steps are clearly and simply laid out, including how and when the referral source will be rewarded.
Don’t Forget Retention
Just as important--if not more so--as good recruiting practices are great retention efforts.
“Not only do tactics like internships and referral programs help attract great talent but they’ve been known to increase retention rates as well,” McCuiston says, adding that employment screening methodologies like The Predictive Index can even further strengthen hiring decisions. “Employee turnover is incredibly expensive and time-consuming, so finding the right fit is more important than simply filling a position.”