Solving the utility workforce crisis: a fresh approach from PwC



By Doug Peeples



The utility workforce crisis isn’t new. But what is new is its intensity. The improving economy is encouraging more older employees with valued skills  to feel comfortable about retiring. And, of course, there still aren’t nearly enough proficient replacements to meet the growing need. It’s a tough spot to be in.


A new report from PwC’s Human Resource Services practice, PwC Saratoga, contains an analysis of data provided by 29 utilities, which represent a little less than a quarter million employees. The report, Power and utilities changing workforce: Keeping the lights on, explains what utilities face today.


The following summarizes many of the report’s key points and amplifies the two mentioned above:

·         Labor costs, always relatively high in the power and utilities industry, are moving upward again.

·         Utilities are losing employees faster. The voluntary turnover rate rose a full percentage point between 2010 and 2012.

·         In addition to the accelerated loss of older employees, turnover among newer hires and high performers is increasing too. Utilities are finding that the ‘new generation’ is more likely to switch jobs more often.

·         Decades of stability have left utilities not as well equipped to recruit and retain talented employees as other industries that have experienced higher turnover rates over a long period of time.

·         Compounding the problem is the inclination of older employees to keep their job knowledge in their heads and pass it on verbally, with no systematic documentation.

·         The future will bring a broader range of available technologies, resource scarcities and demographic shifts. All will contribute to a significant impact on the industry.

·         Talent will become more critical to sustainable growth.


According to the report, CEOs plan to change how they manage talent, with 80% planning to make employee engagement programs stronger, and 89% planning to establish leadership pipelines (including succession planning).