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Opportunities within the silver tsunami

June 20, 2024


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The silver tsunami

In Black & Veatch's 2024 Water Report, the aging workforce again emerged as a top concern, right below aging infrastructure. Workforce also landed in the top ten issues facing the water industry in AWWA's State of the Water Industry (SOTWI) report. While major power industry reports tend to focus more on the grid and renewables, workforce is still a concern. Consider the following:

  • Eight in 10 respondents in the 2024 Water Report are experiencing increasing retirements.
  • Federal estimates put potential water utility retirements at 33% of the workforce in the 10 years.
  • Sixty percent of respondents in the SOTWI report indicated that workforce is a high to immediate priority.
  • According to a 2022 Power Magazine article, 50% of the power utilities workforce will retire over the next decade.
  • Utilities that replace their retirees quickly still have knowledge gaps to fill.
  • Remaining staff have to pick up the slack, which can result in increased errors or burnout.
  • An overworked staff can impact customer satisfaction.

In addition to retirements, utilities are dealing with a more competitive job market and changing expectations from younger professionals.

  • According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (via EY), employee tenure in the power & utilities industry has decreased by 36.8% in the last decade.
  • Gen Z has grown up with technology. They expect it.
  • Gen Z has also grown up with and expects change - pragmatic change that improves how things are done.

The silver lining

While increased retirements and turnover creates challenges, it also presents opportunities. Staff change offers a window to introduce new tools. As change is already happening, introducing practical, easy-to-use technology can make the transition easier. In addition, new teammates may expect technology to help them with their jobs, and it can provide a competitive advantage when hiring.

Utilities can use technology to reduce pressures that accompany employee turnover and improve employee and customer satisfaction by:

  • Embedding operating procedures into tools to simplify training and onboarding.
  • Offering real-time access to data via phones, eliminating the need to go to the office to check information.
  • Using AI-assisted triage to prevent unnecessary truck rolls in the middle of the night and prioritize work for maximum efficiency.
  • Streamlining workflows, reducing unpopular manual tasks for field crews such as answering the phone and duplicate data entry. Informal polls show younger crew members don't like to talk on the phone - whether it's with customers or call centers.
  • Creating better communications with customers while minimizing the effort required to keep customers informed.

Better tools reduce unnecessary busy work and help staff comply with standard processes. They allow staff to focus on critical issues, and they can free up time for professional development. Of course, that is only the case if the technology is proven, practical, and easy-to-use. More on that in the future.

How two utilities are responding

Global Water Resources

Global Water Resources, based in Maricopa, AZ, recognizes they need a technology package to attract younger workers. Part of that package includes Daupler RMS, which facilitates work from anywhere. Beth Huerta, Client Services Manager, notes, "We are actually able to work from our phones, which makes it a lot easier, and it's something that the younger generation is used to."

See Beth's full commentary on technology and recruiting.

Deaf Smith Electric Cooperative

The General Manager at Deaf Smith Electric Cooperative, Tim Burkhalter, recognized that it would make work easier for his crews if they could receive texts and review data on their phones rather than field phone calls from a call center. When his coop experienced significant turnover, he saw an opportunity to make some changes.

They implemented response management with Daupler and saw "a night and day difference." The line crews get the information they need, regardless of where they are, and can act on urgent issues immediately.

More from Deaf Smith.

Learn more about how you can apply response management technology to address workforce challenges. Fill out our demo form or email us at question@daupler.com.

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