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February 07, 2017
Futureproofing a digital utility: How to attract and retain digital talent
By: Mark Insch

In our previous post on rewiring the utility organization for digital, we discussed the need for utilities to build and transform organizational capabilities as they respond to fast-moving digital trends. This change also raises some big talent challenges. The nature of work, the workplace and the workforce are all changing, driving the need to think differently about attracting and retaining appropriate talent. Utilities will need customer service agents who can work across channels, going beyond simply resolving customer issues and providing personalized, insight-driven energy advice. They will also need data scientists to drive analytics, and digital experience designers and service strategists to identify new trends in technology and customer service.

While utilities may already have some of these skills in pockets of the organization, it’s unlikely it is anywhere close to the numbers required. Currently, there are no utilities among the Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For ranking, and only two utilities—both relatively new market entrants—feature in a similar UK list.

So, with high demand in the marketplace, how can utilities attract the appropriate talent? We see the answer in learning from customer journey design—understand our customers’ wants and needs—and applying it to rethink their own employee experience, wants and needs. This means embedding digital into the DNA of their business, creating a differentiated employee experience and brand by leveraging moments that matter.

Utilities can increase their digital appeal by verifying that their recruitment processes use digital channels like recruitment apps and platforms. They also need to consider new approaches to identify potential recruits, such as drawing on the social networks of existing employees’ to target and recruit new hires. These potential employees will expect quick, convenient recruitment processes. If an employer is perceived to take too long to respond, or the process is unintuitive and difficult, potential candidates will look elsewhere.

In such a competitive landscape, utilities need to understand and prioritize what is most important to their employees, recognizing that there are different values among various talent groups. By adopting a user-centric, or design thinking philosophy more commonly used by their marketing and customer experience colleagues, HR professionals can shape services that appeal to both new and existing employees. We’ve seen this trend gaining traction in the C-suite across industries. Cisco’s senior vice president and chief people officer, Francine Katsoudas, explains how they are “transforming the employee experience by delivering on the moments that matter  ”—using employee feedback to identify, connect and optimize these key moments—from joining the company to taking birthday time off, and from healthcare benefits to performance development. Similarly, LinkedIn’s CHRO Pat Wadors describes the importance to the bottom line of creating an employee experience that “treats people beautifully,” establishing a deeper, emotional connection between the employee and the organization at every point of the employee journey. This approach is backed up by key performance indicators; LinkedIn’s recruiting team also measures Net Promoter Scores (NPS) for candidates, whether they are hired or not.

All this means rethinking the role and position of HR within the utility organization. Casting a look to other industries, it is no coincidence that some companies’ heads of HR has dual talent and marketing duties, while others have recruited marketing experts to help them develop employee insights in the same way they generate customer insights. To accommodate these new skills and capabilities, utilities need to consider transforming their traditional HR operating models. Accenture research and experience has recently identified a number of new, innovative models which Utilities could consider adopting to build on these opportunities.

Just as many retail utilities organize their front office around customer journeys or segments, some may benefit from reorganizing HR resources around talent segments. In this model, rather than having business partners assigned to business units, “talent segment representatives” can be more flexibly assigned to these talent groupings. It then becomes much easier to establish and control differentiated employee experiences; for example, customer service agent versus data scientists—which could boost retention, productivity and engagement.

In our next blog post, we will continue this theme and consider how embedding digital culture and practices within the organization can enhance the employee value proposition, while enabling the utility to meet changing market demands.

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