Why empowering the workforce is key to utilities digital transformation

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Utility companies must deliver on offering a personalised, dynamic learning and development strategy supporting their workforces with the tools to take control of their professional development.

Automation, connectivity, the Internet of Things and data measurement are all dramatically changing how traditional energy suppliers operate. To take advantage of this digital disruption, they must adapt their operating models. And, more importantly, develop a strategy that attracts talent and upskills existing employees in order to support and sustain this change. But, with our recent research finding that more than a quarter (28%) of utilities employees believe there is a lack of innovation within their organisation – with 18% putting that down to a lack of skills –  energy suppliers have to act now or risk being left behind.

So how can utilities counter this problem and deliver a learning offering that empowers the workforce and unlocks digital transformation?

Challenges facing energy suppliers

The workforce of today is very different to that of even ten years ago. Co-working spaces, remote working, flexible hours – an increasingly millennial, digitally literate workforce has changed the way we think about the traditional 9 to 5 job. And this means that for employers big and small, attracting and retaining employees is more challenging than ever. Particularly for electricity, gas and water companies where recent government research has found have some of the highest rates of vacancies in skilled jobs, with 35% of roles vacant – over 50% higher than the national average.

One of the ways in which utilities could combat this problem is by addressing employees’ pain points. Our Digital Talent Gap research found that 29% of employees believe their skills will be redundant in the next two years – and herein lies the opportunity for employers to put in place robust learning and development (L&D) strategies to ensure talent can survive and thrive in an automated world.

Customer-centricity and personalisation

For L&D strategies to work effectively, utilities must have the same consumer-centric mindset for their employees as they have for customers. Employers must understand their workforce inside and out, and recognise that younger employees are better educated, more environmentally and socially conscious, more tech savvy, and are seeking more flexibility and empowerment in their day jobs than previous generations.

By better understanding what motivates their employees, utilities can provide personalised e-learning solutions, giving people the right training at the right time and ensuring they feel as though their development matters to the wider business. After all, this idea of tailored development is a modern selling and retention point for organisations that want to survive in today’s market.

Delivering a digital learning offering

It’s clear that organisations need to think about how they can encourage more creative ways of learning. Gone are the days of a classroom-based, sporadic, one-size fits all approach. Today, training needs to be fast, continuous, competency-based and ‘always on’.

There is a shift away from a defined learning curriculum to a more flexible approach that lets employees decide for themselves their next career steps and what learning they need to get them there. From an employer’s perspective, this means implementing multichannel learning techniques for existing employees, focusing on the technical, agile and cognitive skills required to thrive in digitalisation. It also means regular performance check-in conversations and proactive objective setting, with feedback delivered through routine performance snapshots and quarterly reviews.

However, what makes top employers stand out from the crowd is offering opportunities beyond business related competencies. Google offers a good example with their ‘Invest in You’ program that allows employees to explore passions beyond the job like take guitar lessons or cooking classes.

Utility companies must deliver on offering a personalised, dynamic learning and development strategy, which means demonstrating a commitment to supporting their workforces with the tools to take control of their professional development. Only then will they truly empower their employees and be successful in driving digital transformation.

Click here to read the full findings of our research into the impact of digital transformation on the UK energy market.

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