The Utilities Workforce Composition is Changing. What Does it Mean for Information Management?

A recent influx of young talent into the workforce pipeline is exciting, but the trend also presents challenges to the way that information management has been conducted over the past ten years within the utilities industry. Strategic information management will be required to deal with normal attrition and adapt to the changing utilities workforce composition.

The Silver Tsunami has Largely Passed

For the past decade in the utility industry, there has been warning after warning of a massive exodus of workers who qualify for retirement — the so-called “Silver Tsunami.” But last spring a report titled Gaps in the Energy Workforce Pipeline by the Center for Energy Workforce Development announced that we should be seeing normal retirement rates going forward, thanks to a series of workforce initiatives.

The report states that “the age curve for the industry has flattened” and 19% of the workforce across sectors is under 32 years old. With the influx of a younger workforce, there are several key take-aways for information management professionals, including a need for modernized messaging, upgraded information architecture, more collaboration tools, and the preservation of institutionalized knowledge.

The Time for Modernized Messaging is Now

E-mail has not served the needs of mission critical roles like lineworkers, technicians, plant/field operators, or engineers very well. Meanwhile, end-users and enterprise architects have longed to remove the expense of unneeded Exchange licenses and provide a mobile-first solution. With more young people in these roles, we are at an opportune time to reduce or eliminate the use of e-mail and move workers to app-based messaging systems like Slack and Yammer.

Old-Fashioned Information Architecture Needs to be Replaced Soon

Employees that are entering the workforce now have never known a version of the internet that didn’t include Google. Their expectations for search are much higher and their patience for adding unnecessary metadata fields during document creation or upload is lower. That means that information management professionals are going to have to be more intelligent about how they build new information architectures and how they implement them.

Collaboration is Expected

Like their expectations around search, younger workers have expectations about the ability to collaborate in and around document processes. This age cohort readily used tools like Google Docs and Dropbox during their time in high school and college. They are comfortable editing documents with online collaborators in real time, with text or video just a click away. While most enterprise tools offer these capabilities, most organizations don’t have them deployed. That will have to change quickly.

Preserving Institutional Knowledge is Vital, Even with a Stable Workforce

Regardless of the flattening of the age curve and normalizing retirement rates, there will always be some amount of attrition in the utilities industry. The loss of one key mind from engineering or maintenance can result in valuable chunks of information disappearing if that knowledge hasn’t been documented. Having an established process for capturing institutional knowledge in an information management system is critical.

Poor Information Management Creates Enterprise Risk for Utilities

Rich Medina
Lane Severson
I’m a Practice Leader, managing relationships with Doculabs’ West Coast clients to improve information management and security.