Overcome These Challenges with an Emphasis on Communication

Similar to other deskless industries, there are unique employee engagement challenges facing the utilities industry brought on by advances in technology and a shortage of qualified workers. The latest employee engagement statistics reveal that only 52 percent of utility workers are engaged. With many changes happening in the industry and an often stressful and even dangerous work environment, it’s no surprise that employee engagement is a challenge.

But employee engagement levels can easily be improved. The key is for companies to focus on effective, transparent communication that keeps employees in-the-know, safe, and supported in their jobs. Find out how to overcome three employee engagement challenges facing utility workers with the following strategies.

1. Mergers and acquisitions

The flurry of mergers and acquisitions in the utility industry is leading to disjointed, sometimes conflicting, organizational structures. Stress brought on by job insecurity, process changes, org reorganization, and company culture differences negatively impact employee morale, especially if companies aren’t keeping their frontline employees in the loop.

Solution: Regular, transparent communication before, during, and after a merger or acquisition is key to helping employees feel informed and engaged throughout the process. By continuously updating frontline workers, you can avoid dips in productivity and keep customers confident in your company’s ability to deliver great service.

Reaching utility crews can be difficult, especially in times of change and reorganization. Tactics like mass email blasts and intranet postings are not effective in keeping frontline utility teams informed. Make it a priority to use a communication solution that is designed for deskless workers so you can be sure they stay in-the-know.

2. Safety incidents

One of the most pressing employee engagement challenges facing the utilities industry is safety. Preventable safety violations can cause injuries, vehicular accidents, damage to facilities and infrastructure, and even death. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, there were 47 reported fatalities in the utility sector in 2016.

Employee Engagement Challenges Facing the Utilities IndustrySolution: Prioritize clear, real-time safety and hazard communication and create a culture of “safety first.” A company’s safety record is critical to both attracting talent and keeping them engaged and focused at work. Research by Gallup shows that companies with the highest levels of employee engagement had 70 percent fewer safety incidents than companies with low engagement levels. By leveraging a real-time communication platform, you can remind teams to follow proper procedures with quick safety videos and alert them to any situational hazards.

Other high-risk industries such as construction have found a direct correlation between real-time safety communication and their safety records. BlueLine Rental saw their TRI safety score, which needs to be 1 or below, go from over 3 down to 0.74 – making it one of the safest companies in the industry.

3. Technology upgrades

Innovation can be a challenge as utility companies have historically been known for slow and top-down decision making. “Internal resistance to change” was ranked as the third greatest obstacle to the evolution of a utility’s business model on the 2017 State of the Electric Utility report.

But technology is changing at a rapid pace and the utilities industry is having to move along with it. Key trends shaping the industry include using analytics to perform proactive service, leveraging cloud services and investing in smart-grid technology and self-repairing networks. While rolling out new technology is critical to stay competitive and meet customer expectations, it is typically a disruptive process that requires employees to change the way they do things, so preventing frustration is key.

Solution: Create a strategic implementation plan that accounts for how employees will be kept informed during on the rollout, how training will be conducted, what supporting materials will need to be shared and how employees will get help while on the job. Additionally, you’ll want to get your employees excited about how the new technology will improve their workday. By keeping frontline teams supported throughout the process, you can keep employee engagement from taking a hit.

These strategies for combatting common employee engagement challenges facing the utilities industry all come down to effective communication with your frontline workers. Ensure your success by leveraging a real-time communication platform to keep employees in-the-know while on the job, right from their mobile devices.

ABOUT Kristen Wells

Kristen is the senior manager of corporate communications at PTC and editor of Field Service Digital. She is passionate about elevating the stories of women in field service and improving communication between the field and the office. Prior to ServiceMax, Kristen held content marketing roles at startups such as Zinc and cielo24. Kristen holds a B.A. in Communication with an emphasis on Professional Writing from the University of California, Santa Barbara.