Modernize or Get Left Behind: Revolutionizing our Utilities Future (Part One)

Four Keys to Grid Modernization Powered by Your People

Electricity is the driving force behind the intricate tapestry of our lives – it ignites a powerful spark that illuminates our homes, workplaces, schools, hospitals, and smart technologies -- dramatically influencing the way we live, work, play, and connect.

While our nation’s electric grid was an engineering marvel of the past century, the rapid pace of technological and socio-economic innovation has caused the existing electrical infrastructure to age with increased velocity. It was not designed to meet the demands of our digitally-driven world.

So how can utilities keep the lights on and pioneer our modernized, digitized future? By transitioning away from conventional operating models and acquiring a new technology-savvy mindset (e.g., digitally-enabled and sustainable energy provisioning strategies, data visualizations, smart meters, microgrids, advanced analytics, product innovations, etc.), while galvanizing resources to swiftly adapt to evolving consumer expectations, in order to survive and thrive amongst industry disruption. They must make strategic investments to modernize the electric grid today or risk getting left in the dark tomorrow.

In this installment of our utilities series, we’ll unpack how, above all else, your people have the power to activate transformation and grid modernization in a continuously evolving electric marketplace.

Energizing Activators of Change 

Nothing is constant in an era of exponential change, yet one guiding principle remains the same – the power of your people. People are the heartstrings, lifeblood, and ambassadors of your business. Their passion, dedication, and drive shapes an organization’s ability to thrive, and utilities must revive their talent management processes to survive.

As they make strategic strides to up their employee advocacy ante, many utilities organizations struggle with shifting workplace dynamics. Intensifying retirement cliffs, dwindling unemployment rates, talent scarcities, and generational workplace demands, have forced utilities to re-evaluate the resources needed to predict, prepare, and adapt to market disruption. Additionally, they’re increasingly encouraged to embrace the values, motivations, attitudes, expectations, and desires of a new multigenerational team.

According to North Highland research, 76 percent of business leaders across industries believe people and resources are the most significant barriers to success. Despite this business imperative, organizations readily acknowledge that investing in the strategies needed to attract, enable, and retain star talent is a reoccurring blind spot that derails their ability to ignite continuous transformation.

So how can utilities leaders harness the power of people to drive success as the market evolves? They must recognize that revolutionary change begins from within. To effectively activate change makers within your organization, leaders must establish a people-oriented talent management process to attract and retain visionary teams, unite disparate resources, stimulate professional growth, and coach high functioning performers to operationalize technological advancements. They must be fiercely committed to building organizational capacity, resilience, and culture to safeguard their competitive advantage in a rapidly evolving business climate.

In the Trenches as a Critical Extension of Any Utilities Team

In this new world, forward-thinking business leaders understand the critical importance of their people. As a result, they’re constantly reshaping their workforce development strategies to identify the right resources needed to manage shifting energy demands and business imperatives, quickly and efficiently.

At North Highland, we work hand-in-hand with organizations to source, attract, engage, develop, reward, and mobilize star performers to propel grid modernization efforts into the future. For instance, we recently partnered with a leading financial services institution to implement a recruitment, development, and succession strategy, which was designed to position our client as an attractive career choice for aspiring financial advisors. To be successful, we operationalized a multi-year learning and performance management process, created infrastructure and a dashboard needed to visualize and measure impact, and crafted messaging to articulate the value and validity of training programs to key audiences. Our work increased employee retention and reduced the time and expense associated with talent management.

When designing your recruitment and retention strategy, utilities can similarly consider these four critical steps to be better positioned at the forefront of workforce transformation:


  • Survey the Scene. Conduct a comprehensive, data-driven assessment of operational performance and opportunities for improvement, in alignment with organizational goals and objectives. This action will shine a light on the potential process, technology, performance, and strategy solutions, empowering organizations with the insights needed to prioritize initiatives with the most significant impact, while avoiding common pitfalls with execution.
  • Design a People-Centric Strategy. Define and design a realistic, executable, integrated, and scalable talent management strategy (including a timeline and success metrics) that fosters development, engagement, and empowerment at all stages of the employee lifecycle.
  • Create Capacity. Assemble a team of dedicated experts available to tackle late-breaking energy demands—on time and within budget. Lead talent through every step of the process so they’re equipped with the skills needed to advance in their roles and work autonomously in the future.
  • Cultivate a Continuous Learning Community. Provide immersive training and coaching to ensure resources (at all career stages) are deeply entrenched in the client culture, immersed in revolutionary new tools and techniques, empowered to bring new modernization ideas to fruition, and equipped with the skills necessary to thrive in a dynamic environment.


Transforming Utilities Workers into Change Makers

There’s nothing more powerful than your people. They’re the gatekeepers that govern, influence, and define an organization’s ability to shine. In this rapidly evolving digital landscape, utilities leaders must embrace the demands, desires, and ideas of their people to pioneer trailblazers of change and compete effectively amongst industry disruption.

So how can organizations groom their workforce for grid modernization? By establishing a purposeful, intentional, and integrated talent management strategy to incentivize and motivate high functioning teams to deliver unparalleled performance against shifting business priorities. Ultimately, utilities must inspire their workforce to fuel the future of transformation – meeting consumers where they are and bringing their electrified dreams to light.

Watch for our next blog in this grid modernization series, where we’ll take a closer look at the unparalleled power of data and analytics in the era of grid modernization.