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Recently, AWWU surveyed its personnel to determine, based on age, years of service and other factors, predicted retirement rates of its workforce. Results were alarming and unexpected. Analysis showed that 40 percent of the employees and full 60 percent of all our supervisors would be eligible for retirement in the next 5 years. This trend may affect not just AWWU, but other public and private utilities around the country.

As a result, AWWU as well as others are beginning to focus on the tools and processes being used to adapt and meet these challenges. The purpose of this presentation is to report out methods AWWU has developed to meet the challenges. In Anchorage, for example, AWWU is preparing more employees for supervisor and management positions through its “Leaders of Change” initiative. This program was expanded from all supervisors engaged in continuous improvement efforts to address issues of retirement and succession. The initiative trains foremen, supervisors and line staff in productive hiring practices to ensure new employees are a good match for the utility's culture. By cultivating skills and knowledge of these workers, the utility can help prepare them to replace some retiring supervisors.

Another example is the development by a general foreman of special 10-week, 200-hour training classes for Water Distribution Operations that teach a cross-section of employees everything that would normally be learned by senior operators over a period of 5 to 8 years of actual job performance.

Third, AWWU has undertaken a major effort to define necessary skills for all positions and assessing current skill levels for all employees. This information will identify skill gaps and help AWWU schedule and budget targeted training in 2004 and into the future.

In addition to these strategies, recruitment and retention has been used to plug the brain drain. AWWU has employed a State of Alaska pilot program to allow “retired” employees to return to AWWU to provide additional support while they continue to receive retirement benefits. Use of this program allows time for the utility to adapt, providing mentorship opportunities for younger employees, and helps retain institutional knowledge. Further, AWWU has begun recruitment strategies that adopt practices used by private industry, such as attendance at job fairs, home shows, and university programs such as internships to increase the Utility's exposure to potential employees.

These strategies will be explained in further detail with results of each strategy.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2004-01-01

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