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WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT - BUILDING FUTURE LEADERS IN OPERATIONS AND MAINTENANCE

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Abstract:

In 2002, East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) completed a comprehensive workforce planning review which identified that up to 50% of EBMUD staff could change within a 5-year period. This huge potential workforce change prompted EBMUD to establish a workforce planning goal: have ample talent to do the work of the District now and in the future. To support this goal, EBMUD took the following steps:

Identified likely near-future vacancies


Analyzed current work requirements for these positions and the associated core competencies for success


Identified changing workplace and business needs, and corresponding skills and staffing requirements to meet those needs


Reviewed the existing talent pool within the agency


Created specific workforce development programs to meet current and future skills and staffing needs.


This paper focuses on how EBMUD is addressing the most critical need identified in the 2002 review and plans to address the potential loss of 60-65% of first and second level supervisors in our operations, maintenance, and other field functions. These positions represent roughly 10% of the total workforce of over 1,900 employees. These positions are also directly responsible for ensuring quality of services, productivity of staff and maintaining a culture of high performance and excellent customer service. EBMUD believes it is essential to focus on developing the best possible internal candidate pool to fill the future vacancies.

Two workforce development programs were created: The LEAD Academy focuses on developing future first level supervisors; the Pathways Program focuses on developing future Superintendents and Assistant Superintendents. Both programs currently only focus on developing staff for operation and maintenance positions, but will ultimately be expanded to include similar level positions in other functional areas.

The development process for the LEAD Academy included creation of a “supervisory success profile” and identification of skills and behaviors necessary for achieving that success. Each Academy includes a 3-month long program of weekly courses for 20 participants selected through a competitive process. The participants take all courses together to build the sense of team EBMUD believes is critical to its success. Each participant was also teamed with a mentor to provide ongoing guidance and support.

EBMUD has graduated three LEAD Academy classes. Graduates have already made an impact on the organization by filling a number of vacancies. Some of the key attributes of these new supervisors include: strong basis of shared leadership skills, good communication skills, and an appreciation for collaboration and teamwork.

The Pathways Program aims to develop the next level of leadership beyond first-line supervision. Like the LEAD Academy, this effort began with identification of a “success profile” and key skills and behaviors for the positions. Participants in the Pathways Program have highly varied education and experience backgrounds so the first program element involves a number of assessments to determine their current skill levels and leadership attributes. These assessments include writing and cognitive skill exercises, an in-basket exercise, and a 360-degree leadership and management assessment. Results from the various assessment tools are coupled with the participants' career goals and EBMUD's leadership success profile to create individual career development plans. Due to the number of vacancies at this level, the District is able to provide temporary promotional assignments for the majority of participants as part of the learning experience. Participants then work with a coach to complete their plan over a year-long period. The first Pathways Program was completed in December 2005.

These two workforce development efforts provide a strong foundation on which to build the new leadership team over the next several years. Ultimately, many of the participants in the LEAD Academy and the Pathways Program will likely move into management positions at EBMUD. This makes it critically important that both programs look as far into the future as possible, anticipating leadership challenges and building the skills to meet those challenges.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: https://doi.org/10.2175/193864706783789806

Publication date: 2006-01-01

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