LDCs Develop Online Utility Leadership Academy

Program Is Intended To Deal With Boomer Retirements And Travel And Seminar Budget Cuts
By Richard Hinkie, Consultant | April 2010 Vol. 237 No. 4

The bubble of Baby Boomer retirements is here and, thankfully, LDCs have some new tools to prepare both new field employees and management replacements faster and less expensively - a big advantage with today’s LDC budget challenges.

The Utility Leadership Academy is the latest example of LDCs and contractors working together to speed training and development and cut costs. Consumers Energy, Integrys, Kansas City Power & Light, Madison Gas & Electric, Henkels & McCoy, Inc., NiSource, We Energies and other leading companies have pooled their strategic thinking and dollars for everyone’s benefit.

Remember the days when it might take a new field employee 20-plus years to become a first-line supervisor? Not anymore. Just as between 30-40% of field personnel can retire in the next five years, their bosses can retire as well. And just as it takes training and experience to become a safe and productive field employee, it also requires training and on-the-job support to be a safe and productive crew leader, manager, and director.

“We have less time to develop new management personnel. Our landscape has changed due to an increase in retirements. Our line managers tell us that their people can’t wait for formal management classes; they need learning tools that can be used right now. In some cases, we are hiring supervisors into the company who have no utility experience. They need both management development and industry knowledge,” said Kris Emaus, manager of training for NiSource.

Emaus continued, “The Utility Leadership Academy (ULA) courses provide immediate access to learning. We also like the Harvard ManageMentor Plus program because it provides on-the-job performance support. It’s all online. This kind of learning technology can be expensive to buy on our own. Through the Utility Leadership Academy we get great content for less than half the regular cost.”

The cost savings with the ULA option is a major factor for LDCs and contractors. Utility and contractor incomes are down due to less economic activity. That puts even more pressure on to reduce expenses. Travel and seminar expenses are often the first budget cuts. With the ULA, no travel is needed, no outside trainers need to be hired, and the cost for an entire year’s worth of learning is relatively low per person. The Utility Leadership Academy features two main programs for management development:

  • Emerging Leader Curricula - for new supervisors/crew leaders,
  • Experienced Leader Curricula - for veteran supervisors and managers,
  • Plus Harvard Performance Support Tools - additional learning tools for all leadership levels.

Each library includes independent online study, two challenging practice simulations, and classroom materials for an optional local office session. The ULA system features two of the most recognized national learning suppliers: Harvard ManageMentor® Plus and SkillSoft (ahead of the learning curve).