Working in human resources is not for the faint of heart. It can be challenging some days — performance issues, anyone? However, it can also be incredibly rewarding. As an HR practitioner, you have the opportunity to bring value to your utility by directly impacting the most important asset — people.
How do you know your HR practices are on the right track? APPA has created a "best practices" checklist to help you assess and prioritize. This checklist provides an overview of best practices in five key HR areas. The intent is not to overwhelm you with a longer to-do list but to provide a roadmap to guide your efforts.
- Policies. Policies are meant to create equity across the organization. They provide a roadmap of expectations for both the employer and the employee. If you don't have sound policies, you'll experience problems later on. Lawsuits take up considerable time and money; take time today to make sure your policies are up to par. Also, make sure you comply with federal, state, and local laws that apply to your utility.
- Recruitment and Retention. Your utility is likely confronted with a large retiring workforce in the coming years and not enough supply to meet the demand. Your efforts are probably focused on building your utility's recruiting pipeline. Consider going into local schools to talk about careers in public power, launching internship programs, and reaching out to nearby colleges to entice soon-to-be grads into careers in public power. Once these new hires come on board, you have to know what's going to keep them. Competitive pay is paramount, but what else can your utility offer? A great benefits program, flexible work hours, telecommuting? Find out what's important to your employees so you can build programs for retention.
- Succession Planning and Staff Development. You've done the hard work to recruit your employees, so be sure to provide the training and professional development they need to thrive in their roles. Training and development is a key part of retention. People want to grow. You'll want to show them a career path to ensure a long and fruitful career with your utility. Consider job-sharing and cross-training opportunities to build your bench of qualified employees who can fill vacancies as others retire.
- Workforce Diversity. Take a look at your programs. Are you pulling in candidates from all walks of life? Work with your local employment office to find out what programs you can take part in. Perhaps you can create a recruiting campaign for veterans. Are you reaching out to minority groups? You'll want to be sure to follow Equal Employment Opportunity requirements if your utility is required to comply. If not, work toward diversity anyway — it leads to fresh ideas and new perspectives.
- Data and Technology. HR professionals have many competing priorities. Find ways to leverage technology to make your life easier and streamline processes. This could include having a solid Human Resource Information System (HRIS) to capture employee data for reports and metrics or making use of systems to create efficiencies around onboarding, benefits enrollment, and performance management.
How do your utility's current HR practices compare when you use this checklist? Do you see any deficiencies or areas for improvement? That's okay — nobody is perfect.
The next step is to identify what you, the HR practitioner, can do to address those areas. Make your own quick list — is there any "low hanging fruit" you can tackle right away? What tasks need team collaboration and buy-in from management? Are there any long-range items that have a budgetary impact?
Remember, APPA is here for you as a resource. Join our HR listserv to exchange ideas and get tips and resources from you peers at other public power utilities. Sign up for our Business & Financial Conference, Sept. 18-21 in San Antonio with a track especially for HR professionals."