How to Build a Resilient and Agile Workforce
The ability to forecast what lies ahead is invaluable in business. Examining trends and data to predict likely outcomes is a critical component in most business strategies. But what if the world is no longer predictable? Enter climate change, then layer on a global pandemic—and suddenly, all we can do is react.
This has become a reality for many utility organizations, left reeling from a one-two punch of epic proportions.
In a recent webinar, experts from Clevest and Elexicon Energy examine the importance of resiliency, preparing your workforce and your business to pivot quickly in the face of unprecedented change.
The New Not-So-Normal
Dealing with outages and rapid restoration amid a pandemic presents unique challenges. Faced with extreme fires, flooding, and other climate-related emergencies, utilities must now also monitor worker contacts and health.
With the emphasis on protecting the workforce and the community, these efforts become complicated by the pandemic’s mental and emotional toll. People—and not just customers—are stressed. Civil unrest is a common disrupter, along with spikes in depression, domestic abuse, and other lock-down issues that complicate how we interact with each other.
Workers will require a range of support measures to deal with this complex and unpredictable environment. In today’s not-so-normal, we must be prepared for anything.
Workforce Resilience Supported by Technology
Technology is foundational to workforce resiliency. Along with modernizing how we work, technology plays an integral role in our workers’ health and safety. Ironically, it is disruptions to our working model—similar to what we’re facing today—that stimulate innovation.
Take, for example, the stratospheric rise in work-from-home technologies. Zoom meetings have become the norm, and the Microsoft Teams collaboration platform has quadrupled users in less than a year, reaching 115 million daily active users as of October 2020.
Using technology to create resilience in your workforce doesn’t require a total overhaul of your infrastructure. Instead, consider how you can adapt existing tools. Critical event response solutions such as mobile workforce management technologies and advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) are easily adaptable to serve as essential components of your emergency response plan (ERP).
Colorado Spring Utilities (CSU) learned first-hand the impact of climate change back in 2012, when the Waldo Canyon fire forced the evacuation of 32,000 residents, with 346 homes destroyed. At the time, this was the most destructive fire in the state. Of course, as climate change continues to take its toll on our planet, the fire was quickly outpaced by larger, more devastating events.
The utility learned many lessons, most importantly, the criticality of supporting workers during such an event. CSU wanted to build resiliency within its workforce so it could respond quickly and safely to future disasters. This would require a support model to cover a range of employee needs, from technology and equipment when working in dangerous scenarios to every worker’s physical and mental well-being.
For CSU, this meant examining and consolidating various systems and processes across its electric, gas, and water divisions. The utility wanted to modernize its operations and provide employees with real-time data insights while in the field.
CSU implemented the Clevest Mobile Workforce Management system, allowing it to convert from paper- and phone-based operations to digital and mobile technologies. Today, workers can coordinate activities across all divisions, responding safely and efficiently in any situation.
The utility continues to evolve its Integrated Employee Assistance Program (EAP) to ensure workers receive the support they need. Today it covers a range of scenarios, including ergonomics and other physical considerations for a work-from-home model, its COVID response with clear communication and workflows, as well as a hybrid isolation quarantine protocol where groups of employees isolate following a shared seven-day shift.
Putting your people first
Elexicon Energy is a municipally-owned electricity distributor in Ontario, Canada. Elexicon considers workforce resiliency to be as critical as grid resiliency, prioritizing its employees as its most important asset.
Elexicon relies on its mobile workforce management platform from Clevest to support employees in the field. The technology provides crews with data and connectivity during regular operations. But most importantly, with a centralized, real-time data model—the platform allows employees to pivot quickly during an emergency, responding to any situation in the moment.
Since the pandemic, Elexicon’s resiliency strategy has become even more progressive. Using existing and new technologies, the utility has successfully adjusted to a remote working model. Paper-based processes have been adapted for remote work, field crews are implementing isolation protocols, control rooms are distributed, and various physical pandemic measures have been introduced, such as plexiglass separators and sanitization protocols.
Elexicon has implemented Clear360 from Darwin Labs, a digital technology that automates employees’ screening and testing for the virus. The utility also leverages GPS tracking capabilities within the Clevest Mobile Workforce Management platform for contact and cohort tracking.
Bridging the Divide
Based on its Customer Advisory Board’s input, Clevest has been able to adapt its mobile workforce management platform to help our customers accommodate the new not-so-normal. Some advancements include:
Declare an Event: This capability acts as an aggregator around an event, collecting work orders, people, landmarks, files, and any associated activities – generating a unified view of what’s happening, in the moment and historically.
Crew Callout for a Major Event: Generate callouts to workers via SMS or IVR with notifications to workers in affected areas. Granular controls allow you to set call order by seniority, overtime, last response, and other factors, and all acknowledgments, registrations, etc. are tracked.
Damage Assessments & Inspections: View assets on a map in any desired order. Segment orders for multi-assignment and mark tasks as completed, including pass / fail results. Workers can easily create follow-on orders and track progress.
The session covered a much broader range of recent innovations that were created based on feedback from Clevest customers. These new capabilities are designed to support workforce resiliency in the uncertain times we face. For deeper insights to the Elexicon and CSU strategies, as well as a comprehensive listing of resiliency-based capabilities, watch the on-demand session.