The ongoing transformational challenges in the utilities industry reflect our modern reality of innovation and change perhaps more comprehensively than any other. The collision of digitalisation, environmental imperatives and political/social agendas is behind a recent report by “Utility Week Live 2018” which identified the 10 top ten disruptive technologies in the industry today:
his is all very well, and there are even some items in that list that the “layperson” would be able to explain accurately, but throughout this endless talk of disruption, change and innovation, can we latch on to a crumb of continuity?
All these things, even machine learning, is dependent on real human beings organising themselves effectively to plan, create and manage the innovation. And that is where the utilities sector faces its biggest challenge of them all.
A landmark study of 11,000 stakeholders in the utilities/energy sector by the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) found the top priority amongst respondents was the ability to lead employees. However, when asked to assess the good things in the sector, the ability to lead employees was ranked a lowly 14th out of 16 options. Most obvious issues were identified as:
- “Building a team”
- “Career management”
- “Confronting problem employees”
Why is this the case?
1. In industries dominated by technical roles, there is often a scarcity of people management skills
2. One of the effects of the recent transformations in the sector, and the rise of new players (e.g. Bulb, who have acquired 750,000 customers in the last 18 months), has been to transfer more power to the consumer. Virtually all recent studies find the customer experience correlates with the employee experience, which itself is driven by the leadership experience;
3. In order to effect the internal cultural changes that are required to drive quick operational changes – especially in the larger, less agile market players, the buck starts and stops with the leadership.
The strive to find a repeatable, successful model of leadership is still unresolved. For academics and CEOs, the age old problem is how to optimize the effectiveness of human capital – what might be called the humanics. In the last 60 years and the rise of management, businesses have made huge strides in the mechanics of business, but the end of term report for humanics might read “could do better”.
Studies continually show stagnating or declining productivity. We continually hear claims that only 30% of people are working to their full potential. An extensive study by Gallup in 2018 found that only 15% of employees worldwide feel engaged in their work.
Mechanics – a success story
Since the Industrial Revolution there have been enormous strides made in driving operational efficiency in businesses. The “Top 10” list above proves this point. Progress is managed and optimized through measurement. It is simple to measure energy usage, price fluctuations, system utilisation rates and so on.
But in an industry obsessed with measurement, how do you measure the most important driver of change: leadership?
If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it
Measures around employee engagement or customer experience do exist and we have things like the net promotor score and Best Places To Work rankings, but none engender a belief that would drive for example, an investment decision. I have witnessed literally hundreds of companies’ employee engagement scores climb to heady heights of close to 100 percent and still witnessed productivity fall and staff turnover increase.
So how can we believe them?
Fundamentally, most of these metrics are looking at what stakeholders think, and result from inconsistent and often totally biased data gathering methodologies.
With now over 1.25 million contributors and usage in 55 countries, RiddleBox’s RBX Index is gathering more and more momentum and evidence that correlates its results with other performance metrics like staff turnover and financial performance. It is a measure of leadership that that leaders and employees alike can believe in.
Because it is based on how we feel, derived from the building blocks of language, how we communicate our emotions and, quite literally, how this all nests on the values at our very core. A window not only into our conscious but also our subconscious.
70% of change programs fail, because the change wasn’t embedded into people’s subconscious.
A number you can believe in
Contrary to some of the findings of the CCL survey, leadership in utilities currently ranks well in terms of RBX Index averages compared with some of the sectors RiddleBox has worked most closely with to date. How this develops in the next 12 months will be instructive as to the long-term prosperity of the industry.
For the utilities sector, the RBX Index presents a clear yet powerful solution to the obvious leadership challenges of creating an organisational environment where cultural change, and then operational change, can be effected quickly. It all starts and ends with the leadership, so amid all the waffle of management courses, change consultants and transformational programs, let’s give them a simple resource that really works to drive optimal, measurable performance for today and tomorrow.