2017 Energy & Utility Training Benchmark: Executive Summary

The energy and utility industry is facing an unprecedented level of change, requiring a shift in the way organizations approach training. Developing a competent, skilled and high-performing workforce is essential to maintain and improve workplace safety, optimize business performance, ensure compliance and maximize stakeholder value. Investing in people—an organization’s most important asset—is critical to maximizing workforce potential and driving business results.

This executive summary provides a high-level overview of key findings and best practices from 36 energy and utility and companies, as well as Mosaic’s insights and recommendations based on two decades of experience supporting this industry. Benchmark participants included combined utilities (22), electric utilities (4), gas utilities (4), midstream pipeline operating companies (5) and a contract services company (1) operating throughout the United States and Canada.

All benchmark participants indicated that the importance of building a competent workforce is becoming increasingly critical, as is the importance of effective operations training. However, only 16% of participating training leaders reported being able to perform at a level that matches this criticality.

Map of ParticipantsAll benchmark participants also reported that the importance of operations training is increasing, and several reported that their companies are increasing the level of investment due to the necessity of closing the gap between the criticality of operations training and its current ability to deliver value to the business. The fact that many companies recognize the significance of a competent workforce, while failing to adequately invest in the training required to achieve that goal, is a serious gap in the industry.

Key Findings

Benchmark participants reported the following key findings related to operations training:

  • All benchmark participants reported increased pressure on operations training to produce measurable business enhancements in the areas of improved operational efficiencies, increased safety and regulatory compliance. However, very few training organizations reported having the structure and rigor in place to deliver these performance measurements. Those that are producing and communicating measurable business improvements reported increased support for training from senior leadership and the internal business organizations they support.
  • Effectively aligning training efforts to business priorities, and measuring the impact of that alignment, is becoming increasingly critical to justify a significant investment in training. Participants that are effectively achieving this alignment and positively impacting business goals reported consistent and increased investment in their companies’ operations training efforts.
  • There is a significantly increased focus on developing and delivering competency-based training within the industry. Companies that have moved from compliance to competency-based training reported marked improvements in safety, increased operational efficiencies, faster time to proficiency and qualification, and an elevated ability to contribute toward meeting business goals and improving value.
  • The use of technology in training is rapidly gaining momentum. Participants reported that introducing technology-based training solutions is decreasing the cost of training and increasing the speed to competence. Additionally, the use of technology to develop on-the-job support is proving to be an effective training tool and a valuable asset in gaining line-of-business support and investment.
  • Far and away, the most effective training organizations balance the investment in training across dedicated training facilities, effective instructor facilitation and competency-based training curriculum. Companies that neglect one or more of these three areas consistently under-perform compared to their peers, and are in danger of being left behind as the industry and operations training continue to evolve.

Best Practices

The following 10 best practices have been identified as consistently increasing the effectiveness and value of operations training in achieving improved safety, compliance, workforce performance and business success:

1. Strong and consistent executive sponsorship.
High-performing training organizations are consistently aligned with the needs of the business due to strong sponsorship at the executive level. This sponsorship can be gained through structured governance or informal relationships, but is hallmarked by consistent communication of training’s value to the business.

2. Training effectiveness measured in terms of business value.
Measuring training effectiveness through business outcomes helps shift organizations from looking at training as an expense towards valuing it as a strategic investment that enables field workers to become safer and more productive in a shorter amount of time, and throughout their careers.

3. Centralized training organizations.
Centralized training organizations that report directly to operations or to a shared services group are more cost-effective, have demonstrably increased efficiencies, and experience better alignment with business priorities and goals.

4. Competency-based training programs.
Competency-based training programs speed the time to full employee competence, result in a more skilled and effective workforce, and increase the organization’s confidence that employees are trained and qualified to do their work.

5. Training experts responsible for design and development.
Companies that use dedicated instructional design resources are more effectively addressing the increasing demand for training, and have stronger training programs that provide more business value when compared to companies that use instructors and other subject-matter experts to develop training.

6. Training materials aligned to work procedures.
The most effective training organizations have a process for clearly mapping training to their company’s specific business processes and work procedures, and maintaining alignment as regulations, tasks, equipment and technologies change.

7. Instructor development programs.
The highest performing training organizations have created instructor development programs to recruit and train the most capable candidates. Development programs are structured to enhance an instructor’s technical knowledge, facilitation skills, and familiarity with adult learning strategies to address both the efficiency and effectiveness of learning.

8. Structured on-the-job training (OJT) programs.
Creating structure and rigor around OJT increases the speed and success of transferring the knowledge and skills gained in formal training to actual work performed on the job. OJT is also a very effective way to pass on tacit knowledge from more experienced employees, and reinforce field buy-in and support of new employees.

9. Simple technology solutions for training delivery and on-the-job support.
Many easy-to-use and low-cost technology solutions are proving to be an effective way to provide impactful business value and to gain momentum for further investments in technology. As an example, technology-enabled performance support tools provide easy access to valuable information and guidance to assist employees where they need it most—on the job.

10. Dedicated training facilities that mirror real-world work.
Facilities that mirror actual work settings improve the quality and consistency of training delivery, create efficiencies in scheduling and logistics, and reduce variation in how tasks and procedures are learned—and thus performed—in the field.

For more information about this benchmark study, please contact Rachel Collier at rcollier@themosaiccompany.com.