Case Study

Competency Frameworks

NiSource

In developing competency frameworks, the training organization is better able to align with our business partners and provide confidence in the development of our employees.

Mark Chepke, VP of Training

About NiSource

NiSource is one of the largest fully regulated utility companies in the United States. The company’s utility subsidiaries—Columbia Gas and NIPSCO—provide natural gas and electric service to approximately 4 million customers across seven states in the Midwest, the South and New England.

NiSource has undertaken numerous initiatives to modernize their operations through approximately $30 billion of natural gas and electric system investments over the next 20-plus years. This massive shift in focus from maintenance to construction, coupled with high rates of experienced workers retiring from the construction business, is transforming the type of work employees need to do. In response to these changes, NiSource has intensified its commitment to strengthen and spread a culture of learning that transforms and sustains industry-leading safety and operational performance through training and process improvement.

NiSource’s training strategy is centered around competency frameworks that support an integrated approach to learning. At NiSource, mastery of a role is more than passing tests to meet compliance obligations. Rather, it is true competence, which gives field employees something more—the skills, confidence, and ability to handle emergencies, to react to abnormal operating conditions, and to excel at their jobs in a rapidly changing environment.

NiSource’s competency frameworks include three key components:

1. A series of training interventions (formal courses, qualifications, structured OJT) spanning the development lifecycle of a specific role. Each intervention indicates a point at which the employee is evaluated before they can progress to the next phase.

2. Phases of development that specify what job codes can be assigned to an employee based on the training requirements they have completed. This creates efficiencies in work scheduling and ensures employees are skilled and qualified to perform the work they are scheduled to do.

3. Core competencies that integrate standard technical skills with soft skills (business acumen, technological aptitude, customer experience, behavior and attitude, and safety) in every course, during on-the-job training, and in evaluations.

The Outcome

A huge part of NiSource’s success in creating and sustaining a competency-based training program has been building the program to be valuable to the business. In addition to developing full competency and building efficiency in training, these frameworks provide the following benefits to the business:

  • They are developed in close partnership with operations leadership to build consensus on the training requirements needed to support clearly defined operational goals.
  • They create a powerful communication tool that socializes early on the training that needs to be completed for field employees to proficiently contribute to the operations goals of the company.
  • They demonstrate the value of training to operations up front by aligning training requirements to job codes and work scheduling.
  • They create sign offs at different points of development, which creates a partnership between training and operations and ownership of employee development across the organization.
  • They provide consistency in role and training expectations across state lines while ensuring that individual state requirements and needs are met.
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