Workforce Development and Learning

Photo: Linda Cicero
We recognize that driving high performance requires a skilled and qualified workforce that is fully engaged and dedicated to serving PG&E’s customers. Our goal is to have the right people with the right skills in the right places at the right time, supported by operational processes, human resources practices and a set of values that, together, enable employees to do their jobs effectively.

Rising to the Challenge

Across the industry, many of the nation’s utility workers are nearing the end of their careers. In fact, over the next five years, approximately 45 percent of PG&E’s workforce will become eligible for retirement. These expected retirements include the ranks of workers needed to build, operate and maintain our vital infrastructure, creating new opportunities for those interested in utility and energy sector careers.

There is no single solution to building and sustaining the skilled and qualified workforce PG&E needs to thrive in the long-term. Meeting this challenge requires taking a holistic, integrated approach.

One important area of focus is recruiting new, talented employees to join our workforce, and we are taking a multi-faceted approach to doing so—conducting targeted outreach, building partnerships with diverse organizations and creating a “pipeline” of prospective employees through strong partnerships with a growing number of universities and community colleges.

As a core component of our strategy, PG&E’s PowerPathway™ program continues to help California produce the skilled workers needed by the utility and energy industry. The PowerPathway™ program uncovers industry-driven needs, pursues a systems approach for establishing career pathways, engages in public-private partnerships with community entities and emphasizes reaching out to underserved communities.

We also continue to develop leaders from within our company, at all levels and in all roles. Through new strategies and training programs, we are working to create a culture where the next generation of leaders is always emerging behind the current one. For example, PG&E’s MBA Leadership Program is a two-year program that enables graduates from the nation’s top business schools to work on some of our toughest business challenges.

And we have a program to capture the business knowledge of key employees before they retire, starting with employees with expertise that is critical to our business.

Recruiting Top Talent

As a company working in one of today’s most dynamic sectors, our hiring needs span the full spectrum of our business. They also continue to evolve. As we work to fill these positions, we do so with a clear focus on finding people who share our strong commitment to serving the customer, as well as other key priorities such as working safely, valuing teamwork and promoting diversity and inclusion.

Our multi-faceted recruiting strategy involves extensive community outreach and collaboration with organizations around the country. In 2010 alone, our recruiting staff attended more than 100 events, giving potential candidates the opportunity to meet PG&E employees and learn first-hand about our company.

We also offer summer internships and entry-level engineer and other rotational programs for new college graduates to introduce young professionals to new work experiences and career development opportunities.

Engaging Our Employees

PG&E’s success hinges on engaged employees who embrace and use our company’s values to drive better business outcomes, deliver operational excellence and provide superior customer service.

Engaged employees understand PG&E’s vision, feel a sense of ownership for the company’s success and actively contribute to improve business performance. Creating a work environment high in engagement requires the participation of all employees—sharing ideas and solutions, supporting one another and maintaining an active dialogue to ensure we make and implement the best decisions for the company.

In 2010, we redoubled our employee engagement efforts with the launch of a five-year program to improve engagement within PG&E—setting a target to be in the top quartile among "most admired companies" by the end of 2014.

One of the indicators of engaged employees comes from the results of our annual employee survey. In 2010, PG&E achieved its highest employee score to date, with results showing a favorable response from 68 percent of survey respondents, indicating engagement. The survey results highlighted a number of key strengths as well as opportunities for improving employee engagement.

Learning and Development Opportunities

At PG&E, we understand that we must continually invest in our employees to ensure they have the necessary skills, knowledge and qualifications to complete their work efficiently and safely. As part of this commitment, we offer a variety of high-quality learning experiences to equip our employees for success.

Our Livermore Learning and Qualification Center

PG&E’s Livermore Learning and Qualification Center is a 44-acre, state-of-the-art training complex designed to provide hands-on, interactive learning experiences for transmission and distribution employees. To support electric transmission training, the site includes three 100-foot towers and a heliport. It also includes simulated gas infrastructure to support training for detecting, marking and locating gas leaks.

Last year, we offered more than 5,300 student days of training at the site and another 5,000 at our San Ramon Valley Conference Center, covering topics such as electric construction, power system operations and vehicles and equipment. We also regularly send our instructors to field locations to offer on-site training, adding another 22,000 student days to training delivered in 2010.

For example, we offered a training program last year on safe switching and grounding methods and procedures for our electric crews. We delivered the training to about 3,300 different people, totaling roughly 8,000 student days—and have seen a 28 percent reduction in work procedure errors related to the tasks taught in the course. To support the course, we built a new transmission and distribution switching line, allowing for hands-on training. Moving forward, we plan to add a transformer lab with pole-mounted transformers for PG&E’s new pre-apprentice lineman training program.

We also recognize that offering rewarding training opportunities helps address our employees’ desire to learn, to be challenged on the job and to pursue growth opportunities.

Our training programs are led by PG&E Academy, a centralized learning organization committed to enhancing workforce skills, qualifications and career development. There were several key focus areas for the Academy in 2010:

  1. Technical Training: We continued to provide our employees with a dynamic set of technical courses. Last year, this included introducing updated training programs for employees performing work on our electric transmission and distribution lines. Employees responsible for maintenance and construction, power restoration and substation maintenance received hands-on training to reinforce proper techniques and allow them to hone their craft. In 2011 and beyond, the training will broaden to updating classes for employees who work on our gas transmission and distribution system, enhancing existing training on required methods and procedures.
  2. Career Development: We renewed our commitment to professional development, expanding the number of classes we offer in this area to 25. We also laid the groundwork for a leadership program for front-line supervisors that was launched in 2011. Comprising four main areas—supervisor fundamentals, business fundamentals, performance management and safety—the program covers topics such as communication skills, working with diverse styles, leadership and how to create an environment conducive to PG&E’s values. The program will train approximately 20 percent of our supervisors in 2011 and the majority of remaining supervisors by 2014.
  3. eLearning: We enhanced our online learning options so that employees can take courses more conveniently and build their skills and knowledge. A key objective was giving employees easy access to required qualifications for their work. We also continued to better align our eLearning offerings to support the core and leadership competencies we have identified for employees. This included conducting targeted outreach to employees about eLearning programs where employees can access more than 2,900 online courses and simulations. Employees can develop personalized training plans, read online books and access an online reference library to find more information on a variety of topics, including collaborating with others for success and effective communication skills.
  4. Enabling Technologies. As we deploy new tools and technologies for our workforce, we are dedicated to ensuring a smooth transition for our employees. From mobile laptops for field employees to new systems for fleet repair staff, we are working to support the adoption of these new technologies. To properly prepare the organization for these changes, we are developing effective change management, training and communications programs targeted at impacted employees.

To gauge the success of our training program, we electronically survey participating employees to measure the overall quality of the training, as well as their increased knowledge level. For example, last year we asked questions to measure employee satisfaction with the training, what employees learned and how it would affect their performance. We are using these survey results to improve our training now, while also taking steps toward measuring actual employee performance back on the job.

Complementing these efforts, we continued to expand our mentoring program as a tool to help employees build leadership skills and grow professionally. We also continued to strengthen our Employee Resource Groups, which contribute to the personal and professional development of thousands of employees and provide vital opportunities to engage employees in service to the communities we serve.

Capturing the Knowledge of Our Workforce

As a portion of our workforce approaches retirement, we are working to capture the knowledge of key personnel before they leave the company. Our program, which has been in place since 2009, works to identify the most critical positions within PG&E with tacit knowledge and follows through to retain that information and reinfuse it back into work practices, training or other personnel.

We start with positions where employee knowledge is essential to safe electric and gas operations. We then use a variety of products, services and tools to identify, capture and prioritize the specific knowledge and skills required and develop concrete, actionable responses to facilitate the smooth transfer of knowledge.


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