How to Get, Grow, Keep, and Replace the Best Staff Possible

How to Get, Grow, Keep, and Replace the Best Staff Possible

Jim Courchain – Vice President and National Director of Business Practices

The Makeup of the Water and Wastewater Utility Workforce

In an ever-changing workforce, getting, keeping, and replacing staff is a key component to managing system assets for the indefinite sustainability of the utility. We are now in an era where the water industry is filled with three major groups of working professionals: Baby Boomers, Generation Xers, Generation Yers (also known as Millennials), and Generation Zers (also known as Plurals.)

Baby Boomers

The Baby Boomers were born between 1946 and 1964 and are often time the more senior leaders or employees within the company. Overall, this group of workers have a strong work ethic. They’re not adverse to the risk of trying something new and generally see themselves as able to do anything.

This group is also in or approaching retirement age. They hold vast amounts of system and industry knowledge, yet, as an industry, we do not do a good enough job working to secure this long-term employee knowledge.

Generation X

The Generation Xers we born between 1965 to 1976. Growing up in the decade following the Cold War, they saw the inception of the home computer, video games and the internet as a tool for commercial and social purposes. They’re typically independent, resourceful, and self-sufficient. They value freedom and responsibility in the workplace and are known to display a casual disdain for authority and structured work hours.

Generation Y

Workers in Generation Y, also known as millennials, were born between 1977 and 1996. This group is more likely to question authority and demand answers. Workers in this group as known to be creative thinkers, social beings, collaborative, and open-minded. They are known as masters of instant communications and typically want to be involved in the decision-making process.

Generation Z

The newest generation of professionals in the workforce are the ones born between 1997 and now. They are known as the Plurals and are the most ethnically diverse population to date. They are least likely to believe in the ‘American Dream’ and are very entrepreneurial and resourceful. This group grew up with technology at their fingertips, and mobile phones as their primary source of information and communication.

Coming into Leadership

For the most part, Baby Boomers are/have been in leadership roles within the water industry for the last few decades. In fact, most people in the current day workforce likely can’t recall a workforce without this generation. According to the American Water Works Association’s 2019 State of the Water Industry report, 45% of respondents have spent 20 or more years in the industry. As leaders, Baby Boomers hold vast amounts of knowledge that is going to be difficult to replace by the up-and-coming generations.

As they near the age of retirement, the Gen X, Gen Y and Gen Z professionals are now in a position to step up into vacant roles. But are they ready? Do they have the knowledge? And more importantly, do they have what it takes to be a good leader?

Qualities of a Leader

  • Inspire others
  • Effective communicators
  • Delegate based on identifying different strengths
  • Have a solid vision of where they want to take you and why
  • Have been a ‘follower’
  • Listens well
  • Empowers those around them

Responsibilities of a Leader

  • Making tough decisions
  • Making unpopular decisions
  • Making decisions on the basis of facts
  • Being fair in all dealings
  • Ability to be stern as well as compassionate

A Good Leader Does Not

  • Worry about giving back more than they are given
  • Strive to be or appear to be more than they really are
  • Make decisions based on the fear of other people’s reactions
  • Turn away from change when change is necessary

Identifying Future Leaders and Managers

As current leaders move toward retirement (at a rate of 10,000 per day,) it’s critical to have a plan in place for obtaining the next group of leaders and managers.  The succession planning process requires identification of organizational needs based on upcoming retirements and who will fill that role from within the organization or if an outside search is required.  Once the person is identified, co-creation of an individualized development plan is essential to provide the next generation with the tools to succeed in the position.  Equally as important is follow through on the development plans.

Managing People

As new managers emerge into the space, they will have a lot of ground to cover. The most important, of course, is getting to know other staff members, and allowing staff the same thing in return.

Creating a culture of accountability is key. A good manager or leader must lead by example. This includes doing what they say they will do. In addition, setting and communicating clear expectations is crucial as well as providing an opportunity for feedback.

Stepping into a leadership role also includes looking at the business from a new perspective. What areas should be looked at with a new set of eyes?

  • Job descriptions – make sure they are all up to date.
  • Effective Practice Guidelines (EPGs) – formerly SOPs.
  • Performance measures – make sure they are realistic.
  • Training – be sure that new and seasoned staff alike are properly and fully trained on all procedures and protocols.
  • Technology – what new advancements can aid in your utility’s success?

Always Ask Questions

As a leader or manager, there are always questions you should be asking yourself. Some of these include:

  • Am I identifying opportunities for improvement?
  • Do I have a structured, programmatic approach to managing, operating and maintaining my utility?
  • Do I have a plan that describes what I do, when I do it, and most importantly, WHY I do it?
  • Am I communicating clearly?
  • What works well, what does not work well, and why?
  • How is morale among staff?

Tips for Future Leaders

  • Leading people doesn’t necessarily come naturally. Your success will be based on the effort you put in.
  • You must want to be in this position. It is very demanding, and you must be responsible and accountable.
  • Provide the framework for a structured and programmatic approach to managing, operating, and maintaining your utility in a more business-like manner.

Final Notes on Getting, Growing, Keeping, and Replacing the Best Staff

  • Listen to understand, not just to respond
  • Communicate effectively
  • Help staff be accountable
  • Be sincere, genuine, and show you truly care

“If you want to move people, it has to be toward a vision that’s positive for them, that taps important values, that gets them something they desire and it has to be presented in a compelling way so that they feel inspired to follow.” – Martin Luther King, Jr”

Asset Management Grant Program Available in MA

Calling All Water Utilities!

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) and the Massachusetts Clean Water Trust (the Trust) are currently promoting Asset Management Programs (AMPs) by offering subsidized State Revolving Fund (SRF) financing for communities looking to improve one or more of their water-related utilities.

With the help of Asset Management Programs, water, wastewater, and stormwater utilities are poised to make beneficial financial decisions for the future. The goal of AMPs is to achieve long-term sustainability and deliver the required level of service in a cost-efficient manner. Financial decisions surrounding asset repairs, replacements, or rehabilitations, as well as the development and implementation of a long-term funding strategy can only help a utility.

Through the Asset Management Grant Program, MassDEP and the Trust are encouraging water utilities to focus on AMP development, maintenance, or improvements. This program is also aimed at helping communities and their utilities meet the Engineering Plan and Financial Sustainability Plan requirements for SRF construction loans. With that, the program will award grants with a maximum award of $150,000 or 60% of the total eligible project cost (whatever is less).

If awarded a grant, the recipient will be required to supply documentation of a full appropriation of funding mechanisms for the entire cost of the project to qualify. There are no requirements on the size or scope of the project. MassDEP will favor proposals that include a clear description of the applicant’s current asset management status and goals, and those that demonstrate a strong commitment to participate in their AMP.

Apply Today!

Tata & Howard encourages all MA utilities to apply for this special grant funding. Proposals and Project Evaluation Forms are due on August 23, 2019 by 12 pm.

For more detailed information concerning requirements and deadlines, please view the Guidelines for Proposal Submittal and Project Selection provided by MassDEP.

Asset Management

As one of MassDEP’s pre-qualified consulting engineering firms, Tata & Howard provides industry expertise in both Asset Management and funding assistance. For more information on Asset Management or how Tata & Howard can assist with your grant application, visit our website or contact us directly. We are happy to assist.

Water and Wastewater Utilities: Be Hurricane Ready

Water and Wastewater Utilities: Be Hurricane Ready

As of June 1, hurricane season is in full effect through November 30. Areas along the Atlantic Coast, Gulf of Mexico, and the Hawaiian Islands are most vulnerable to hurricanes. As inhabitants within each of these areas take caution each year, it is equally important that water utilities do the same and become hurricane ready.

Due to heavy rainfall, inland flooding, and high winds of 74 mph or greater, hurricanes have the potential to cause serious damage to water and wastewater utilities. Some examples of the detrimental nature of hurricanes on water utilities include:

  • Pipe breaks that could lead to sewage spills or low water pressure throughout service areas
  • Loss of power and communication infrastructure
  • Combined sewer overflows (CSO)
  • Restricted access to facilities and collection/distribution system assets
  • Loss of water quality testing capability

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has developed tools to help water utilities prepare for, respond to, and recover from hurricane related impacts.

satellite view of hurricane heading toward the east coast of USA

Preparing for Hurricane Season

Planning

  • Be sure your utility’s Emergency Response Plan (ERP) is up-to-date, and ensure all emergency contacts are current
  • Be sure utility staff is aware of all preparedness procedures by conducting trainings and exercises
  • Identify high-priority customers (such as hospitals), map their locations, and obtain contact information in the event of an emergency
  • Develop an emergency drinking water supply plan that may include bulk water hauling, mobile treatment units or temporary supply lines
  • Review historical records to understand the frequency and intensity of past hurricanes and how the utility may have been affected
  • In the event that you need to apply for federal disaster funding, complete pre-disaster activities. For example, taking photos of the facility to compare with post-damage photos

Coordination

  • Join your state’s Water/Wastewater Agency Response Network (WARN)
  • Get in touch with WARN members and other utilities to discuss ways in which help can be provided if needed. This includes outlining response activities and responsibilities; conducting full-scale exercises; obtaining resources and assistance; establishing interconnections between systems; establishing communication protocols to reduce misunderstandings
  • Coordinate with other key response partners, including your local EMA, to discuss potential points of distribution for the delivery of emergency water supply
  • Understand what your utility may be called on to do, as well as how local emergency responders and the local emergency operations center (EOC) can support your utility

Communication with Customers

  • Provide customers with materials that contain information on what they will need during a hurricane (i.e. information on water advisories and instructions for private well and septic system maintenance)
  • Distribute public information protocols with customers prior to a known storm (i.e. warnings that service disruptions are likely)
megaphone communicating news
Megaphone.

Facility and Service Area

  • Be sure to order and inventory existing equipment and supplies including:
    • Motors
    • Fuses
    • A two-week supply of chemicals
    • Cell phones and other wireless communication devices
    • Tarps/tapes/rope
    • Cots/blankets
    • First-aid kits
    • Foul weather gear
    • Flashlights/flares
    • Plywood
    • Sandbags
    • Bottled water
    • Batteries
    • Non-perishable food
  • Ensure that radios and satellite phones are working and fully charged
  • Develop a GIS map of all system components
  • Document pumping requirements, storage capabilities, and critical treatment components and parameters

Power, Energy and Fuel

  • Work with local power utilities to assure tree branches near power lines are trimmed
  • Inspect conditions, connections and switches of electrical panels
  • Document power requirements of the facility
  • Test generators regularly
  • Inform fuel vendors of estimated fuel volumes needed if utility is impacted
  • Reach out to local power providers to assure that your water utility is on the critical facilities list for priority electrical power restoration

Responding to a Hurricane – Pre-landfall Activities

Planning

  • Actively monitor hurricane activity

Facility and Service Area

  • Move equipment to water-tight facilities or out of flood-prone areas
  • Clear storm drains and set up sandbags to protect facilities
  • Be sure that back-up equipment and facility systems including controls and pumps are in worker order
  • Protect exposed lines or pipes that may be vulnerable during a storm
  • Fill storage tanks to full capacity and fill empty chemical storage tanks with water
  • Wastewater utilities should empty holding tanks, ponds and/or lagoons to prepare for an increase in flow

Personnel

  • Identify essential personnel and ensure they are trained to perform critical duties in an emergency
  • Establish communication procedures with both essential and non-essential personnel
  • Identify emergency operations and clean-up crews
  • Establish alternative transportation strategies if roads become impassable
  • Understand how limited staffing will impact response procedures if there are transportation issues or evacuations

Power, Energy and Fuel

  • Make sure vehicles and fuel tanks are filled to full capacity and ensure you can manually pump gas in the event of a power outage

Responding to a Hurricane – Post-landfall Activities

Coordination

  • Notify your local EMA and state regulatory agency of system status
  • Request or offer assistance through mutual aid networks, such as WARN, if needed
  • Assign a representative of the utility to the incident command post

Communication with Customers

  • Notify customers of any water advisories and coordinate with local media to distribute the message

Facility and Service Area

Overall

  • Assess the damage of the utility to prioritize repairs
  • Assure that back-up equipment and facility systems, such as controls and pumps, are in working order, and ensure that chemical containers and feeders are intact

Drinking Water Utilities

  • Inspect the utility and service area for damage
  • Ensure pressure is maintained throughout the system and isolate the sections where it is not
  • Control and isolate leaks in water transmission and distribution piping
  • Shut off water meters at destroyed properties
  • Monitor water quality
  • Notify regulatory agency if operations and/or water quality or quantity are affected
  • Utilize the pre-established emergency connections or create temporary connections to nearby communities as needed
  • If needed, implement plans to draw emergency water from pre-determined tanks or hydrants

Wastewater Utilities

  • Inspect the utility and service area for damage
  • Inspect the manholes and pipelines in flood-prone areas for inflow and infiltration after water recedes
  • Suspend solid waste processing during periods of high flow to conserve bacteria and prevent it from washing out of the plant
  • Notify regulatory agency of any changes to the operations or required testing parameters
waste water treatment plant

Documentation and Reporting

  • Document damage assessments, mutual aid requests, emergency repair work, equipment used, purchases made, staff hours worked, and contractors used to have open hand when applying for federal disaster funds
  • Work with local EMA on the required paperwork for public assistance requests

Personnel

  • Account for all personnel and provide emergency care, if needed
  • Deploy emergency operations and clean-up crews

Power, Energy and Fuel

  • Use back-up generators as needed
  • Plan for additional fuel needs in advance and coordinate fuel deliveries to generators
  • Stay in close contact with electric provider for power outage duration estimates

Recovering from a Hurricane

Coordination

  • Work with response partners to obtain equipment, funding, etc.

Communication with Customers

  • Be sure a utility representative is communicating with customers in reference to a timeline for recovery

Facility and Service Area

  • Complete damage assessments
  • Complete repairs, replace depleted supplies and return to normal service

Documenting and Reporting

  • Compile damage assessment forms and cost documentation into a single report to share, in addition to, state and federal funding applications
  • Create a ‘lessons learned’ document and/or after action report (AAR) to keep record of response activities
  • Revise budget and asset management plans

Mitigation

  • Identify mitigation and long-term adaptation measures that can prevent damage and increase utility resistance. Examples of successful mitigation projects by water and wastewater utilities include:
    • Providing protection to electrical substation and transformers that would be in danger of failing during floods, high winds and storm surges
    • Retrofitting sanitary sewer lift stations with electrical connections for portable generators
    • Elevating generators, fuel tanks and critical controls to protect from coastal storm surges
    • Replacing existing entry doors with heavy-duty impact-resistant doors

For more information on how to prepare for and respond to hurricane impacts and for a printable checklist to utilize within your water or wastewater utility, please visit the EPA’s site here.

6 Facts About Lead In Drinking Water

6 Facts About Lead In Drinking Water

Drinking Water contaminated with lead can be a health hazard.

Whether water comes from a Public Water System or a private well, water contaminated with lead is most likely the result from corrosion of the plumbing materials, lead pipes, or the service lines from the water main in the street to the building.

Here are some facts about lead contamination and tips to avoid lead in drinking water.

6-Facts-About-Lead-in-Drinking-Water

Please feel free to print and share our 6 Lead Facts Infographic with attribution to Tata & Howard, Inc.

National Public Works Week, May 18-24, 2014

1546821_2fdade69National Public Works Week 2014, May 18-24, celebrates the tens of thousands of men and women in the United States who provide public works services. According to the American Public Works Association (APWA), whose New England chapter celebrates its 60th anniversary this year, public works is defined as the combination of physical assets, management practices, policies, and personnel necessary for government to provide and sustain structures and services essential to the welfare and acceptable quality of life for its citizens. Public works includes the oversight and maintenance of water and sewer, roadways, public buildings, waste collection, and any other publicly maintained service or structure. Without public works employees and their tireless efforts, our communities would suffer and eventually fail. Consider losing water and sewer for a day, or a week, or a month. It’s unthinkable. Just these two basic services provide the backbone for civilized society and our way of life. Now consider plowing, trash collection, roadway and building maintenance, and other public works services, and it seems that we owe our nation’s public works employees a huge thank you.

5105808152_343bfc14f2_zHere at Tata & Howard, we wish to extend our deepest gratitude and appreciation to all of the dedicated public works employees who help keep our nation running smoothly and safely. It is our greatest pleasure to work side by side with you and to see the incredible effort that you bring to the workplace on a daily basis. This week we celebrate YOU!

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