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Question

Best practices for hiring electric distribution system operators?

I have recently had some conversations with Electric Distribution Operations Leaders and the conversation continues to turn towards hiring practices for Electric Distribution Operations. What are some of the aptitude testing, pre-screening techniques, and non-traditional approaches to finding good candidates for Distribution Operators, Controllers and Dispatchers?

Answers

Hello Rich,

When I worked at a large utility here in New England, we staffed the Distribution System Operator positions with more experienced lineworkers and electricians.  Although their total pay was lower with essentially no overtime, they were usually at a point in their lives where: 

  1. climbing a pole was a real challenge (we required a proficiency test every year);
  2. they had enough money with kids grown and "off the payroll"; and
  3. they were ready to move to an indoor job.

The initial qualification training for these positions included work on a simulator to learn to use our Distribution SCADA systems. Once in a while, a former lineworker would take the training and then conclude this job wasn't suitable and "go back to the tools".  

Best,

Mike

RIchard Cummings's picture
RIchard Cummings on Jan 31, 2020 6:24 pm GMT

Thanks Mike, it happens  Similar for this new generation in the workforce, wanting to change jobs more frequently.

 

Appreciate your comments 

Rich

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Approaches to finding candidates and hiring Electric Distribution Operators, Controllers, and Dispatchers vary widely across organizations. We see two common themes:

  1. Quality and comprehensiveness of the training program – In a comprehensive training program that starts with basic math and basic electricity, and progresses through go/no-go gates, there is less concern about selecting and screening for the job attributes related to aptitude. Conversely, if a training program does not include basic prerequisites, or if there is not a way to measure and remove a candidate that is not progressing, then screening is more of a concern.
  2. The extent to which Human Resources is a strategic role, aligned with the Distribution function – Lack of alignment between HR and Distribution often results in inaccurate job descriptions, candidate selection that does not fit the role, and interview protocols that do not uncover the best fit for Distribution jobs. Alignment requires adhering to organization-wide fairness, consistency, and other HR processes while enabling job specific targeted selection criteria. It is not an easy balance.

Solving these common issues requires:

  • Accurately identifying what you want to measure, and picking a reliable and valid assessment to measure it.
  • HR practices (e.g., job descriptions, picking first round candidates, interview protocols) aligned with the technical and behavioral (e.g., shift work) demands of the job.
  • A comprehensive training program to teach, monitor and measure progress accurately.
  • Using the many available assessments and screening instruments appropriately. They should measure what they purport to measure (be reliable) and measure consistently (valid) for the intended purpose. For instance, unstructured interviews are notoriously unreliable.  The American Psychological Association Society for Industrial Organizational Psychology (SIOP) has published Principles for the Validation and Use of Personnel Selection 5th ed. It is the gold standard for assessment and selection.

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