It’s a classic case of practicing what you preach: an organization can more successfully market and sell electric power resilience solutions to electric utilities if it is resilient itself. Better yet, instilling a pervasive culture of resilience in the organization supports successful engagement with electric utility clients on this topic. This blog post discusses this connection between internal resilience and client resilience, and suggests a few ways that can help organizations achieve this culture of resilience.
Differentiate from the Competition
Electric utilities have sought ways to enhance their resilience to extreme events for a long time. Yet, recent wildfires, increased incidence of extreme weather, and heightened concern about cybersecurity breaches have elevated utility interest in resilience solutions. This has created a competitive marketplace for providers of products and services that enhance electric power resilience. One way a resilience solution provider can differentiate themselves from the competition in this market is to become (or enhance their status as) a resilient company.
Analyze Your Company’s Business Resilience
Business resilience is not a new concept, and many organizations address it. But applying it aggressively as an adjunct to providing resilience solutions to clients is less widely practiced. Looking inward to examine the resilience of the organization’s business practices can yield valuable lessons. These lessons learned, in turn, can help organizations better understand the resilience needs that its clients (electric utilities) face.
An organization can examine the entire lifecycle of resilience – from preparation, hardening, and prevention, through detection and response, to recovery. They can then equate the challenges they identified in each phase and how they solved them, with the challenge and solution process at utilities.
For example, in the preparation phase, an equipment manufacturer (e.g., smart grid, underground distribution, or substation equipment) may identify supply chain vulnerabilities and seek ways to prepare in advance to address these. If the organization is wedded to one primary supplier, what happens if this supplier is no longer able to deliver quickly for any reason? The solution here may be to establish arrangements with additional suppliers – before an urgent need arises. Utilities face similar supply chain limitations. For example, rapid procurement of a replacement high-voltage transformer in the event of attack or flooding can be problematic if one manufacturer has a long backorder queue and another manufacturer cannot deliver due to local labor or other disruptions.
Instill an Internal Culture of Resilience
If an organization makes a commitment to significantly expand its offering of resilience solutions to electric utilities, a second way to enhance this process is to instill a culture of resilience in company employees and the extended company ecosystem (e.g., contractors, etc.). This process can potentially increase employee awareness, retention, motivation, creativity, and productivity. Following are some ways organizations can achieve this:
- Announce Top Management Buy-in. A high-profile announcement (or series of periodic announcements) from top management on the organization’s commitment to expanding its resilience practice goes a long way towards enhancing employee and contractor awareness and motivation. Ideally, this communication should emphasize the societal need to enhance resilience to safeguard wildlife habitat, protect the environment, and prevent human injury or loss of life.
- Link Incentive Plans to Internal Resilience Goals. In a resilient organization, every business plan and set of goals can consider resilience. Ask these questions: How does this business plan incorporate resilience? What is an appropriate resilience goal for this department? Tying goals to employee bonuses is one way to stimulate participation and get results.
- Hold “Lunch and Learns.” Schedule periodic engaging presentations about how the company plans to conduct, and is conducting, its efforts to enhance resilience. Include compelling photos, interesting case studies, and the human side of the work. Acknowledge involved employees and encourage audience participation and Q&As.
- Volunteer on Community Boards. Organizations can extend their knowledge of, and experience with, their internal business resilience and the resilience of their clients (electric utilities) to aid local community resilience. For example, in the communities where the organization has a significant presence, employees can volunteer to serve on community committees or task forces that address disaster preparedness. Interestingly, electric utilities are beginning to work more closely with communities in their service territory to jointly enhance resilience in various ways. When organization employees work with communities, they play a similar role as their clients, enabling them to learn first-hand about some of these joint interactions.
- Donate Products to Local Facilities. If the organization manufacturers efficient backup generators with battery backup, for example, the organization could donate (or at least highly discount) a handful of systems to a local school, elderly care facility, community center, and designated emergency center. This would serve to demonstrate the organization’s commitment to the resilience of the community, while placing systems in high-visibility locations.
- Protect Your Own. Some forward-thinking organizations have also established programs to protect their employees and their families in the community in case of a severe event. The organization can transfer the lessons they learn in establishing these programs to the community resilience efforts. To see examples of this in action, refer to the Amegy Bank video and the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas annual report.
- Conduct “Resilience Week 2020.” Define one week each six months or year in which a variety of special events focus on resilience. This can include a day when employees can bring their spouses and children to work, view displays, and participate in demonstrations of resilient equipment in the company cafeteria. Other events can include a fun, less technical lunch and learn; a week-long employee contest with prizes for the best new ideas regarding company, client, or community resilience; employee awards for various resilience projects; and other events.
- Write about it. Include stories about all of these activities in the company newsletter, press releases, the annual report, a flyer available in the lobby, and perhaps even a custom video.
Can you think of other creative ways to instill a corporate culture of resilience in your organization? We value your feedback! Please contact us with your thoughts.
About the Author
Steve Hoffman is president and founder of Hoffman Power Consulting, a 12-person agency that specializes in providing writing, content marketing, and marketing communications for various stakeholders in the electric power industry. Steve has authored more than 500 technical and marketing documents in the electric power industry. His firm has written hundreds of white papers for leading clients around the world over the last 35 years.