Water utility staff face a wide range of daily challenges. The nature of the job often requires tremendous patience and creativity with troubleshooting. Operators are often required to be on call and ready to respond to system emergencies at any time of day. In many communities, operators have no choice but to accept a part-time work schedule that still requires their presence at the plant for a few hours each day. Operators also often receive the brunt of customer complaints, even for issues out of their control. Technical support providers may be far away and difficult to contact, giving operators the sense that they are alone in their efforts.
Such challenges have led operators to resign from their positions. Utility staff turnover is costly to a community, requiring retraining and sometimes temporarily compromises the quality of the water/wastewater service. Providing operators with the support they need can help retain staff and lead to a more efficient water utility. Go to the following sections to see how defining roles, encouraging additional training and providing resources for technical support can help your water utility staff:
- Understanding Owner, Manager and Operator Roles
- Operator Training and Certification Opportunities
- Technical Support Providers
Look through the sections and the box below to ensure operators have the resources to tackles these various challenges. Share any relevant ideas with your local leadership and/or utility management.
Ask for Fair Compensation and Benefits
Employees are often motivated to work harder and keep a job longer when they are fairly compensated for their time. Work with utility management to develop a training plan that identifies specific experiences, trainings and certification milestones that will result in pay increases for employees.
If employees don’t receive benefits, ask managers and leadership to consider offering retirement, paid time off and/or medical benefits. Leadership may occasionally need to be reminded that costs incurred due to frequent staff turnover often far outweigh the cost of providing fair compensation and benefits to current staff members.