Holidays and Hopes for the New Year
It is December 1, the holidays are soon upon us and I am not ready! Matt Schnell, UTC’s Board Chair, informed me yesterday that he has two more presents to buy then he is done with all of his Christmas preparations. Um, well…maybe since he’s going to have some extra time on his hands he can help me with my cookie making, present buying, tree put-upping, Christmas card writing-addressing-mailing, present wrapping, and cocktail drinking (on second thought, I can manage that last one on my own). Just kidding, Matt, we’ll find more UTC work for you to do instead.
On a more positive topic, I promised in my last blog to talk more about the UTC Board of Directors meeting and forward planning session that happened a few weeks ago. For this blog, I am re-transmitting a summary of those activities that several of us worked on, with the primary drafters being Atossa Shafaie, Marketing Manager and Sarah Donovan, Coordinator. I think this summary accurately captures the energy and enthusiasm brought to the effort to review and refine our strategic membership plan and to discuss the important topics of diversity and inclusion, which will filter through the plan. Kathy Nelson, our Board Vice Chairman, brought the diversity and inclusion issue to the forefront, and the bottom line is that the Board members and other invited guests really embraced the discussion and opportunities to enhance our utilities with a variety of perspectives.
Executive Summary: UTC Board of Directors Week, November 7-9, 2016
While the country was immersed in presidential elections, the Utilities Technology Council (UTC) Board of Directors was in Washington, D.C. for its bi-annual, in-person meeting. Over the span of three days, the agenda covered an exchange of reports and committee presentations, a discussion of the final FY 2016 financials (the new fiscal year began on October 1) as well as a collaborative forward planning session focused on finalizing UTC’s draft strategic membership plan. The FY 2017 budget, previously approved by the Board, was also reviewed and the group was reminded about the focus on membership and core member services that is reflected in the budget. The forward planning session included Board members, several UTC staff, and invited guests from UTC member utilities who were there to help foster a frank discussion about how UTC can better foster racial, gender, and age diversity and inclusion within the industry.
For these discussions around membership, diversity and inclusion, attendees broke into small groups that then came together as a whole to exchange ideas and offer guidance to refine the Strategic Membership Plan (SMP)’s strategic objectives and 2017 near-term goals. Board members, along with the staff and special invited guests, discussed the overreaching themes of diversity and inclusion while also unearthing skills, knowledge and relationships that could be more fully utilized by UTC.
Some key takeaways from the exercise included the need to focus outreach on millennials by challenging the notion that a career in the utilities landscape is somehow less enticing than other industries such as those in Silicon Valley, and by expanding UTC’s learning and mentorship focus as well as strengthening leadership programs already in place. In the broader diversity sphere, the group directed the staff to include the excellent, related ideas and action items throughout the SMP.
Membership has been a much-discussed topic among the UTC Board and staff throughout 2016 and the discussion during forward planning was lively in terms of what can be done by UTC to provide optimal member service and to recruit potential new members. The SMP’s draft strategic objectives were assessed and prioritized, but none were changed. The number one objective was deemed to be “excellent customer service,” followed by:
· developing excellent member communication pathways;
· fostering member engagement;
· becoming a trusted resource for policy makers both nationally and internationally;
· providing targeted educational offerings for utility membership;
· instituting dues and pricing policies that drive membership; and
· promoting the utility technology workforce by strengthening the UTC Foundation
In discussing near-term goals for 2017, the Board discussed the staff and financial resources available to UTC to implement them, which in turn caused a great dialogue about attracting a certain number of net new core and associate members with an emphasis on an end result that is both aggressive and attainable. UTC communication with membership also played an important role in the near-term goal discussions. UTC plans to undertake and promote statistically relevant membership surveys to better assess member needs and convey those needs accurately. The refinement of internal staff processes and protocols will enable excellent customer service, which also ties back into the number one long-term objective. The implementation of a membership communication strategy will facilitate better tools through which we relay information based on content and urgency. The finalization of the UTC Foundation mission and vision as well as its strategic plan also ties back to diversity and inclusion by promoting the entrance of young engineers into the utility landscape.
By the end of the multi-day process, the themes of engagement, accountability and diversity emerged. Board members pledged to heighten their involvement by making specific personal commitments with deadlines attached, re-visit their knowledge-base and networks to promote UTC’s value, and provide expertise and direct involvement where necessary to produce solutions and information critical to the success of membership development. Under the strong leadership of UTC’s Chair, Matt Schnell, and President and CEO, Joy Ditto, the reinvigorated focus on membership development, inclusion and diversity and a stronger advocacy path for UTC created a general feeling of optimism and dedication from the Board and staff in taking UTC forward.