By T.R. Gregg, Huber Technology, Inc.
Last year I wrote an article published in Water Online entitled “FrankenSpec - How Projects Can Go Awry”. In that article I explored the effect of changing times and events and how entities such as consultants, construction contractors, municipalities, and manufacturers can work together more effectively. In particular, new modes and approaches that can produce lasting results that better represent solutions to the challenges in producing a wastewater treatment facility (or better said would be a Resource Recovery Center) that will meet the requirements of a 21st century world. The key to that success is to look beyond old ways of doing business, overcoming immediate low-dollar thinking, and pressing on to an end result of lasting value.
Similarly, as we look within our own organizations we face a profound challenge as it relates to human capital. Haydn Shaw points out in his book “Sticking Points” that “This is the first time in American history that we have had four different generations working side-by-side in the workplace: the Traditionalists (born before 1945), the Baby Boomers (born 1945-1965), Gen X (born 1965-1980), and the Millennials (born 1980-2000).” This is directly challenging within our industry as Sara Jerome points out in the Water Online article “How to Plug the Brain Drain” with the Boomers accelerating their retirement. She cites “They ‘will leave behind not only empty spaces but gaps in critical technical and facility-specific or ‘institutional’ knowledge,’ according to Utility Executive.”
On one hand you have an experienced work force that is on the verge of retirement in unprecedented numbers. Certain professions are already experiencing huge gaps forming such as the field of medicine with an unfolding doctor shortage. I recently spoke with a pilot friend of mine and they are foreseeing a rapid drop-off in available qualified airline pilots. We are seeing the same thing in our industry as well in the field of engineering, operations, and management. On the other hand, there is a rapid influx of young Millennials entering into the profession. Sometimes this is viewed by exiting Boomers as more of a liability than asset. This is largely due to the fact that there are colliding value systems and interpretations of work ethics and approaches. A lot of times this is rooted in a misunderstanding of the skill sets of this young workforce. They have been raised, and effectively operate within a rapidly changing digital world. The speed of learning through a seemingly limitless sea of information is a comfortable environment for these newcomers into the industry. Anna Liotta makes the statement in her book “Unlocking Generational Codes” that “Each Generation has something new and vital to add to the elemental mix. Its contribution can only be realized fully when it becomes clear what motivates the generation’s members, and what filters or paradigms they hold that could limit their possibilities.”
I see similarities with my earlier discussions in the “FrankenSpec” article and the generational challenges we are facing within our own organizations and our industry on a rapidly increasing basis. The common challenge is for us to reflect on our mindsets and biases and step out and away from our behaviors and take an objective look where we individually get stuck in our ways. The more that organizations can apply this to their decision-making and implementation, the more readily they will encounter success. All indicators in our industry point towards rapidly expanding growth in an environment of great infrastructure need. It will be the early adopters in our industry to this new paradigm where we will see these innovative and agile groups move out into the lead.
T.R. Gregg has a 28-year history in the wastewater treatment technology industry and is enjoying his 12th year working for Huber Technology, and is now serving as Director of Business Development & Marketing. Huber Technology serves the municipal and industrial wastewater treatment market with high quality liquid -solid separation technology. [www.huber-technology.com]. T.R. is also a member of the Water and Wastewater Equipment Manufacturers Association (WWEMA) Board of Directors. WWEMA is a non-profit trade association formed in 1908 to be the voice of equipment manufacturers in the water and wastewater industry. More information about WWEMA can be found at www.wwema.org.