I do not think there is a people or skills shortage at the water market’s coal-face, but I think it has a significant management deficit.

Some of you might have seen a posting that did the rounds on social media concerning performance at work. You know the kind of thing “10 things which require zero talent”.

Here is the Grand Union version:

  • honesty
  • preparedness
  • punctuality
  • work ethic
  • positive attitude and body language
  • double-checking work
  • pride in completing tasks, however small
  • willingness to go beyond expectations
  • being coachable
  • being clean and smartly-dressed

We are still a small company relying on organic growth, so we only hire selectively, but when we do it is on the above checklist rather than candidate’s experience at a water company or – heaven forefend – an English energy advisor. Knowledge of what we do is already in the company so all we need to do is match people with the above attributes and apply suitable training.

As such I am baffled that it is often lamented there are not enough people with the right skills available to work in the water business. The knowledge of what water companies do is within those companies (and is not rocket science), plus there are more than one million registered unemployed people in the UK (about half of whom would love a job) and a pool of another several million English speaking unemployed in the EU.

So, is the people and skills shortage in the GB water industry actually just a failure to train staff and therefore a management issue?

When a water company helpline announces there will be a 25-minute wait to speak to an operator that is not due to a people or skills shortage, it’s a failure in planning by management. When a water bill goes out to consumers full of errors – even in the basic addition – that’s not people or skills shortage, it’s a failure of IT and systems by management.

The GB water industry might have better management were it regulated and held to account more proactively.

A final word on recruitment – Grand Union does not need to use a recruitment consultant for our frequency and style of hiring but I know some corporations really value consultant assistance.

My experience of recruitment consultants in the energy space was that they seek to charge too much, and too soon. My advice to any recruitment consultant looking to move into the water space – which is so interesting right now – is to only market people who are willing to check all 10 boxes above, charge fairly and bill clients monthly as the recruited candidates are paid.

What to read next