2006-Resource Crisis Or Imagination Challenge?

 Roger Vreugdenhil, Joanna Campbell

The dams industry is immersed in a changing environment. It is one of many industry sectors in Australia becoming acutely aware of the impacts of ageing practitioners and a competitive labour market. Shortages of skills and labour are impacting on all participants. The constraints around recruitment and retention are further amplified for dam owners in some States by increasing expenditure regulation and accountability.

People choosing to leave or retire from the dams profession per se does not necessarily pose a problem. Instead, problems arise if insufficient transfer of valuable knowledge has occurred prior to their departure, if the rate of replenishment is inadequate to cope with current and future industry workload, and if there is no innovation around what workforce is involved. Future work will likely be characterised by remedial works for existing dams rather than new dam construction, with an increased focus on environmental restoration, and optimisation of operations and maintenance to minimise losses and maximise productivity. These tasks require a great level of skills in leadership and innovation, equal to any level previously applied to this industry.

Organisational goals and decisions have to be realised through people and it appears that many people are taking up their roles differently than in the past. The authors, both Generation X, contend that the core issue is as much a challenge of imagination as it is a crisis of human resourcing. Greater imagination is required around: the image presented by the profession; retention and replenishment of personnel; appropriately connecting people of different generations to their individual roles; developing leaders comfortable with the sentient aspects of organisation life and capable of collaboration; and sustainable management of knowledge.

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