United States Nuclear sector is one of the publicly administrated areas that provides wide employment opportunities and employs various recruitment structure and philosophies that can be attributed to general trends in global business world. That said, it is interesting to observe that the sector works with direct employment, community colleges and international programs that brings this sector in line with international Strategic Human Resource Management (HRM) tendencies and trends. This clash, as one could argue, of public organization and bureaucracy with modern trends receives special attention when it comes to the analysis of US Nuclear sector as a place to work (Burke, Noblet, and Cooper, 2013).
Current situation in the sector is dubious that, perhaps, served as a trigger for the changes in employment strategies. That said, this document will look at the core drivers behind expanding strategic focus on human capital and the importance that this public sector gives to the employment environment, training and development of its human resources (Squassoni, 2009). Some of the critical constructs of complex employment environment can outlined as follows:
- Aging employee profile of the sector, demonstrating the need for reformation of the employment environment
- General perception of the nuclear sector as being in stagnation and expectations that international and national public has from Obama´s government on renaissance in this public sector.
The above does not, however, limit the scope of the analysis. To better understand the trends and profile of the industry as an employer in public sector, one should consider ambitious strategic goals of US nuclear sector. Given growing demand for energy and special attention given to the alternative and sustainable energy sources, US developed several investment projects within its “Green” strategy (EIA, 2013). These objectives include construction of more than 30 new nuclear plants across the country to meet the goals of reducing greenhouse gases emissions. With that in mind, the industry will require on average 45, 000 new professionals to support the strategy and at least additional 600 jobs will be created upon the completion of the construction (NEI, 2013). This statistics reveals great opportunities that the industry creates for young and ambitious individuals.
The question that should be raised in this document, however is what exactly, apart from the market forces makes the sector attractive as employer and why one would consider it the best place to work. The answer is, of course, individual and each professional will guide his choice with a number of personal drivers. There are, however, several critical HRM doctrines and pillars that can help us to prepare objective analysis of the employment in the industry. The thesis of this document is: “Contemporary issues within the sector employment as well as strategic goals that the government and private sector set for the industry make US nuclear the best place to work in public sector”.
Contemporary HRM Issues
Human Resource Management in modern business environment gains more and more attention as a part of strategic development of organizations. Public sector, in view of the latest challenges, related to the internal market and competition for skilled labor realized the value that strategic approach to human capital development can give to the sector. With that in mind, the discussion on the latest trends in Human Resources can be applied to the study of public sector in general.
Strategic Role of HRM in public sector is enhanced, but not limited by facing the contemporary issues, such as lack of skilled labor, opportunities offered in private sector and low switching cost of potential employees, high level of demand and labor specificity that the sector requires as well as motivational aspects of work, rather than financial remuneration package. These issues make the work and goals of HRM departments in the sectors like US nuclear extremely complex and multifaceted. The situation in which HRM in public sector finds itself is further complicated by the role of the government and international organizations in determining strategic outlook on the industry. In contrary to private sector, where strategic choices are made by the organization itself, public sector organizations have to align their activities and organizational structure to the needs of external stakeholder (Beattlie and Osborne, 2008).
The above arguments are raised to determine the core differentiators of the HRM in public sector from private alternative as employer (Bach, 2000). The fact is that while private organizations adapt more lean approach to strategy formulation, by aligning HRM to the strategic goals of the company, public sector employer is forced to align its strategic HRM to the overall long-term goals of the industry. This comes together with overheating control of the regulatory bodies internally as well as on international arena.
Some of general HRM practices build on the identity of contemporary HRM capacity in public sector US nuclear specifically. These strategies focus on several key aspects of development: ownership, which regards people as strategic resources, external fit, internal fit and alignment in a given sector and organization. The achievement of these strategies comes from various programs and initiatives. Ownership is the actual realization of the strategic HRM role. External fit is the manner in which organization in the sector benefits from external environment opportunities and leverages external risks. Internal fit is the ability of the organization to bring through common culture and behavior in the sector through training, communication and information sharing (Bach, 2000). The evidence of this approach in US nuclear sector will be discussed in more details in the following chapter.
The US Nuclear Sector as Employer
As it was determined, strategic HRM is the ability to integrate into the organizational culture and behavior not only the tools that effectively hire and utilize the capabilities of individuals, but also to bring forward long-term thinking that allows the company to realize the opportunity and benefit from investment in human training, development and motivation. With that in mind, companies, or, public sector organizations, for the matter of this research, should be able to demonstrate the focus on such HRM elements to be considered attractive for employees. It is possible to argue that nuclear sector, with its desperate need for human capital is going through
In the introductory part of this document we discussed potential opportunities and current issues in the industry, related to the aging employment profile and subsequent need for new fresh human capital to meet the needs of the organization. This builds on the theoretical background of the employment climate of the industry. This, however, does not complete the list of factors that should be analyzed, when looking at US nuclear as potential employer. These factors could be summarized as follows:
- Competitiveness of financial remuneration on internal and external markets.
- Professional development opportunities, influenced by internal and external factors.
- Profile of Quality of Work Life (QWL).
- Job safety and security
Each of the above factors influence and contribute towards the position that one can take in regards of the US nuclear ranking in the list of employers in public sector. Let us look at each of these critical criteria in more depth.
Financial Compensation Package
The analysis of the industry and the financial statistics provided by the Nuclear Energy institute argues that nuclear plants offer very competitive salary package. According to 2013 data, the sector reaches 36% on top of median salary in the category. Given that, it is possible to argue that the industry is still focusing on financial remuneration as the key for attracting motivating professionals.
Professional Development Opportunities
Over the last years, organizations within the unclear sector started to place more and more emphasis on sustainable recruitment practices and retention strategies. Some of these practices are especially effective and should be mentioned to support the statement on strategic HRM focus within the nuclear sector. First initiative is the Nuclear Uniform Curriculum Program and Community Colleges that addresses personal and professional development of individual prior actual employment in the industry. Jointly with community colleges across the US, nuclear industry started to offer back in 2000 special training programs for students interested in pursuing careers in nuclear sector.
Secondly, such initiatives as Center for Energy Workforce Development (CEWD) and Governmental scholarship and grant program build on strategic goals of HRM field within the sector. These programs jointly contribute towards sustainable people management strategy is the educational initiative is the Center for Energy Workforce Development (CEWD) that offers special training to develop potential and skills in young professionals that would like to seek employment within the sector (NEI, 2013).
As a result of the efforts that the government and industry bodies have done to increase popularity and competitiveness of the industry, employment, overall enrollment in undergraduate nuclear engineering programs have grown three times over the past decade, reaching 1,300 students in 2008. These figures are even more optimistic in graduate student enrollment that has experienced increase of students from 220 to 1200 per year. While these numbers are very promising, the industry still requires more professionals and it is evident that this need will continue to bring the employment and HRM strategies to the front of the
Quality of Work Life
Quality of Work Life programs became popular in private sector back in the 80th, since the concept of comfortable working environment took its place in academic and business studies, public sector started to more and more get involved into this area. While QWL programs are not unique for nuclear sector and do not represent competitive advantage on the employment market, their strength and presence by itself contribute towards positive employment profile of the industry. Modern organizations look at QWL from the perspective of possible involvement and participation of employees in building safe and comfortable working environment. Possible initiatives in regards to QWL may include: 1) flexible working hours, 2) employee meetings on quality and performance management, 3) counseling sessions offered by the company, 4) employee satisfaction survey, 5) joint decision-making process on some of the Standard Operations Procedures (SOP) and other programs within the field of HRM (Kornbluh, 1984).
The evidence of the QWL focus in the industry comes from several arguments. First of all, employees within the sector are supported by strong legislation and union regulatory structure that ensures fairness in employment practices of public sector employees. Secondly, many organizations in the sector offer health counseling services widely available for the professionals on all levels. Thirdly, employees in nuclear sector have access and are facilitated to pursue career development programs and attend free courses to widen their technical and managerial skills. It is evident that Mentorship program, offered within core industry players brings positive results on performance and employee satisfaction, especially for young professionals, joining the industry after college (NISA, 2013).
Job Safety and Security
NRC Independent Regulatory Agency was established to promote and control regulatory and social environment in regards to the use nuclear energy. Among other responsibility, the regulatory organ establishes, evaluates and controls performance of the sector in employment relationships with the core mission to protect health and safety of people, involved in the sector activities. Documents on safety and security, prepared jointly with the HR departments of the nuclear sector organizations establish national standards on waste disposal, standard operational procedures on nuclear plants and other industry facilities and provide recommendations on sustainable HRM practices within the sector (U.S. NRC, 2009).
Another element of safety and job security that should be discussed in the scope of this research is job stability. Again, not unique for the sector, but rather general characteristic of public sector employment, job stability is one of the attractive arguments that one could make in favor of nuclear sector employment. Public sector strategic objectives are backed up and supported by macroeconomic considerations of the government and with that, employment policies are extremely protected and stable in a short and long-term. Partnerships with local educational institutions and development programs offered for potential employees contribute towards general level of confidence of young people in their employment in the sector.
Why is US Nuclear the Best Place to Work
Changes that US nuclear sector have experience in the field of people management and HRM strategies is evident and demonstrates that the selected strategies of ownership and internal fit, discussed above, already bring the results, reflected in hiring and retention statistics in the sector. The question that one should ask himself is what actually makes US nuclear different from other public sectors, such as healthcare or education? The reality shows that nuclear sector have excelled as employer not only as a result of internal reorganization and focus on HRM, but also under the influence of market forces. Critical need for “fresh blood” forced cross-organizational cooperation and contributed toward the development of robust HRM strategy. Additionally, the example of the US nuclear is set by the ability to develop strong cooperation with other sectors and demonstrate the benefits of the pursued by US nuclear strategy to external stakeholder that helped to build on HRM development. The examples of this cooperation include partnerships with the governmental organizations that provide specialized training, scholarship and educational support; contracts with community colleges; contracts with other educational institutions that offer undergraduate and graduate courses in nuclear engineering as an example.
Finally, but not least importantly, along with well-developed HRM strategies on motivation, development and training, the industry players reached the realization of offering competitive financial and pension remuneration packages. On one side, competitive salary in the sector attracts employees, while competitive pension plan helps to increase retention rate through boosting job security perception.
Relevance for the Target Public
All the above elements make the employment status and profile relevant to young professionals that are yet to decide in which direction to pursue their careers as well as professionals with more experience in the field. US nuclear sector is one of not many sectors of public sector that very clearly communicates and transfers the information about the objectives, needs and expectations that it has from its employment environment (Pittard and Veeks, 2007). This transparency allows believing in long-term sustainable HRM strategy that provides ambitious and young individuals with the opportunity to create their professional and personal development and plans and count on support from their employer.
The analysis of the current HRM trends helped us to determine the critical constructs that build on the understanding of the best place to work in general. Among other elements, organizational strategies on ownership, training and development and sustainable corporate policies are essential factors that make sector or company specifically attractive for employees. Modern business environment can no longer satisfy a job seeking by offering high salary and interesting entry-level position. Individuals in the beginning of their careers as well on later stage look for several components of employment that drive their satisfaction: stability and safety of employment, opportunity for professional and personal growth within the sector and quality of Work Life (Burke, Noblet, and Cooper, 2013).
That said, the analysis reveals that current trends and developments brought lot of changes to US nuclear sector, including its vision of human capital as strategic resource. Specific examples of the programs and partnerships developed within the industry to incorporate HRM practices in the sector, evidence the fact that US nuclear, like no other public sector offer great employment opportunities to young professionals. The need for labor and skilled professionals creates further motivation for the industry to take these strategic objectives further. With that in mind it is possible to conclude that US nuclear is the best public sector to work and it will continue improving, influenced by internal and external policies and environment.
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