By Paul Zummo, Manager, Policy Research and Analysis and Alex Hofmann, Director, Energy & Environmental Services — American Public Power Association
For the baseball umpire, calling balls and strikes is somewhat subjective. The strike zone is defined by the area over the plate between the batter’s elbows and knees, but it’s not black and white. Some skilled pitchers can consistently nibble barely outside the zone until the umpire relents and gives them the call — turning a ball into a strike. And some batters can artfully sell a pitch as inside or outside by dodging or leaning — turning a strike into a ball.
The right staffing level at a utility is a moving target that depends on many factors like service territory size and services offered. However, we can loosely define the “strike zone” by looking at national data and trends. Our analysis of data from more than 800 public power utilities can help you better understand the typical relationship between staffing levels, customer count, and revenue class.
We developed this graph to show the “strike zone” where most utilities are clustered (each diamond on this graph represents one utility). We plotted utility revenues per employee against employees per thousand customers. The data suggests that, as cost-of-service providers, most public power utilities arrive at similar staffing levels so they can provide excellent customer service at the lowest possible cost to consumers.
We cleaned out statistical outliers but it’s clear that not all utilities land in the heart of the strike zone.
Look at your ratios and plot them in this graph. If your utility can add more employees and still be well within the heart of the strike zone, tell your manager.
If you see that your utility has more employees, or higher relative revenues, look at your conditions. There are many good reasons you could be outside the strike zone. For example, you may have a small service territory and a high number of industrial customers. Or you may have a large service territory and mostly residential customers. If you have staff with responsibilities to the city as well, that can influence your numbers.
We hope this data can provide broad benchmarking to help you find the right staffing level.
As in baseball, you don’t always need to be in the strike zone to find success. In fact, there are often good reasons to go outside of it but to be successful you have to know where the zone is.