MWRA Staffing Study

Massachusetts Water Resources Authority, Commonwealth of Massachusetts

MWRA is one of the premier water and wastewater utilities in the United States. In 2002, it was one of the first utilities in the nation to focus on staffing levels at the functional level of detail.  The extensive and comprehensive program used at the time established staffing targets at the functional level, by year.  The resulting annual targets were supported by management and the functional level supervisors.  The targets were challenging but the Authority not only met the projections but has now surpassed them. 

PEER Consultants was part of the team that conducted the original study and some eight years later was on the team providing the MWRA with this independent perspective on: staffing levels, allocation of outside resources, the impact of initiatives currently or soon to be underway and additional opportunities to adjust staffing levels and reduce costs without compromising service.  The assessment took into consideration the scope of the agency’s mission, the projected work load over the next several years in the area of capital improvements as well as operation and maintenance, the high percentage of unionized staff and the multi-bargaining unit environment. 

For this study, the project team:

  • Established a peer utility group.
  • Collected key operational and financial information.
  • Collected staffing data from peer utilities at both the department and functional level.
  • Collected, evaluated and analyzed MWRA staffing taking into account current and projected conditions, organizational priorities and MWRA’s mission and responsibilities. As part of this effort, identified explanatory factors (i.e., those conditions outside of management control that affected both staffing levels and costs).
  • Assessed the use and level of overtime and stand-by status (this is increasingly a focus area of utilities as they seek to continue to improve efficiency with already lean staffing levels).
  • Analyzed MWRA personnel demographics and surveyed comparable utilities regarding their practices and any programs they have for addressing the potential loss of personnel due to retirement and other demographic changes. (This has become an increasing concern of utilities as they enter a generational change in staff; of particular importance is whether or not they make organizational changes as key personnel retire and how they handle the loss of vital knowledge, particularly tacit or undocumented knowledge.)

Upon completion of the project, PEER recommended a 5-year program of annual staffing targets with a detailed explanation of how the targets were developed and a description of the methodology used to arrive at the suggested target levels.