Powering Futures at the EHRC Awards of Excellence

Awards EHRC

Apr 1, 2019

By Blake Marchand

Last month, Electricity Human Resources Canada (EHRC) hosted its annual awards ceremony that recognizes leaders in Canada’s electricity sector, bringing together some of the industry’s most prominent companies and individuals from across Canada.

EHRC is a trusted market resource that supports the industry by conducting objective market research on the labour market and providing information and tools to foster productive and innovative growth within the electrical industry workforce. It is a source of current human resources information and tools in Canada, mandated to help power the Canadian electricity industry for both today and tomorrow, and highlighted by the Empowering Tomorrow panel, which kicked off the awards ceremony. The panel, moderated by EHRC Director of Programs and Development Mark Chapeskie, held an in-depth seminar style discussion on recruiting, engaging, training, and retaining young people in the industry.

The panel featured ESA Policy Analyst Aisling O’Doherty, FortisBC Talen Acquisition Associate Robyn Simpson, University of Ottawa Assistant Director of Learning and Professional Development Nicole Miller, Nalcor Energy Senior Manager of HR Corporate Services Nicole Parsons, and Georgian College Dean of Technology and Visual Arts Bill Angelakos. The panel explored youth engagement and retention, and the barriers youth face as they enter the electricity sector, ultimately exploring the importance of engaging youth and bringing them through the industry ranks. The main sticking point identified by the panel was the underwhelming percentage of “youth” 35 and under in the workforce, coupled with the high percentage of people over 60 approaching retirement.

Award presentations

This year, the Leader of the Year was awarded to Rob Lister, President and Chief Executive Officer of Oakville Enterprises (OEC).

Lister was celebrated and congratulated by industry peers for his extraordinary achievements, inspirational leadership and dedication to his employees. Her has been in the energy and infrastructure industry for over 37 years, developing into a visionary and inclusive leader who empowers his staff with the drive, opportunity, and skills to contribute to the business’ overall strategy and success.

“Rob Lister is an outstanding leader in our industry who walks the talk on all fronts. His commitment to people and innovation at OEC is beyond question, as is the respect he has garnered from his colleagues across the sector,” said EHRC Chief Executive Officer Michelle Branigan, who presented Lister with the award. She added that, “The performance of his company and his overall contributions to our sector is second to none.”

“Our award recipients are linked by their leadership, their innovation, their passion, and their commitment to the sector,” said Branigan to begin the award presentations, “and to support the people that actually work in it.”

EHRC handed out five awards in total. The first on the docket was Leader of the Innovation in HR Practices – Educational/Training Institution Award, presented to the IBEW Local 37 Training Trust Fund, accepted by Training Trust Fund Coordinator, Ali Rossiter alongside Business Manager, Ross Galbraith.

“Today’s recipient has recognized the rapid pace of technological change within the sector and the impact these changes are having and will continue to have on the workforce,” said Branigan of IBEW Local 37. “Knowing that it is not enough to react to these changes and technical skills alone will not be enough to be truly effective and competitive in the workplace, they identified the need to proactively support and encourage ongoing training and development activities that contribute to success in the workplace and career development for their individuals.”

IBEW Local 37 developed the Training Trust Fund to provide this type of support, offering quality and relevant knowledge and the skills-based training requisite to foster a productive employee partner relationship. The fund provides access to resources like workshops and conferences to help employees develop technical skills as well as non-technical skills like leadership, interpersonal communication and critical thinking.

“I am extremely proud knowing that IBEW Local 37 has been recognized for the work it has done trying to make its members as successful in the workplace as possible, through training and development,” said Ali Heighton. “Soft skills, [like leadership, communication, and critical thinking] research continues to show, are extremely important for adapting to change and being successful in the work place and talking with people across teams,” she said, adding, “I wish I could take credit for it all, but this training trust fund has been around since well before my time. I believe it came together in 1990 and it has been striving to help members grow and become successful in the workplace ever since.”

The next award, Leader of the Innovation in HR Practices — Employer, was presented to the Workday Implementation Team from Hydro Ottawa. The award is to recognize a team or individual that has displayed a high level of innovation in the design and implementation of a unique human resources program and/or project, ultimately fostering growth, innovation, and business development.

By moving away from paper manuals and implementing technology and a cloud based manual system, “The team challenged current practices looking for efficiencies, opportunities to streamline practices, and subsequently executing a changed management strategy that ensured not only achieved adoption but buy in from all employees,” said Branigan.

As a result, the company is seeing impressive productivity gains. They have managed to create a highly engaged work force by empowering employees with greater insight and performance accountability and engagement, ultimately positioning the company to adapt to changes in the industry as well as taking on a leadership role when it comes to innovation.

Workplace Diversity and Inclusion Award was next on the EHRC Awards agenda, being handed out to Sara Phinney of Nova Scotia Power. The Diversity and Inclusion award recognizes and celebrates individuals who push inclusion and diversity to the forefront — those who are role models taking charge in developing strategies that promote inclusion and diversity within organizations, and who are advocates for the rationale behind the importance of addressing these issues. “Once again this is a very competitive category and with a submission of very high calibre,” began Branigan as she presented the award. “The winning company submitted a very strong presentation, highlighting an excellent, truly inclusive diversity plan linked to the company’s 2018 business goals that focused on strategic diversity and inclusion pillars: celebration, education, measurement, and attraction.

The company commissioned volunteer committees to continue the momentum of the program with the inclusion of all levels of the business, from the executive leadership team to front-line personnel. They not only focused inward but expanded their corporate culture in a way that is visibly communicated to their customer base.

The program is innovative, but its acceptance by the employees at all levels of the company is what makes it such a success, which contributed to the decision to recognize Sara Phinney and Nova Scotia Power.

“Bringing diversity into the picture helps us tackle things differently. The things we heard today earlier — the war on talent, our baby boomers are retiring, talent is now going to be a harder thing to be able to achieve,” said Phinney as she accepted the award. “How we welcome people into the business affects their mental health,” she continued before relating a story about a Nova Scotia Power employee who is a member of the LGBTQ community. With past employers she was not able to comfortably identify as such, because that employer often spoke negatively of the LGBTQ community. Phinney explained, “she said, ‘To come Nova Scotia Power and be able to bring your full self to work every day, because we’re talking about it, we’re sharing it, and we’re celebrating it on a regular basis, it allows people to bring their true self to work.’”

Affording employees with an opportunity to be themselves while at work, from this perspective, is paramount. It not only has implications on the mental health of your workforce, and in turn has implications on productivity, but it also ties in to the acquisition of talent. A more inclusive work place is simply a more attractive place to work, particularly for younger generations that will have to be transitioned and recruited into the industry workforce in order for it to continue to thrive.

“We’ve experience such great outcomes so far. We took this on in 2017, we’ve worked together, and we took an inclusive approach to it,” said Phinney. “We put the call out to all our employees and said, ‘Help us build a strategy, we don’t want to build a strategy at head office and create this platform for what is diversity at Nova Scotia Power. We want your opinion to help build this together,’  and that was our secret sauce.”

The final award of the afternoon was The Emerging Leader of the Year Award, presented to Courtnay de Rooy of FortisBC. The Emerging Leader award recognizes young professionals in the industry who have less than 10 years of experience and have already demonstrated strong leadership qualities, a penchant for innovation, and a dedication to their organization as well as the broader industry.

De Rooy was unable to attend the event, although her work promoting women in the workplace and providing access for women to take on the electrical trades is what set her apart from other candidates. Responsible for recruitment and hiring, de Rooy has helped bring women into an area of the industry that have been and continue to be male dominated. Recognizing the lack of women in various areas of her own organization, she created a campaign to increase awareness of the electrical industry as a viable career option for women throughout all trade positions.

Congratulations are due to all the award recipients and their organizations for championing diversity, inclusion, innovation, and leadership. Ultimately, ensuring that the electrical and power generation industry continues to thrive, not only adapting to change, but showing the leadership to innovate from a technical perspective, as well as from an organizational, human resources perspective.

Blake Marchand is Assistant Editor, Panel Builder & Systems Integrator.

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