Innovative HR Teams: TransAlta Corp.

Jane Fedoretz, executive vice president of people talent and transformation at Transalta Corp., talks about her company’s innovative efforts around corporate culture, DEI, women and scholarships, and employee rewards and recognition.

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Sarah  08:40:52 

Hi there. I'm Sarah Dobson, managing editor for Canadian HR reporter. And joining me today is Jane Fedoretz. She is the executive vice president of people talent and transformation at Transalta Corp, which has been named one of Canadian HR reporter's, innovative HR teams for 2023. So thank you for joining us today.

Jane  08:41:24 

Thanks, Sarah. It's a pleasure to be here and spend some time with you. 

Sarah  08:41:28 

Likewise, while I'm looking forward to hearing more about Transalta, and all the work you've been doing, so I guess to begin, can you just talk a bit about how many employees you haven't answered the size of your HR team?

Jane  08:41:40 

Yeah, okay. So that's a great question. We have about 1200 employees worldwide, we're based in Canada, the United States and Australia. And our HR team is actually pretty small when we think about HR connect. And so that's sort of our, our team of folks that connect services and support to the business units, we have HRBPs. In total, we're sitting at about 25. So for a worldwide team that has done all of this immense amount of work, it's really impressive. We have a team of very dedicated HR people that are into the change. And I think what really helps that is the fact that we have the executive leadership team that's really pushing the tone from the top and supports HR to go out and do some of this great work. Because it's not just an HR issue. It is when you're talking culture, that is everyone can be a cultural architect every day. So our expectation from everyone is that you're all going to show up and have a hand and how the company goes forward. So we we think of it as going beyond HR, though for sure. It's going to be HR that's sort of getting a lot of the programs organized and developing and executing some of those transactional pieces. And it's sort of the brain trust of some of the ideas that we have in terms of what's next, or what can we think about next. So it's the, it's that team, for sure. But it's also all these other people showing up. The thing that we know about culture is it's high maintenance. That's one thing I've learned, it's a very high maintenance, you just cannot create a culture and let it go static. You need to constantly be working at your culture, so that you are staying attuned to what people need stay in tune to what isn't, isn't working. And so I think that really also layers very nicely into what the future of work is going to look like for people.

Sarah  08:43:49 

Yeah, that's a that's a great point. And you can't you can't just let it slide. It's constantly got to evolve. Well, and you've touched on this. Can you talk a bit more about how you've been innovative when it comes to DEI?

Jane  08:44:02 

That's a great and a hard question, because it's hard because we you know, there's just so much that you could do. And for us, what we've done is we created, as I mentioned earlier, an employee led grassroots council. So it's DE&I counsel for Transalta, which I'm the executive sponsor and Shara. But it's really been focusing on what events do we want to celebrate, because there's a lot of different cultural and diverse and sort of equity focused events that we could, that we could celebrate and focus on per year. But it's allowing that council to really decide what they want to sort of talk about for that year, and allowing them to go and run with creating webinars, you know, volunteer days, you know, articles, like whatever, whatever they're thinking about having speakers come in. So they have sort of set the tone about what they want to address. And so that's been pretty innovative, because we've left it to them to sort of say, these are the areas that we want to focus on, or these are the next steps, and really giving them the freedom to sort of explore that. And that's gone very well. We're in our third year of the ED&I journey. So we have two year appointments for employees. So they, we just had a changeover at the beginning of this year. And so again, a bunch of new fresh ideas about what sort of focuses we want to place on the ED&I counsel and we're at the we're at the space now where the first two years was sort of awareness raising and setting the foundation and talking about unconscious bias. So now that we've kept that going, but we're thinking about ways, how do we embed things? How do we embed this into these principles into our daily existence? And so that's really what I see as the sort of next level challenge, because it's fine to talk about things. But how do you really make this different and more resonating with people in the long term? So we're in the first year of that two year process, and, you know, really thinking about is it, it's going beyond, it's going beyond our videos, it's going beyond, it's bringing ED&I and I into the every day. So we're just at the beginning of phase of an office move that happens next month. And so we're doing lots of we have an Ed and I comments, which is sort of an area in our old building where we have lots of speakers come in, and people meet together and just talk about sort of their own experiences. And now we're going to translate that to a totally different office space. So that'll be interesting to see how that'll work. And then how do we really start making this more real, and it's really showing up right now. And the early days of this, this phase, is sort of really being thoughtful and consistent with the work that we're doing. So all of our policies, we've reviewed all of our policies to make them more inclusive. We report to our board and seek feedback from our board about some of the ideas that we have, because remember, your board members, when they're engaged on that they have a wealth of suggestions and ideas that they have, from their own experience, I think you need to tap into Think of what how do we, how do we embed this? What have you done in your organization? What's your experience been? So it's really looking taking from multiple sources, bringing that back, the creation of ERGs people might go well, that's, that's not a big deal. That's not really that innovative. But you know, doing this, we have 400 people in our head office, but then we're all out in the field. So you know, we're a power generation company. So most of our people are out in the field. So how do you do that there? So that's something we're thinking about how the work, people are on shift work, and they're working 24/7? What kind of things are we doing there? So it's really trying to explore, we've done a lot of sort of what I would say, table stakes kind of education. And now how do we broaden that and just start getting the word out. So multiple levers were pulling, and you will need to have a conversation a year to see how it's worked? Because it's still kind of initial phases for that next level of innovation.

Sarah  08:48:45 

Yeah, well, very, very ambitious. And some great points about you know, just concerning how your workforce is like the challenge is there. And I guess that segues into my last question, this boost reward and recognition program, how do you make that work for free? You're spread out workforce.

Jane  08:49:03 

Yeah, that's great. And you know, just one thing, sir, I just thought about that I never mentioned and maybe talked about this before, as we have our women in scholarships, and trade, women and trade scholarships program. That's really, one of the biggest things for us is trying to grow our female workforce. Our aspirational target is by 2030, we'll have 40% women, we're at about 26% right now. But I keep very hopeful that we'll be able to reach up through some of the work that we're doing just getting our voices out there, encouraging all levels of the organization to think about how they can bring women into the workforce, which is particularly important in our remote work locations outside of the corporate head office. So for example, we have a number of gas plants up in north western Alberta, which is about 100 kilometers west of Edmonton. That may not sound like that's that difficult to get staff out there. But it is hard to get staff out there. You know, you're in a rural community, you may have limited folks in the community that are, you know, able to work in the trades. And they're able to do shift work or may not have a vehicle. So it becomes a real challenge to think of creative ways. So one of the things that we did is created a women and trade Scholarship, which has been really well. People have responded very well to have lots of applications per year. Thinking about other ways that we can just get the word out there because to me, it's not when you're in a trade. It's trying to get you into the trade. So we've done more work in schools around trying to just talk to students about the importance of being in a trade and what they could be thinking about. So it's trying to reach it at all levels, right. It's sitting in the boardrooms and talking about the importance of, you know, supporting operations. Like, to me, operations is key, we need women and operations. And there's a lot of really strong reasons for that, because we think differently. But also, you know, if you get to an executive level job, oftentimes, folks, women that have come through the operations at some of the most sort of like trade level work, they can move themselves up into executive positions in certain jobs. So you really want to start having that conversation and talking about it. So that when you're looking in recruiting for an executive operations leader, you know, when you're doing that, you will find there's like, one out of every 20, we need to start having that conversation earlier. So we're encouraging young women to be thinking about that as a career path, not maybe for the long term to be in operations, like doing the, you know, turning the wrenches, but that they can move up and have a different type of career and a very powerful career in that context. So they were just trying to like, expand the thinking so that people go, what other levers can we pull to really get people excited about that kind of work? Because they're long term and different impacts? So

Sarah  08:52:19 

Wow, that's, that's really interesting and very encouraging. For sure. Great to hear. Well, yeah. And so finally, just your boost reward and recognition, which sounded very exciting. You talk a bit about that.

Jane  08:52:33 

Yeah, so we wanted to find a way to, as we go through the three year transfer, cultural transformation journey that we have planned and wood, which we're in the second year of, how can employees connect with one another, and really encourage one another to and sort of validate their display of our values or display of what a positive cultural architect looks like, or a positive cultural ambassador looks like. And so we created a program, we use the software tool, where there can be peer to peer recognition. And it's based it can be either small monetary amounts from one to $5, or $10, to two sending e cards to just validate recognize people for the work that they do on a day to day basis. And that has been we rolled it out last summer. And it's really taken off, we have about a 92% employee response to that. And remember, we're in the field. So we have lots of field folks that won't necessarily have constant access to a computer. But it's a great way to get recognition from your from your peers. So that has been a real sort of high touch, instant reward system that people have really found valuable because they can share feedback with one another in such a positive way. But there's more that we do to like we have different types of awards in our in our company that really validate people's work and innovation and, and sort of one another, they connect with one another and nominate one another for the President's awards. As another example. It's an annual event, we have 11 word categories, you know, that we that we celebrate. So it's everything from safety, leadership, best performance, and a plant culture leadership. Those are other awards. That's another very significant awards program that recognizes employees for the work that they do. And last year, we had 10% of our employees be nominated by their peers. That's a peer nomination process. And then a group of their peers that were set up into subcommittees chose the award winners, and then we awarded them with their we gave them their award this past January, and that happens every year. So we have a number of things that are really focused on reward and recognition, trying to encourage innovation, trying to get people to support like having people support one another. And that's all in that employee group. It's really not coming down from the executives, the executives are setting the tone, but these are the activities that employees are supporting one another on so that just gives you two examples of some of the cool things that we're doing at the company that really sort of empowers the employees to look at their peers and celebrate them.

Sarah  08:55:55 

That's great. Very impressive. I like, I like the peer approach for sure. I'm sure that's quite, quite popular and interesting to do this sort of the actual cash amounts, I'm sure that, you know, resonates in some way versus just the sort of random points that can be tricky sometimes to accumulate. But um, well, that's great. I mean, your passion and your drive here are very much coming through. So thank you for that. And it's, I mean, it sounds like there's lots to discuss here, but it's quite clear. Transalta is truly innovative. So I thank you for your time today.

Jane  08:56:32 

Thanks, Sara. It's been great to chat with you.

Sarah  08:56:33 

Likewise. Thank you so much, and for more great videos, tune in to