Research shows that companies with a strong culture and a strategic business plan outperform their peers — one of many reasons we are so focused on the employee experience. Moving toward a culture that is fully aligned with our new business environment will take time and a strong and steady commitment. We are very committed.
AEP created a 15-member employee-led corporate Culture Advisory Board. The team serves as champions for AEP’s culture initiative.
We held approximately 90 employee focus group meetings in 2013 to solicit feedback on our culture journey and more than 1,000 employees took part. We received many ideas for improving how we recognize employees for their work, what it takes to be a great leader at AEP, and fostering an environment that welcomes employee engagement.
In response, we created an 18-member employee team to develop a framework for engagement. The “Framework for Positive Employee-Leader Engagement” provides practical tips to facilitate more effective and meaningful engagement between leaders and employees. Engagement is a two-way street, and this framework places equal responsibility on both employees and leaders for positive, effective interaction. The engagement model will be included in a new leadership framework as one of the tools we’ll make available to leaders.
We also formed an Employee Culture Advisory Board, a team of 15 employees who serve as culture stewards across the company. These members are a conduit between employees and senior management. Board members chair local culture committees to further engage employees across the AEP system. To bring employees together to learn how our culture and values are tied to our business success, the board organized a companywide Culture Stand Up during the first quarter of 2014. The Stand Up engaged employees at all levels of the company, in group meetings, to talk about how our values are core to guiding us to being the utility of the future.
To understand what we must do to achieve the culture we want at AEP, we have to start with our own behaviors. To do that, we began to roll out a culture leadership workshop, Power Up & Lead. In 2013, about 400 members of management attended three days of training to learn about their leadership styles, what makes a great leader at AEP and how to be more effective communicators. We will begin to roll out this workshop this year to all employees across AEP.
Continuous improvement initiatives require employee engagement to be successful.
Reward and recognition can be as simple as saying thank you for a job well done or as substantial as a promotion or pay raise. Our system for recognizing employees and managing performance was outdated and a source of frustration among employees. Consequently, we launched an evaluation and redesign of our performance management and compensation systems to meet current business needs and reflect the market. Implementation of the new systems will begin this year.
In addition, we will be developing a framework for recognition. During our focus groups, we received hundreds of ideas from employees about what makes them feel appreciated and valued. This framework will catalogue those ideas to serve as a resource for leaders.
Year-end employee focus groups showed us that employees are beginning to see change happen. More employee recognition, sharing of information and collaboration are taking place. Employees are still skeptical about our commitment, and we will have to prove ourselves by staying the course. But this is a positive sign, and we are working hard to continue embedding the type of culture and values in our work force that we believe to be critical to our business success.