Utility and Energy Management promotes Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion with the Employee Engagement Plan

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Employees from Utilities and Energy Management (UEM) at the University of Texas at Austin began an employee engagement initiative in 2018 to promote an equitable, diverse and inclusive environment within the organization.

Since implementing the Employee Engagement Action Plan, UEM was able to improve morale and provide employees with regular recognition of their important efforts resulting in an equitable and inclusive environment for UEM’s diverse workforce.

When the initiative began in 2018, UEM’s senior leadership appointed a team to review areas of strength and concerns highlighted by a previous employee engagement survey and to provide recommendations for an action plan. This plan would later be followed up in 2021 by a focus group study.

The survey’s findings resulted in an Employee Engagement Action Plan focusing on the areas of community, supervision, workplace safety, internal communication and workplace climate.

To achieve today’s success, Associate Vice President, Juan Ontiveros recommended the creation of a new division called Support Services. The new division began in 2018 and would be responsible for implementing the action plan. The team was then led by Assistant Director Tejas Pevekar, assisted by Strategic Support Manager Isidora Sanchez and Safety Manager Kent Williams, who has since launched several strategic initiatives focusing on employee engagement, safety programs, internal communications and core values engagement.

“This was done to ensure that we enable inclusion into a much-needed conversation of our organizational health,” Ontiveros said.

The employee engagement action plan continues today and consists of several initiatives geared towards a culture of inclusion and equity including recognition of employees, opportunities for interaction such as holiday events and town hall meetings, mandatory training for management in the areas of civility, inclusivity, employee engagement and coaching employees as well as the standardization of work tools such as uniforms and cell phones

One year after the implementation of the employee engagement plan, one of the broader strategic decisions was to develop a set of core values that our entire organization could help define. UEM invited all employees to participate in the creation of UEM’s core values. Leadership asked for feedback on the beliefs that employees strive to live by in the workplace and UEM’S Core Values of Safety, Respect, Integrity, Reliability, Teamwork and Excellence were solidified.

UEM leaders began this initiative as the result of the survey, but also because the leadership at UEM believes strongly in UEM’s core values and the lives of UEM employees.

“Every job at UEM is essential to our success, and we value every employee’s opinion in the way we conduct our work in serving the campus community,” Ontiveros said. “Being a UEM employee isn’t just about work—we consider our employees a part of a community with many opportunities for engagement, personal and professional growth.”

Since 2018 the following plans have been implemented successfully to maintain those core values.

  • Work cell phones: UEM provided all 180+ employees with the same iPhone to ensure fairness and inclusion which are key components of the employee engagement action plan.
  • Uniform policy:  Employee engagement survey results and focus groups highlighted a need to standardize internal policies and procedures for employee uniforms. A new uniform policy was developed with input from an employee committee, comprised of frontline staff and management.
  • Employee Recognition Program: a peer-to-peer recognition program developed in 2019 provides employees the opportunity to nominate their peers instantaneously for efforts beyond expectations of the job.The program recognizes achievement and behaviors that demonstrate UEM core values.

In 2021, Support Services held their second round of focus groups to help measure the success of the action plan and to develop a new action plan to carry these efforts into the future.

These 2021 Internal Communications Focus Groups were held in April and May with 20 employees participating virtually across four individual groups. Support Services were able to determine from these groups that UEM’s internal communications have notably improved since 2017. Participants stated that there is a sense that UEM and leadership cares.

Now, with the results of the 2021 Internal Communications Focus Groups, UEM’s Support Services team is developing a new action plan to expand upon those foundations laid in 2017. This work will aim to keep equity, diversity and inclusion at the forefront.