Responsive work force and responsible work place – 2010
Related GRI Indicators

Click on the indicator numbers below to read more about our performance related to this topic.

EU 14: Ensuring Availability of a Skilled Workforce
LA 7: Injury Rate
LA 10: Employee Training and Continuing Education
LA 13: Diversity and Equal Opportunity

Employees from Customer Service

EWEB relies on the talents and skills of our employees to fulfill our mission to be an outstanding provider of energy and water products and services to our customers. That is why we are committed to recruiting, training and retaining a highly qualified, diverse workforce and cultivating a safe and respectful workplace.

Upholding our commitment to a responsive workforce and responsible workplace is more important than ever. The business models and technologies relied upon by EWEB in the past will likely not meet our needs nor customer expectations in the future. To thrive as a utility in this changing environment, our workforce must be able to plan ahead, anticipate and adapt to change. More importantly, we need to recruit those with the relevant skills for our likely future.

Our success in attracting and retaining the skilled workers capable of rising to these challenges is dependent on our ability to foster a culture of excellence, safety, innovation, teamwork and diversity.

Current Strategies and Performance Highlights

Workplace diversity

EWEB is an employer committed to equal opportunity and to fostering a supportive work environment that is open, diverse and embracing of our employees regardless of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, marital or veteran status, sexual orientation, the presence of a medical condition or disability, or any other legally protected status.

The composition of EWEB's workforce in terms of race became slightly more diverse in 2010 to more closely reflect the broader community, with non-whites representing 11% of EWEB's 2010 workforce as compared to non-whites representing 13% in the Eugene community.

However, the composition of EWEB's workforce in terms of gender performs less favorably when compared to the composition of the broader community. In the regional workforce, women make up 46% of the working population, yet in 2010 women only comprised 34% of EWEB's workforce. This discrepancy is particularly clear in job categories historically held by a particular gender, such as skilled craft workers – historically mainly men – and also administrative support – historically mainly women.

EWEB recognizes the challenge of recruiting and retaining women and minority applicants and employees, especially in historically non-minority, male-dominated professions. In order to overcome these challenges, EWEB proactively seeks to attract a diverse pool of qualified applicants for all open positions and maintain fair, open and culturally competent hiring practices. In 2010, 37% of new hires were women and 21% of new hires were non-white.

Workplace safety

EWEB continues to be a leader in workplace safety. For the fourth consecutive year, the frequency of occupational health and safety incidents has decreased. In 2010, EWEB recorded a total of 20 workplace injuries and no workplace fatalities. This is a 13% reduction in recordable injuries over the previous year, 26% fewer than the benchmark 3-year average (2006-2008) established as an occupational health and safety goal, and well below the rate for other public utilities in Oregon. This trend is a result of an ongoing effort to improve safety awareness and trainings throughout the organization.

Employees from Customer Service
Safety award

In recognition of our outstanding safety performance in 2010, the Northwest Public Power Association awarded EWEB its top workplace safety award for utilities with more than one million labor hours of exposure. The award is based upon a review of each utility's safety record, including the number of recordable injuries and lost workdays.

Workforce training

In 2010, EWEB continues to provide our employees training opportunities to enhance their professional and technical skills. These trainings are an important part of our strategy to enhance employee and organizational performance.

In addition to the trainings offered at the departmental level, EWEB facilitated 18 internal professional development and training courses in 2010, providing more than 7,000 hours of employee development. This translates into an average of 13.4 hours of internal training per employee. In addition, EWEB provided tuition reimbursements totaling over $44,000 to 25 employees seeking continuing education through skilled trade organizations, community colleges and universities.

Claim settlement

In September 2010, EWEB settled a Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) complaint and lawsuit with a female line technician apprentice. The claim and lawsuit made allegations of sexual harassment and discrimination. Prior to the claims being logged, one EWEB employee was terminated and several others were disciplined in conjunction with some of the allegations. Following the claims, a settlement was reached by mutual agreement and the EWEB employee complainant was awarded $250,000.

The initial investigation and subsequent claims lead EWEB to understand that there were issues that needed to be addressed within parts of the organization. EWEB has a strong desire to move forward and ensure a more respectful workplace environment free from harassment and discrimination.

As part of the settlement with the former employee, EWEB committed to taking specific steps toward this end, particularly in the skilled trades. EWEB and the Joint Apprentice Training Committee (JATC) (also named in the complainant's lawsuit) committed to creating a plan that supports diversity and the mentoring of non-traditional employees in the apprenticeship program. The plan, which will seek to provide opportunities for the advancement of women and minorities in the trades, will be made in conjunction with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), Local 659, and will be shared with BOLI and other JATCs around Oregon.

To help facilitate the change at EWEB, in 2010 all employees were required to participate in a three-hour respectful work place training. In addition, EWEB's Labor Management Committee (LMC) previewed a module from IBEW's 8-hour Diversity and Inclusion training to determine its appropriateness for EWEB-sponsored delivery to segments of its trade workers. EWEB is also developing a Respectful Workplace plan that describes the steps taken to date and those planned for 2011.

Challenges and Opportunities

EWEB, like many organizations, is facing a major demographic shift in the workforce as long-term employees begin to retire. More than one-quarter of EWEB's existing workforce is already eligible to retire. This transition presents several challenges including the loss of institutional knowledge and increased competition for skilled workers as other utilities experience the same turnover due to retiring workers. On the other hand, as employees retire, EWEB has the opportunity to increase the diversity of the workforce, change the knowledge base of the utility and prepare for the future.

In particular, this calls for an increase in the recruitment and hiring of diverse candidates for managerial and executive level positions. The data indicates the highest levels of the organization are less diverse than either the community or the organization as a whole.

Many of EWEB's training programs are administered at the department level. This decentralization has allowed supervisors flexibility and discretion in the types of training and professional development programs offered to employees. However, it has proven difficult to track and analyze the efficacy of these offerings. The use of a new Human Resource Information System to track training and professional development programs at the department level starting in 2011 presents an opportunity to better understand where gaps in knowledge, skills and abilities exist.