By Jackie Brusoe
All WAPA employees have had to adapt to a new working environment due to COVID-19. The Inclusion, Innovation and Technology team is no exception.
A major responsibility of the I2T team is to plan and execute the I2T Summit, which is a yearly event that celebrates WAPA's innovators and promotes a culture of inclusion and creativity.
Past I2T Summits had a format similar to the All-Employee Meeting: an in-person gathering broadcast to other employees across WAPA's footprint via video teleconference. However, since the COVID-19 pandemic has put a stop to in-person gatherings, the I2T Summit is going all virtual for 2020.
Many WAPA employees are conducting and participating in virtual events already; the I2T team will leverage their lessons learned to deliver a fun, engaging and relevant program straight to your desktop.
The theme for the 2020 event is Innovation Takes Everyone in a Changing World.
This phrase reflects the fact that improvising to adapt and overcome requires people and teams to draw from everyone's ideas and experiences. It illustrates the importance of inclusion and highlights it as being a necessary part of innovation, especially in a changing world, such as what we are experiencing right now.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has been challenging," said Civil Rights Attorney-Adviser Julia Duffy. “We have all had to adapt to different work environments, different processes and a flood of new information."
This has been the case for all employees, to some degree, and it has left many of them working in remote locations, distant from coworkers, hampering their ability to connect in person.
Against the backdrop of the pandemic, Duffy shared that the Inclusion and Diversity Committee has asked themselves this question: In these circumstances, are inclusion and diversity still relevant at WAPA?
“The answer is a resounding yes," said Duffy. “Inclusiveness at WAPA has been visible throughout the agency's response to the pandemic. From everything IT has done to make sure we all can continue to work to the efforts by individual organizations to adapt, we see the combined efforts of many individuals contributing to innovative ideas and solutions."
This is exactly the perspective and attitude we will be spotlighting at the I2T Summit this year. “Innovation" can often seem like a vague concept, but through the many unexpected changes brought in 2020, we can see clearly just how innovative WAPA really is as an organization.
Here are just a few examples of inclusion and innovation that have been shared with the I2T Committee regarding adaptation during COVID-19:
- Toward the beginning of the increased telework period, the Colorado River Storage Project Management Center Finance team had short, daily conference calls. Over time this has evolved to having calls three times per week. This has been helpful in keeping communication flowing and keeping each other updated on important developments.
- Both the CRSP MC Finance and Environment teams, independent of each other, invited each team member to prepare a presentation on something personal. They shared pictures and narratives about their own lives, hobbies or recent vacations. This was helpful in keeping interpersonal and human relations sturdy.
- The same week WAPA started large-scale telework, the Salt Lake City area experienced a 5.7 magnitude earthquake. This was another opportunity to listen to each other and develop connections. This also allowed affected employees to share experiences and provide feedback regarding communication strategies.
- The Desert Southwest Budget team has twice-weekly video meetings for information-sharing and updates between supervisors and team members. They use Lync and texts for less-formal communication. The team's manager has invited employees to reach out to her, similar to an “open door policy," to virtually walk into her office and say hello.
- The DSW Finance team has also made use of WebEx to host training and has even invited staff from other regions to participate as well. One example of this was when several members of the WAPA-wide Finance community teamed up for training in June. One notable logistical aspect of this training was that the instructor split the participants into groups so that they could work in smaller teams, just like splitting up tables in a room.
These are only a few of the innovative, inclusive practices that have come to pass at WAPA during the pandemic. I hope they can provide you with insight that may benefit your own teams, and I hope you will be able to join us Nov. 18-19 to help celebrate the many ideas that make WAPA such an inclusive and innovative place to work.
Note: Brusoe is an electrical engineer and I2T Committee chair. Alexander Lindstrom contributed to this story