By Philip Reed
To varying degrees, the COVID-19 pandemic has made it much more difficult for WAPA employees to meet in person. Each team and region has experimented to discover the best solution that works for them, but for the All-Employee Meeting the organization needed a singular solution that could accommodate every employee at once.
The first virtual AEM was held May 13. Each speaker, participant and producer helped the meeting proceed as normally as possible from their own home.
Diving right into a production this large would not have been wise but, fortunately, Information Technology, Public Affairs and others had a few opportunities to iron out the kinks beforehand.
With the ever-changing details and implications of the pandemic, Administrator and CEO Mark A. Gabriel wanted to ensure employees could have their questions and concerns addressed. Though Public Affairs had introduced daily, WAPA-wide update emails, Gabriel understood that a town-hall format would allow individuals to have their comments heard and responded to more directly.
The first COVID-19-specific town hall event was held March 25. This was followed April 15 by a similar event specific to craft employees, as they had questions of their own, unique to their duties. A third town hall was held May 6, which featured Department of Energy Assistant Secretary Bruce Walker as a special guest.
As each of these events brought updates and answers to the employees who needed them, they were also opportunities for the meetings' organizers and producers to identify and troubleshoot problems as they arose.
This meant that by the time of the All-Employee Meeting on May 13, WAPA had experience with organizationwide online meetings and was prepared to host its biggest virtual event yet.
Program and Regulatory Advisor Ammon Danielson served as emcee, introducing the speakers throughout the event and providing the opportunity for viewers to participate in interactive polls.
Gabriel spoke first, discussing the state of WAPA and the resilience demonstrated by the organization in these unprecedented times. He also fielded employee questions that had been submitted in advance of the meeting and officially introduced Tracey LeBeau as the next Desert Southwest regional manager.
Afterward, Acting Vice President of Procurement Jerad Gaines discussed his department and Vice President of IT - Cyber Security Jim Ball spoke about how he and his team have been operating at a physical remove from the rest of WAPA.
Reliability-Centered Maintenance Program Coordinator and 2020 Inclusion, Innovation and Technology Team Chair Jackie Brusoe discussed the I2T Committee and the upcoming I2T Summit, which has a theme of “Innovation Takes Everyone in a Changing World" and will be held Nov. 19.
The meeting ended with Chief of Staff Melissa Ardis discussing the topic that was on everybody's minds: WAPA's plans for a safe return to the workplace.
Ardis assured employees that the only return that would be acceptable would be one conducive to employee health and safety, and that the plans for such are being constantly evaluated and reconsidered as the situation evolves.
Thanks in large part to the lessons that had been learned from the virtual town hall meetings, the virtual AEM was a technical success. Any problems or interruptions were ironed out behind the scenes as they arose, resulting in a smooth viewing experience for employees across WAPA's 15-state footprint.