Our employees define who we are, what we do and how we do it. They bring values, skills, diversity and expertise to AEP that make us unique and successful. As we undergo one of the biggest transformations in the 107-year history of our company, we need a work force that is agile and ready to seize upon new opportunities. In 2012, that meant reevaluating our work force needs and making some changes.
Our industry is in the midst of a major transformation that will have long-term effects on how we run our business. In response, we conducted a study in 2012 to benchmark ourselves with our peers and with other industries. We looked at the size and skills of our work force as well as the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of processes and practices associated with many of our business units. This study allowed us to improve our efficiency by putting people in the right positions with the right skills.
We conducted a separate study of employee and retiree benefits in parallel with the repositioning study. Among the changes resulted from the study are implementation of a cap on the employer subsidy for retirees after Jan. 1, 2013, and elimination of retiree medical benefits for employees hired after Jan. 1, 2014.
Part of this process included an employee culture survey to benchmark AEP’s organizational health. The survey identified four pillars of strength:
- Employees care deeply about the company,
- Employees are committed to customer service,
Employees want to contribute to AEP’s success, and
- AEP has a strong safety culture.
The survey also identified some opportunities for improvement. In response, management identified four areas of initial focus. These include:
- Strategic alignment
- Employee engagement
- Performance recognition and accountability
Through a series of nearly 60 employee focus groups held in early 2013, we collected ideas for improvement. For example, some employees said they wanted more face-to-face communication and interaction with leaders and to better understand the interdependencies of different departments. Others asked for clearer information from management that links the company’s goals to their jobs. The focus groups were part of a larger initiative to strengthen AEP’s culture.
To encourage employee engagement in AEP’s success, we instituted the AEP Engage to Gain program in March 2013, providing a way for employees to share ideas that provide tangible and sustainable savings and additional revenues during 2013, and to share potential cash awards. Engage to Gain will take place in 2013 and gives AEP employees the opportunity to share in cash awards for ideas that are implemented and result in operations and maintenance (O&M) savings or incremental revenue over and above an overall target goal. These savings or revenue gains must be sustainable beyond 2013.
We also held 35 employee webcasts in 2012, many of them focused on the organizational restructuring process, led by CEO Nick Akins.
The AEP Now intranet site is the hub of most communications across the company. Employees visited the site approximately 9.2 million times in 2012. A popular feature of the site allows employees to post comments about corporate news, external news stories or internal blog posts. More than 3,000 employees contributed more than 15,000 comments in 2012. Written guidelines help ensure the dialogue is constructive and respectful. Employees may choose to comment anonymously to site editors or publicly share their comments with all employees.
AEP faces an aging work force, with the highest percentage of employees now between ages 45 and 54. We project that approximately 10.7 percent of our work force will retire during the next five years, but many employees will not leave until the latter part of that period. In general, employees everywhere are choosing to work longer because they are healthier and because changes to Social Security make it financially beneficial for them to do so.