When I was asked to lead the Delivery Projects and Construction Group (DP&C), and charged with developing and implementing one of the most ambitious transmission expansion programs in PSE&G's history, it was clear that the quality of the team I assembled would be critical to the program's success. I turned to the guiding principles I have always relied upon in building a “can do” organization.
The first step was to recruit a senior leadership team with outstanding individual records of accomplishment and whose leadership skills complemented my own as well as each other's. Fortunately, PSE&G had many talented executives who were eager to embrace the challenges associated with our transmission program. These leaders, along with several targeted external recruits and “rising leaders” who showed the potential to move up in the utility, provide the leadership we need today while helping to develop future leaders of our organization.
The next challenge was staffing the many positions across the range of disciplines needed. Since our program has a three- to five-year window, hiring all new permanent employees was not an option, and we found that staffing these roles with contractors created a disruptive level of turnover in some positions. Working with human resources and legal, we developed a hybrid job status providing prospective employees with more job security over the next three to five years while giving the company the ability to phase positions out as the overall program nears completion, transitioning people to other areas of the business as attrition occurs. This positioned us to attract accomplished professionals with the exact mix of skills we needed.
The Northeast workforce is among the most diverse in the country. By creating a culture in which people feel welcome regardless of their background, we've been able to attract outstanding people. Moreover, because the broader economy has displaced many experienced professionals, our openness to hiring mature professionals enabled us to recruit individuals with a unique depth of experience and the proven work ethic we value.
We look for diverse skills sets in our project teams, where engineers, licensing and permitting specialists, project managers, public affairs and legal professionals work together to create solutions that include siting, permitting and outreach strategies, procurement strategies, construction sequencing and commissioning plans.
Another challenge includes setting clear expectations and ensuring that everyone understands the mission and their role in making it happen. Our management model is project-based, so project managers and their teams play a key role in keeping projects on track and on budget, while my leadership team and I take responsibility for communicating our strategy and our “safety first, can do” culture. Given rather aggressive schedules, and because our projects require working within the uncompromising time frames of planned outages of transmission equipment, we ask a great deal from our team, particularly during our busy construction period.
We strive to promote organizational learning via a “lessons learned” module in our monthly project reviews, where project managers share their successes and challenges. This emphasizes innovative cost- and time-saving processes that are working well, and heightens awareness of problems others are encountering.
We take time to recognize excellence, celebrate accomplishments and have fun. We use a variety of vehicles, including our monthly newsletter and all-hands meetings, to recognize team and individual achievements. We hold an annual picnic. We promote working with our communities, a long-standing tradition at PSE&G. Our teamwork for the Children's Specialized Hospital (a hospital for special-needs children; PSE&G is a principal sponsor) and other fund-raising activities — from golf outings to bake sales — provide opportunities to have fun as a team while raising funds for community institutions.
We have established a unique culture in this organization. We view ourselves as a start-up company operating within a regulated utility. I make it clear that if you expect everything to be figured out for you, then this is the wrong place for you. We expect our employees to help solve the problems and challenges we face. This spirit of ownership and involvement has created a highly engaged team and is one of the key elements I want to retain in our organization.
A focus on these leadership principles has positioned DP&C to meet aggressive commitments while helping PSE&G retain its position as the most reliable utility in the Northeast for the tenth straight year, a record that is a source of pride across the company. In the process, we are building a power infrastructure that will deliver even more reliable service to our customers while positioning New Jersey to attract and retain energy-hungry businesses.
Kim Hanemann is vice president of Delivery Projects and Construction for Public Service Electric and Gas Co.