Developing Our Employees
Transformational change requires a more progressive and thoughtful approach in how we train, develop and retain employees. This includes identifying new ways to work and reinventing how people, automation, and technology work together.
AEP provides development opportunities for employees at every level, whether through mentoring programs or educational assistance.
As jobs begin to change, so do the skillsets needed, experience required and knowledge necessary to remain competitive. New technologies, changes in the way we are regulated, our sharpened focus on the customer experience, and competition for a skilled workforce are all factors that are shaping our industry. Our goal is to prepare our company and workforce for those changes so that we are aligned with our future strategy. AEP provides a broad range of training and assistance that supports lifelong learning and transition development. This is especially important as we move toward a more digital future that requires a more flexible, innovative and diverse workforce.
As AEP focuses on the customer experience, we want our employees to have the necessary tools, technologies and training needed to be successful. One example of how we are preparing our employees to deliver an exceptional customer experience is through newly created frontline training. All of our Customer Operations Associates are receiving training to help guide conversations, tackle hard issues and adapt to a range of customers’ communication styles. As we look to move away from a transactional type of relationship with our customers, this multifaceted training is critical to preparing our employees for the skills we need now and in the future.
To develop a talent pipeline for our future workforce needs, AEP has training alliances with various community colleges, universities and vocational and technical schools across our 11-state service territory. We work with these institutions to develop academic programs needed to prepare employees for upward mobility opportunities and to attract external job seekers interested in careers in our industry. Our education partners include The Ohio State University, Columbus State Community College, Mid-East Career & Technical Center, Texas State Technical College, Morgan State University, Tennessee State University and Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology, among many others.
Our knowledge and skills development strategy is accomplished through our processes for ongoing performance coaching, operational skills training, resources to support our commitment to environment, safety and health, job progression training, tuition assistance, and other forms of training that help employees improve their skills and become better leaders. In 2017, AEP employees completed nearly 1 million hours of training, as tracked in our corporate-wide learning management system.
There are many training programs that are not tracked but account for significant additional hours of essential training to keep employees safe, remain in compliance with laws and regulations, and provide important refreshers of critical skills. For example, new employees in our Call Centers receive 7 weeks of training, while a program in Transmission, called Cross Exposure, provides an immersive learning experience for employees outside of their work group or department. The goal is for experiential learning to take place which enhances the employee’s contribution as well as giving them an opportunity to add value to another department.
AEP also provides development opportunities for employees at every level, whether through informal professional development opportunities, AEP’s educational assistance program or formal targeted development plans. Several of AEP’s AEP’s Employee Resource Groups and utility professional groups, such as Women’s International Network of Utility Professionals (WiNUP), sponsor programs and events that focus on employee education, career advancement, and personal and professional development.
A more formal program, called Targeted Development, provides specific opportunities for employees who exhibit the desire and long-term potential for success in higher leadership roles within the company. The programs provide AEP with an ongoing talent pool for future leadership opportunities and ensure we have the right talent to lead the organization in the future. In 2017, approximately 140 employees participated in targeted development programs across the company. Rotational and mentoring programs are available within some of our business units as well.
For example, the Regulatory Rotational Consultant Program provides an opportunity for employees to gain exposure to multiple departments within AEP’s regulatory division. As employees complete projects, they learn about different industry activities and gain a better understanding about the state and federal jurisdictions and standards under which our companies operate. This allows employees to use this knowledge and experience to be more effective in achieving AEP’s goals in today’s complex regulatory environment.
AEP provides education assistance for all active, full-time employees. In 2017, AEP provided a total of $1,915,561 in tuition assistance, supporting more than 1,000 employees in their pursuit of higher education.