Cost Savings and Safer, Better Results at an Energy Giant

At TransAlta, facilitation skills empower employee groups to identify and solve their workplace problems.

Situation

TransAlta, one of Canada's largest non-regulated power generation and wholesale marketing companies, was shifting its strategic focus to respond to a deregulated marketplace and increased competitive pressures. According to Lyall Samaroden, Senior HR Advisor, "We're moving from being driven by operational excellence only, to an environment where we're counting our nickels and dimes, and generating revenue, while maintaining our operations focus."

According to Bob Dick, Director of Business Transformation, "Our CEO and President, Steve Snyder, asked us to design and implement an employee involvement program. PowerUp is a grass-roots process that involves people rallying to identify a work issue, working together to solve it, and then implementing the solutions they've come up with."

"It became apparent that facilitation of these PowerUp sessions was going to be essential. We had a history of asking people's opinions, but not following through properly. We saw that facilitation competence was one of our critical success factors."

Solution

TransAlta turned to Interaction Associates to develop the needed facilitation competency. 18 TransAlta employees completed Essential Facilitation™ training.

Samaroden says, "We pulled together business transformation, HR, and our Alberta thermal facility transformation team. This Interaction Associates workshop was a key turning point in helping people realize what a program like PowerUp could do for the business. Even though I helped create the program, and I already was convinced that the tools we had put in place would lead to success, seeing the effectiveness of good facilitation was extremely motivating. The light bulb went on! We saw how to walk someone through facilitated brainstorming, come up with a series of possible solutions, narrow those, build an action plan, and motivate people to take action."

Return on Involvement

Over the course of a year, TransAlta conducted 20 successful PowerUp implementations across the organization. These began immediately following the facilitation training, and included sites in Alberta, Ontario and Washington State.

"We realized significant financial returns," Samaroden reports. For example, a facilitated PowerUp session at the Alberta Thermal Plant led to significant improvement in the time it takes to conduct forced outages, when equipment is taken offline for maintenance. Samaroden says, "They shaved a number of hours, significantly reducing the duration of historically similar outages. Over the year, this equates to $353,000 annual savings to the organization." In addition, the Centralia, WA plant used a facilitated PowerUp session to address an existing safety issue and rectified a potentially hazardous situation.

Bob Dick says, "We set goals for two things: successful ideas implemented and number of people involved. There was some pressure to set a dollar savings target, but I felt the fundamental achievement in the first year would be implementing ideas and getting people engaged."

"We have had 20 PowerUps successfully implemented, with three still in progress, involving 210 distinct employees in the sessions," says Samaroden. "Overall, we've seen an increased amount of engagement in the organization, with employees taking on new accountabilities, problem-solving and recommending solutions to business issues."

IA Services Provided

  • Facilitation skill development for HR leaders
  • Essential Facilitation®

Project at a Glance

  • A 100-year-old power generation and wholesale marketing company
  • Increased ability to lead effective meetings, reach agreement, and innovate
  • Realized significant cost savings, and improved safety conditions