At Ameren, commitment to diversity starts at the top
This company raises the bar for its employees. Resource groups must commit to a mission, and employees are rewarded for awareness innovation
Ameren Corporation is a Fortune 500 energy company. It owns a diverse mix of electric generation plants, which it calls “energy centers,” in Missouri and Illinois. Ameren serves 2.4 million electric customers in the two states, and delivers natural gas to more than 900,000 customers. More than half of its workforce is made up of engineers, technicians and IT professionals.
“Degreed engineers work in our energy centers, in our divisional headquarters, and in many planning and design groups in our corporate headquarters,” reports Betsy Miller, managing supervisor of workforce planning and development. “We employ electrical, mechanical, civil, nuclear and petroleum engineers. We look for engineers with degrees from an ABET-accredited program. For experienced engineers, we look for specialized experience, for example, substation or power engineering.”
Most IT professionals work at corporate headquarters, she notes, although a few work in other locations to support specific business segments.
Ameren’s need for engineers is significantly greater now than in past years, and shows no signs of abating. “In one of our business segments, last year alone we hired three times as many engineers than in the previous ten years,” says Miller.
“We are always looking for engineering talent. We anticipate several retirements over the next few years in technical positions and are actively identifying prospective candidates in advance of those exits.”
Finding and cultivating new talent
“Workforce diversity and inclusion are important to us. We spend a lot of time cultivating relationships with minority and women-based student organizations on campuses,” Miller says. “We have a fulltime recruiter whose focus is our intern and co-op programs; these outreach efforts fall into her area.”
Ameren’s intern program offers fulltime employment during the summer, usually from May to mid-August. Students may also co-op full time during one semester plus a summer break, a stretch of about eight months.
“Last year we held a networking event for minority and women engineering students to meet our hiring managers and leadership. We also offer scholarships at one of the universities from which we recruit.
“All these efforts have brought a dramatic increase in the diversity of our intern and co-op students, who fill our pipeline for entry-level positions in engineering, strategic sourcing and supply chain,” Miller says.
Ameren’s outreach includes involvement with professional organizations, including the National Society of Black Engineers, the Society of Women Engineers, and the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers.
“For some skilled craft and technical positions, we hold information sessions for individuals referred to us by community-based organizations or our employees,” Miller adds. “Participants learn more about us and our workplace as well as the selection process. This is another way we increase the diversity of our candidate pool and resulting hires.”
Ameren has a high school outreach program in which employees at various levels of management and HR, plus skilled tradespeople and engineers, engage with students to introduce them to careers in the industry. The company also supports the national STEM pre-engineering education program Project Lead the Way (www.pltw.org) at several high schools in its service area.
Diversity and inclusion on the job
Ameren’s approach to diversity is somewhat unusual, Miller says. “When our chief diversity officer came on board several years ago, we started engaging all our employees in diversity awareness training. We made the deliberate decision to have that training developed and run by our employees.
“An elaborate process for selecting diversity facilitators included identifying them and developing what their diversity programs would look like. When people came into diversity training, the sessions were delivered by people with whom they worked.
“Supervisors go through additional diversity awareness training periodically,” Miller emphasizes. “We use videos that our internal employee communications group created based on topics submitted by the diversity facilitators. They used real employees, along with a few actors, to dramatize them. People recognized colleagues in the videos and it was a great way to engage employees.”
Diversity and inclusion are also part of employee performance appraisals. “Diversity issues, along with safety, are taking more prominent roles than they had in the past,” Miller notes.
Each of Ameren’s six employee resource groups (ERGs) commits to a mission and an annual strategic business plan. The plan identifies how the ERG will support Ameren’s business goals and objectives. Each ERG does community outreach and educates and engages employees. The groups focus on employees who are veterans, minorities, disabled, LGBT, multi-generational, and women.
Ameren rewards diversity
“Our commitment to diversity is something that our CEO Tom Voss has emphasized,” says Miller. “Because of its importance in our corporate culture, we have an annual diversity award in his name given to employees who go above and beyond in their commitment to diversity.
“A recent award was given to two employees who worked on a computer-based training module focusing on intergenerational differences in the workplace. They did it on their own time and made it available to all employees to highlight a greater understanding of the five generations or so that we have in our workplace right now.” In October 2013, Ameren will hold its first Diversity Festival, a family day of celebration, at its St. Louis headquarters campus.
||St Louis, MO
||$6.8 billion (2012)
||Electricity generation, transmission and distribution, and natural gas transmission and distribution in Missouri and Illinois