The Cheers from Peers program is a new initiative of CPHR Alberta as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. This year has been unprecedented, to say the least, and our HR professionals have not only had to keep up with this ever-changing world but exceeded all expectations. This program recognizes members for their commitment to HR and for their dedication to their organization and community.
The CPHR Alberta Cheers from Peers program recognizes Meghan Stuart!
I have the good fortune of working with incredible people at ATCO Structures and our broader ATCO Group. So when a wise person in our business engaged our PCT (Pandemic Coordination team) in late January (yes, January!), we may have chuckled about the necessity then, but we trusted our colleagues and pulled out our pages long Business Continuity Plans. Around this same time, I began to lead the HSE team (Health, Safety & Environment), which is a new area for me, but one where I see many similarities to how we support the business in Human Resources. Collectively, we buckled down and spent February talking about the long shot odds of the pandemic actually coming our way and what we would need to do. While no amount of planning on paper could have prepared us for what eventually came, we were as well positioned as reasonably possible, when cases of COVID-19 started to pop-up in North America.
During the height of the early pandemic, mid-March through April, the uncertainty could have been paralyzing. We were faced with how to keep critical operations going, how to rapidly stand others down, getting people set up to work remotely, determining wage continuance for those who were symptomatic, and triaging those with additional risk factors or circumstances that required them to isolate; all on top of doing our day jobs, while carrying a smile on our faces.
In my own personal situation, I have three young children who were all of a sudden home all day and fighting for bandwidth to get into Google meets, all while I took up real estate at the dining room table. We cancelled our spring vacation, and the long days began. My husband, working from the other end of the table, took over role of teacher and had the kids deliver me snacks and meals as I was glued to my computer and phone. I shared a “sanity moment” at one of our calls early on, where people saw my great virtual background (usually my happy place of Kalamalka Lake) and then my actual background, which included my three kids doing loud and messy activities all around me while I tried to host a pandemic update. This firsthand experience really stressed to me the importance of patience and kindness with one another.
Yet somehow from our homes and distanced work locations, we pulled together in the chaos and saw incredible commitment to supporting one another through the pandemic. One of our guiding principles across our broader HR team is “Progress over Perfection” and this has never been more relevant. Compensation and Labour Relations moved swiftly to navigate various government subsidies, programs, and peer group protocols. Our LR team also had to quickly work with unions on handling absences and rapid layoffs and recalls. Our Talent Management team launched SharePoint sites for virtual onboarding and housing critical content on the pandemic, and they backstopped our broader protocols.
The collective effort carried on as communications created a global COVID alert email series to quickly share information; HRIS & Analytics rapidly created mass reports and abilities to track global absences; Benefits worked to minimize disruption to plan coverage; our Employee Resource Centre processed numerous leaves, recalls, requests for ROEs, and answered so many questions; our Disability team provided caring support to many anxious and impacted employees; individuals translated documents into various languages for our workforce; our Health & Safety teams became pandemic experts and built protocols into our everyday safe operating procedures; our HR Business Partners touched all of this and more as we supported the frontline, including doing so with a brave face when we weren’t yet 100% certain ourselves; our leaders demonstrated a high level of courage and agility as they navigated operating in these circumstances. And as I’m a big proponent of communication, we kicked off Leaders Updates, made posters and resources for employees in multiple languages and hosted regular pandemic meetings within ATCO Structures.
Fast forward nine months, and I couldn’t be more proud of the efforts we’ve all put in. As you can see, it really was collaboration at it’s finest, which is why I am so humbled with the nomination of Cheers from Peers, as I feel my part was just a small one in keeping the momentum for our team going.
Aside from my family having adversary reactions to my cell phone ring that they heard a little too often, we are otherwise safe and I can say that we’ve made the best of a strange, hopefully once-in-a-lifetime, situation.
To all of those I work with at ATCO, and to all of you in similar positions elsewhere, cheers to you as well for shining in these moments!