How Hydro Ottawa unlocks the full value of its millennial workforce

Local utility named one of Canada’s 2018 Top Employers for Young People for fifth consecutive year

For decades, it was widely assumed by most organizations that the process of onboarding new, younger hires largely involved a one-way transfer of knowledge: Junior staff would learn from an organization’s more senior staff. What that model overlooks, however, is the potential for long-term employees to learn from newer hires.

Hydro Ottawa is one such organization that sees the full value of what younger employees can bring to the utility. As part of its Diversity and Inclusion Plan, the utility is committed to hiring from a broad cross section of society – including its younger generations.

“Once we’ve got youth within our organization, we want them to contribute to meaningful work,” says Cindy Newell, Hydro Ottawa’s Director of Organizational Development.

Investing in the next generation

Jeff Bradford, 30, is one of Hydro Ottawa’s youngest leaders. As the supervisor of distribution operations, a position he has held for the last year, he oversees a team of journeypersons who install underground electrical infrastructure around the city. Bradford’s team is typically tasked with ensuring that new developments, including the incoming light-rail line, are connected to the power grid.

The job is critical to the utility’s operations, and the lives of Bradford’s nine team members rest in his hands when they’re out in the field.

“The approach used to be to promote people based on service,” says Bradford. “Now, it’s based on your work ethic, your experience and what you bring to the table.”

Having recently celebrated his 10-year anniversary with Hydro Ottawa, Bradford attributes his ability to attain this supervisory role to the mentorship he has received through his employer. He was selected as part of an internal advancement program, which sees promising young employees groomed to move into leadership roles.

Youth validation

Hydro Ottawa has a Youth Council, composed of millennial employees that helps ensure the organization’s youngest voices are heard. The Council meets quarterly, with President and CEO Bryce Conrad as executive sponsor, and creates extensive opportunities for younger employees to network, both within and outside of Hydro Ottawa.

Younger employees are also encouraged to have a voice in other areas of Hydro Ottawa’s operations. Youth make up 17 per cent of members across the utility’s working groups. These measures ensure decisions that affect the entire Hydro Ottawa workforce aren’t only being made from the top-down. They also serve as an example of how the organization invests in the development of its younger employees.

To keep new talent flowing into the company, Hydro Ottawa also offers five apprenticeship programs. At present 21 per cent of the company’s trades workforce is composed of apprentices. And the efforts to employ more youth are paying off for Hydro Ottawa.

The utility was recently announced as one of Canada’s 2018 Top Employers for Young People for the fifth consecutive year. The award is presented each year by the Canada’s Top 100 Employers project and recognizes organizations that serve as leaders in attracting and retaining younger employees.