By Aqua Talent Acquisition and Diversity Lead Satnaree Brandon
“Excuse me, miss, do you work at Aqua?” said a voice breaking me from the trance of my iPhone while commuting on the regional rail one morning.
“Yes, I do. Can I help you?” I asked, unsure if I was about to speak to a customer.
“You spoke to my son at a job fair two months ago. I can’t express how much it meant to me that you spent time with him asking him questions about his resume, coaching and engaging him in conversation,” she said
I braced myself for a long conversation with a doting mother, then I quickly remembered speaking with the woman and her son, who happened to be visually impaired, two months before. I handed them both my business card, which includes braille text, and encouraged her son to follow up with me if he was interested in applying for a job.
As the diversity lead at Aqua America, part of my job is to help pave our way as an employer of choice that values diversity and inclusion in the utility industry, which is not necessarily known for this. Speaking to a person who is visually impaired at a job fair might not seem significant, but I had conveyed to this young man and his mother that Aqua is a welcoming place to work, we are inclusive, and we place great value on you as an individual.
In traditional terms, growing a diverse workforce means that Aqua seeks to hire and promote a variety of people, regardless of ethnicity, nationality, gender or gender identification, sexual orientation, age, background or ability. But beyond building a diverse company, Aqua is looking to be an inclusive company, with a supportive and respectful environment where all employees can achieve their full potential.
Regardless of color or creed, it is human nature to seek out an inclusive workplace. Fair treatment, equal access to opportunity and feeling welcomed as a teammate who belongs there help to build a happy and engaged group of employees. When we talk about inclusion, we are talking about how we make the mix of differences come together and have meaning, with the ultimate goal to provide everyone a seat at the table.
Aqua understands that building a culture of inclusion requires representation of diversity at all levels of the organization, and Aqua’s approach has been to build this from the top down. While 20 percent of our leadership at the vice president level and above is female, which is uncommon for our industry, we are also working to ensure a similar collection of diverse outlooks throughout the rest of the company.
But our goals extend beyond making sure we hire women, veterans, minorities, or any other specific group. It’s about transforming Aqua’s recruitment and retention strategy to ensure that we recruit, train, retain and promote engaged, passionate employees who will flourish. In taking initial steps to realize this vision, Aqua is exploring partnerships with diversity organizations to build a talent pipeline specific to diversity. We’re also actively participating in career forums, attending young professional networking events, partnering with veterans coalitions to engage, hire and support transitioning veterans to civilian life, and encouraging mentor relationships with the senior leadership team.
While I’m at the beginning of my tenure with Aqua – only nine months in this role – I am encouraged by senior leadership’s belief that diversity and inclusion is an essential aspect of our company’s culture as we continue to grow. I always say that if you build an inclusive culture they will come, and I look forward to updating you in the coming months on the progress we’re making to transform our company.