Building a culture of inclusion at Aqua

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. 

 

 

 

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DIY Lunchbox Ice Packs: Keeping Lunchtime Cool

 Image via Flickr user Rubbermaid

Alright, parents: the kids have finally gone back to school! The back-to-school shopping list might have seemed endless, but we’re here to arm you with some creative and resourceful DIY projects that can help your family this fall season.

 

Here are two inexpensive DIY hacks that can help you cut corners and keep your kids’ lunches cool by the time noon rolls around. Not only will these DIY ice packs help you save money for your family, but they are also fun and safe projects to do with the kids on the weekend. Get started with the steps below.

 

 

 Image via Flickr user horiavarlan 

Method 1

 

What you’ll need:

  • 1 pack of sponges
  • 1 box of sandwich bags
  • Bowl of water

What to do:

  1. Take the sponge and soak it in water, letting the sponge absorb as much water as possible.
  2. Place the sponge in the sandwich bag.
  3. Let the sponge freeze overnight.
  4. After the sponge thaws out, place it back in the freezer at the end of the day. The sponge will absorb the “melted” water and be good to go for the next day. 

 

By using sponges as a thrifty alternative to those pricey ice packs, you won’t break the bank replacing them if the ice pack is accidentally thrown away after lunch. In addition to saving money, you’ll also be conserving water by allowing the ice pack to re-absorb the water in the sandwich bag time and time again.

 

The second method is a bit more hands-on and does require the use of rubbing alcohol, so please use your discretion when working with children.

 

 

 

Method 2

 

What you’ll need:

  • 3 cups of water per pack
  • 1 cup rubbing alcohol per pack
  • Freezer bags
  • Food dye

What to do:

  1. Pour three cups of water into a freezer bag.
  2. Pour one cup of rubbing alcohol into the same bag.
  3. Add a few drops of food dye of your choice to the mixture.
  4. Shake it up!
  5. Remove the air from the bag.
  6. Place the first bag into another freezer bag to prevent leaks.
  7. Flatten the bags.
  8. Freeze.

 

This project provides longevity for your family’s ice packs. You can also personalize ice packs by letting the kids choose which color they want their ice pack to be.

 

We hope you and your loved ones have a great school year, and keep checking back here for more posts on how to save money and use water with fun, creative DIY projects the whole family can enjoy.

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In the Thick of Hurricane Season, Here are Some Reminders

With Hurricane Harvey just passing and Hurricane Irma looming, here are some reminders for hurricane preparedness:

The National Weather Service  classifies hurricane season as June 1 through November 30. Although extreme weather can be daunting, don’t panic: There are simple ways to be prepared for interruptions in water service.

Here’s what you need to know to make sure you and your family and loved ones remain safe and secure.  

Make a Hurricane Kit

If your water and power go out, chances are you will need some supplies to keep you and your family as comfortable as possible. Make sure to keep up to 72 hours worth of supplies in a safe, dry place. This includes bottled water, non-perishable food, flashlights, candles and even some fun items like decks of cards or board games. Click here for a full list compiled by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Save Water

Make sure to save water in advance of a hurricane. Pitchers, pots and bathtubs are good places to store extra water from your faucets in case water service is indeed interrupted.

How to Boil Water

Once water service is restored, Aqua will likely issue a precautionary boil advisory to ensure your water is purified and safe to use. Boiling your water before using it for drinking or cooking is a crucial step in ensuring the safety of you and your family.

Here’s a handy instructional guide:

If possible, infants and pregnant women should use bottled or stored water instead of boiled tap water for drinking and cooking during a boil advisory.

Stay Connected

Make sure to keep an eye on the following channels to ensure you receive any updates from Aqua about boil advisories or water services.

After the storm has passed, Aqua will collect water samples once service is restored and will run tests to ensure that no bacteriological contamination took place during repairs or periods of pressure loss. These laboratory tests might take a couple of days to complete.

With a stocked hurricane kit, extra water on hand and a pledge not to panic, you’re as prepared for hurricane season as one can be. Now it’s time to get back to the beach!

For additional information, reach out to our customer service representatives at 887-987-2782, or visit us at AquaAmerica.com to sign up to sign up for WaterSmart alerts.

 

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A Note of Thanks to Our Water-ful Aqua Employees

This week, we celebrated Labor Day all across the nation.

As individuals, we owe a great deal to the people whose labor allows us to live our daily lives: the carpenters who build our homes, the farmers who grow the food we eat, the technicians that let us thrive in our digital world, and many more.

As a company, we owe everything to our employees: the people who work tirelessly to allow us to fulfill our mission of protecting and providing Earth’s most essential resource to our customers.

We have three core values here at Aqua: Integrity, respect and the pursuit of excellence. 

Integrity means that Aqua is a place of honesty, good character and trust. We care about each other, our customers and our mission of protecting and providing Earth’s most essential resource. 

 

Respect means that we are committed to each other, our customers, the community and the environment. We work at a company that respects our well-being, including respect for our time out of the office and with family.

 

The pursuit of excellence means that whether at home or at work, we seek growth and development opportunities and excel in safety and customer service. We work to uphold a successful company that maximizes shareholder value. 

As we begin to wrap up the poolside days, barbeques and beach weekends of summertime, we wanted to extend a note of thanks to our employees all across our eight states of service for their commitment to these values day in and day out.

Thank you to our hardworking crew members who work in the field to ensure water service for our customers, even during emergencies and irregular hours of the day. 

Thank you to our customer service representatives who work diligently to listen and respond to our customers’ questions and concerns on a daily basis.

Thank you to our teams who work across departments ranging from human resources to operations to keep the Aqua wheels in motion every day. 

This past Monday was not the only time that your efforts were appreciated—you are appreciated every single day.

 

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Stay prepared, and stay safe

By Aqua Texas President (and resident of Houston) Bob Laughman

The devastation of Hurricane Harvey is a grim reminder that mid-August through mid-October comprises the peak hurricane season, and my heart goes out to everyone suffering in the aftermath of the storm, especially the loved ones of those who lost their lives. September marks National Preparedness Month, an opportunity for everyone to think about how to make sure you and your family are ready to weather a harsh storm or other emergency.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecasters say this hurricane season could be the most active in years. Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Brock Long said the “updated outlook underscores the need for everyone to know their true vulnerabilities to storms and storm surge. As we enter the height of hurricane season, it’s important for everyone to know who issues evacuation orders in their community, heed the warnings, update their insurance and have a preparedness plan.”

I couldn’t agree more: You have to have a plan. Aqua provides water and wastewater service to customers in coastal areas of Texas, New Jersey, North Carolina and Virginia, and a major storm can cause heavy rain and flooding anywhere. That’s why we invest in training and equipment to maintain water service or restore service as quickly as possible for our customers during a major storm. This training involves much more than how to get the water back on; it emphasizes the safest ways for our employees to do their jobs as they deal with flooding, high winds, downed electrical lines and uprooted trees.

Although many of our systems remained powered and in full operation during Harvey, power outages can disrupt the routine operations of delivering clean, safe drinking water and our ability to treat and pump wastewater. Aqua has a network of mobile power generators that we can deploy where we need them to keep our customers’ tap water flowing when power is disrupted. We’ve also taken steps to ensure a reliable fuel supply for this equipment during periods of peak weather challenges. These generators aren’t just your average portable unit that sits in a truck bed. They’re some of the industry’s most modern, adaptable equipment with quick connection features that work in a variety of situations and locations.

During Harvey, I’ve seen some inspiring teamwork by the Aqua family. We’ve got folks for whom getting to work is literally impossible, and that’s when other employees stepped up to make sure they were covering for their teammates to ensure continued service. I thank them for their dedication.

Aqua is an active participant in TXWARN, the Texas Water/Wastewater Agency Response Network. This network’s database enables Aqua and other water utilities to find and share equipment and personnel to help each other continue to provide service during emergencies.

We also prepare by knowing in advance how we can contact our customers quickly during a water service emergency. Aqua customers everywhere should sign up for WaterSmart Alerts at AquaAmerica.com or 877.987.2782.  You can choose how you’d like us to contact you in an emergency: by phone, email or text message.

Throughout the summer, we’ve shared these tips about how you and your family can prepare when you think you might lose water service during and after a storm:

  • Save water for essential use in advance of a potential water outage and consider filling bathtubs, buckets, large pots and pitchers. Any water collected in a non-potable container (bathtubs, previously used buckets, etc.) should be boiled before consuming it.
  • When water service is restored after an outage, Aqua might issue a precautionary boil advisory until water samples can be tested to ensure that water quality has not been compromised. Bring water to a rolling boil, let it boil for one to two minutes to ensure any harmful bacteria is destroyed, then let it cool before using it. We’ll let you know when it’s okay to drink the water without boiling it first.

You can learn more about how to prepare for a hurricane and other emergencies at Ready.gov.

Aqua will continue to support our employees and the communities we serve here in Texas as we get through this crisis together and begin to rebuild. I hope you and your family are safe.

 

 

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