HOW ENERPLUS HR EXECUTIVE LISA OWER TURNED AROUND A CORPORATE CULTURE BESET BY AN IDENTITY CRISIS, MICROMANAGEMENT AND A COMMUNICATIONS BREAKDOWN
When Lisa Ower arrived at Enerplus in early 2014, she was presented with a formidable challenge. After all, she was entering a workplace that lacked a clear identity, faced a communications gap at both the executive and managerial levels and had a mediocre level of employee engagement. Worst of all, perhaps, its senior managers were floundering amid a hostile culture of micromanagement and a general feeling that they were unequipped with the tools and strategies they needed to lead.
In her initial interview, Ower pressed the CEO on what specific trait or ability he was seeking in Human Resources. The answer: He was looking for an injection of “awesome” – passion and innovation and forward-thinking – and it just so happens that “awesome” is precisely what Ower delivers.
What does that mean in the context of an oil and gas company’s HR department? For Ower, who has a master’s degree in psychology, it means having the ability to assess individuals, hone in on their needs, identify which skills and abilities have been underused and create a space where each person feels empowered to engage, experiment and grow. She doesn’t try to determine what makes every person tick. Instead, Ower works to identify what needs to change in order for a whole workplace to click. It’s this grasp of how to best enable individuals, in combination with a firm belief in collaboration, consultation and data-driven decision making, which allowed her to successfully overhaul Enerplus’s outdated culture and replace it with a modern, collaborative work environment. That meant some major changes to what had been a conventional white-collar workplace. For example, trust became a leading tenet of the new culture, and so it seemed counterintuitive to continue imposing an exhaustive set of employee rules. Policing attire, for instance, was not suggestive of mutual trust, so the workplace dress code was shelved.
Under Ower’s guidance, Enerplus moved away from the traditional vacation policy, instead embracing a results-oriented strategy called OURtime that encouraged employees to pursue a healthier work-life balance through day-to-day flexibility. Under this system, the number of hours worked were no longer the focus. Instead, it was all about the quality of the results that those hours yielded. When