Culture shift: TransAlta’s award-winning rewards and recognition strategy

TransAlta's Tawnie Dahl on shifting a culture results to recognition

Culture shift: TransAlta’s award-winning rewards and recognition strategy

At this year’s 10th annual Canadian HR Awards, energy company TransAlta received an Excellence Award for Best Rewards and Recognition Strategy. Canadian HR Reporter TV’s Sarah Dobson sat down with Tawnie Dahl, TransAlta’s Director of Executive Compensation & Total Rewards, to discuss the strategies her team has implemented as part of a major culture transformation.

In recent years TransAlta underwent a major business transformation when it transitioned from traditional sources of energy to more renewable, clean energy sources. Because of that fundamental shift, the company acknowledged that a bigger-picture change would be necessary as well.

“We deliberately evaluated the culture of the company at that time, and our CEO knew that we required a shift in our culture to be successful,” said Dahl. “When we took a look at our existing culture at the time, five-plus years ago, we were really, really focused on order and results. We were a highly interdependent culture, with a really strong orientation on predictability, caution, and planning.”

Culture transformation shift to a purposeful mission

By reorienting values to be centred around experimentation, creativity, learning and engagement TransAlta has been working on creating an “outcome-based, purposeful culture” focused on individual contributions, and experimentation.

“In 2021, we created a new Total Rewards team, to really focus on understanding how to compete for employees in the renewable energy business,” said Dahl. “We needed to attract a different skill set, and frankly, a different generation of employees with different needs and desires than our traditional workforce had seen.”

This team was tasked with creating reward and recognition programs to specifically attract and support that “new workforce,” Dahl said, with an emphasis on engagement and culture transformation.

“We really felt that this change in culture would drive our strategic success, and enable the changes that we needed to achieve our clean energy plan,” she said.

A highlight for Dahl’s team is the Boost program, which gives a small pot of “Boost Bucks” to employees each quarter to spend on peer-to-peer recognition based on their cultural transformation “pillars”. Recipients get to exchange their bucks for gift cards at retailers such as Amazon.

“We have been hugely successful, with 92% participation in the program – so that means 92% of our employees are either sending or receiving awards in the program. And we have maintained that 92% participation all the way through, right up until current,” Dahl said. “We think that the ability for all employees to easily thank and reward their peers and colleagues … it's really been the recipe for success with the generation of employees that we're trying to attract.”

To hear the more about TransAlta’s award-winning employee engagement strategies, watch the whole interview here.

Recent articles & video

Western province announces minimum wage boost

Immigration streams exploited by low-wage employers: AFL

Report: Canadian workers with disabilities outline challenges at work

Experts call for standardized approach to training on MDMA-assisted psychotherapy

Most Read Articles

CRA reviewing benefits of 200,000 Canadians

Human Rights Tribunal awards highest damages ever for workplace sexual harassment

Western province announces minimum wage boost