New North: Three New North firms honored with 2017 Workplace Excellence Award

Annual award recognizes improved competitive advantage through people practices

NEW NORTH – Three firms in the 18-county New North region – American Transmission Company (ATC), Expera Specialty Solutions and Werner Electric Supply – have been honored as recipients of the ninth annual New North Workplace Excellence Award. Presentation of the awards was made at the Dec. 7 New North Summit in Green Bay.

A collaborative presentation between New North Inc. and Right Management, the prestigious award recognizes organizations in the region which are improving their competitive advantage through people practices that lead to successful business results. Businesses are measured on employee engagement, business outcomes and overall success.

In announcing the 2017 winners, Lisa Smith of Right Management saluted them for a continual pursuit of workplace excellence in the New North. Though three diverse organizations, she said that each demonstrates best-in-class people practices.

American Transmission Company, with an office in De Pere, is the first interstate, transmission-only electric utility in the United States. Operational since 2001, today it owns, operates and maintains more than 9,540 miles of transmission lines and 545 substations in four Midwest states.

Within the dynamic electric-utility industry, there is an uncertain landscape due to changes in public policy, environmental regulations and a competitive marketplace. Using a group of nearly three dozen employees, ATC developed 10 strategic initiatives to assure future success; more than 135 employees now are working on these initiatives.

ATC also has used employee feedback to improve its award and recognition programs. Recognition is given employee to employee, by leaders to note significant employee accomplishments, for outstanding teamwork, to employees who influence others through words and actions, to outstanding mentors, for living company values and for community involvement. Results have included best-in-class customer satisfaction ratings and a 2016 voluntary turnover rate of 2 percent.

Expera Specialty Solutions, located in Kaukauna, is North America’s largest specialty paper manufacturer headquartered in Wisconsin. Its products are utilized in the tape, pressure-sensitive release liner, industrial and food packaging industries.

Expera Specialty Solutions was formed in 2013 following the merger of the Thilmany Papers and Wausau Specialty Paper mills in Wisconsin, which created significant change. Employee turnover and retention became problematic as key resources expressed no desire to deal with the challenges of the integration. Additionally, the marketplace was filled with uncertainty as customers feared monopolization of specialty paper supply.

Expera implemented Level Boards at its four plant locations to monitor and track results. The results were improvement in: Safety, with a Total Incident Rate reduction of 42 percent year-over-year; Quality, with a 28-percent reduction in customer credits; New Product Development, showing 18.5 percent growth in 2016; and On-Time Service Delivery, with improvement to 98.5 percent in 2016. In addition, its employee turnover rate is 37 percent below the industry average and customer-satisfaction surveys improved in nine of 12 areas.

Werner Electric Supply, headquartered in Appleton, provides automation, electrical and data-communication products and services to industrial, commercial and construction customers. It employs nearly 450 people in 13 Midwest locations.

Werner was recognized for its commitment to open and transparent communication, encouraging employees to continually give feedback regarding company culture and employee satisfaction. Engagement surveys also are utilized to measure employees on intangible topics, which are acted upon by management with subsequent updates.

More than 75 employees have taken part in Werner Leadership Academy, a comprehensive professional development program for company leaders. Werner additionally develops individualized succession plans for outgoing and retiring employees and their replacements. The company’s flexible work accommodations also were noted.

Recent winners of the New North Workplace Excellence Award have included Oshkosh Corporation (2015) and Foth (2016).