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A First Time Attendee's Perspective
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2015 Winter Conference: A First Time Attendee's Perspective
Written by: Shilo Terek, Employee Concerns Investigator, Pacific Gas and Electric Company's Diablo Canyon Power Plant and NAECP Communications Committee Member

As a new member of the Employee Concerns (EC) profession, I was anxiously awaiting the NAECP Winter Conference as a means to connect with other EC investigators and coordinators in the industry to learn best practices, share scenarios and get a general feel for what others are doing. This conference provided that opportunity and more.

My experience began with a First Time Attendee gathering on Tuesday morning, which was an opportunity to meet with members from the NAECP Board and other first timers that ranged from 20-year veterans to individuals that "got the call" to attend the week before. The first timers were paired with a mentor to assist in navigating the event. Each board member was asked to provide some advice on how to get the most out of the experience. The bottom line? Network. "The sessions are good but the networking is great," said Lori Hayes, Employee Concerns Program Manager for Duke Energy. I would soon find that she was right in both assertions.

Mike Headrick, NAECP Chair and EC Consultant, kicked off the formal plenary session by thanking the sponsored, which included Day & Zimmermann, Dominion, MISTRAS and NEXTera Energy and turned it over to Mike Wilson, NAECP President and Lead for BP's Global Business Integrity Division, who emphasized that, "NAECP is a member run organization. Every comment you make is reviewed and acted on."

The first guest speaker was Mano Nazar, Chief Nuclear Officer for NextEra, who clearly linked the work that EC programs carry out to the bottom line financials of an organization. He said, "Two major drivers of cost are poor plant operations and poor employee engagement." Poor engagement leads to things such as rework and “bare minimum” mentality. The EC program helps to foster an environment where employees are empowered to be actively engaged in the business of nuclear. His advice is to, "…focus on prevention, detection and correction."

Professor of Legal and Ethical Studies Marianne Jennings closed out the morning session with an eye opening presentation on ethics. Professor Jennings is an expert in the area of business ethics and has authored hundreds of articles in academic, professional and trade journals. Her presentation gave a lot of perspective on how the ethical barometer has changed over time and the bar for which people measures right and wrong is lowering. The questions she asked that you should be asking: 1) How often do you talk about performance? 2) How often do you talk about ethics? I'd venture to say that you are discussing performance – directly or indirectly – at your facility daily. (i.e. Take a moment to review that INPO index or other performance indicator.) Now take a moment to reflect on the last time you evaluated ethics and behaviors with the same emphasis. It was certainly an interesting point and a message I have been reflecting on since.

From there the group broke for lunch and continued the afternoon with a series of focus tracks ranging from "ECP at a Decommissioning Site" to "Social Media and ECP." The tracks were designed to benefit a range of different experience and interest levels. Most of the session presentations can be viewed here - Winter 2015 Materials.

Day two kicked off with an interactive plenary session focused on Executive Review Boards (ERB). An ERB is generally made up of upper level executives alongside human resource professionals and legal to assist in termination or other significant disciplinary actions. The idea is to evaluate and prevent any potential HIRD or Chilling Effect issues associated with the discipline. Many EC programs have an auxiliary role in the process and this session served as a means to share best practices on how EC can best integrate into the ERB. Visit the NAECP website for some sample ERB guidelines - Click Here.

After lunch attendees again had a choice of focus tracks in the afternoon. A couple dozen of us began an Employee Concerns Program Investigator Training course offered by National Inspection and Consultants, Inc. The two and half day interactive course included lectures, procedure and report examples, case studies and hands-on exercises to help us be better prepared when performing investigations and working with concerned individuals.

All and all the conference provided this first timer an invaluable avenue to meet other EC professionals, gain ideas and examples, and create relationships that I can lean on in the future to better serve my customers and my facility - plus the food wasn't bad either.

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