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Best Workplaces 2012: Best Workplace More than 750 Employees


May 1, 2012

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HYBRIDS ARE EVERYWHERE these days, whether it’s the Prius in the parking lot or the Grapple at the supermarket. It’s no secret why they’re popular, given that they combine the best aspects of different elements to create a greater whole.

“I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do, but the management development program was a really good opportunity to apply my skill set to a number of different areas.” –Tristan Khaner, EPCOR
Photograph Aaron Pedersen/3ten

That’s a good way to describe Epcor, the Edmonton-based utility that’s transitioning out of power generation and into “water and wires,” as CEO Don Lowry puts it. After all, the publicly owned company with the governance structure of a for-profit is a hybrid of the best aspects of the private sector – entrepreneurialism, efficiency and a commitment to growth – and the public realm – generous benefits, a first-rate safety culture and shared pride and ownership.

And now, thanks to those qualities, there’s another way you can describe Epcor: as the best big workplace in Alberta.

In addition to its comprehensive Epcor School of Business, EPCOR also offers employees an after-hours personal development program that funds relevant education expenses of up to $1,500 a year for full-time employees.

Tristan Khaner, a procurement manager at Epcor, shares that assessment. He took a job at Epcor a few years ago after graduating from the University of Alberta, coming in as part of the management development program that rotates new employees through a variety of operational departments over the course of three years until they find the one that fits them best. He says it was exactly what he needed. “I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do,” he says, “but the management development program was a really good opportunity to apply my skill set to a number of different areas. That’s what I was looking for.”

Epcor offers a range of benefits, perks and incentives that are among the best in the province, but what really stands out is the culture of learning and personal development. As a result, the company has a sense of dynamism and energy that other public utilities might lack. “Despite it being a larger company that has a lot of history,” Khaner says, “the attitude isn’t dinosaur-esque. There are a lot of people that are trying to do new and different things, and that attracted me to the company.”

Bill Friedrich was attracted to the company for slightly different reasons.

He started in 1977 as a high school graduate with a background in construction and an interest in a steady job. Today, he’s the senior manager of underground for Epcor. In that role, he witnesses first-hand Epcor’s commitment to the safety of its employees. Recently, Friedrich was working with a crew that had to turn off the power of a major customer in order to make some critical repairs. The client complained and eventually the complaint found its way to Lowry’s desk. But, as befits a company that isn’t strictly bottom-line driven, Epcor stood behind its employees and the work they were doing. “Basically, [Lowry] said that safety is number one,” Friedrich says, “and that he wouldn’t put his employees at risk. That’s a big thing.”

Friedrich might be nearing the end of his journey at Epcor, but there are plenty of others who are Khaner’s age who are just beginning. And, Friedrich says, if he were in their shoes, he’d take a job at Epcor in a heartbeat. “There are opportunities galore right now.”


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