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Tuesday, March 12, 2019
NiSource’s Teresa Smith, Eva Birt Deliver Ohio State University Keynote on Keeping and Attracting Talent
Eva Birt and Teresa Smith at Ohio State University's Operational Excellence event

It's tough enough to compete for workforce talent across the seven states in which NiSource operates, but it's even more difficult when the net is cast even wider. Eva Birt, manager of talent acquisition, and her team compete with the likes of Apple and Boeing at recruiting events across the country.

Yet, we still count some of the best and brightest minds among our 8,000 employees.


Birt and Teresa Smith, vice president, shared services operations, recently shared some insight into how we are innovating to hire, retain and develop talent during Ohio State University's Center for Operational Excellence event. Before more than 100 attendees from some of Ohio's most well-known companies, Birt and Smith’s keynote outlined the struggles and triumphs of modern-day talent management.

Here are some of the highlights:

Culture rules all

Company culture is an important aspect for prospective employees. From the office to the field, safety permeates our culture. Smith reiterates the NiSource policy of pulling your vehicle through a parking spot so often that her daughter, upon learning to drive in a lot, instinctively said, “Pull through for safety!"

Birt highlighted the company's thirst for continuous learning: "Even employees who have spent decades here know there's plenty yet to discover. This kind of culture fosters a workforce that's proud of what the company and industry does, and we've focused recent efforts on those who wish to be ambassadors to both."

Eva Birt addressing the audience at Ohio State University's Operational Excellence event

Emphasis on diversity

It's important to build and maintain the infrastructure needed to attract and keep talent. Birt described how NiSource builds a broader network by establishing relationships with inclusion and diversity recruiting firms and historically black colleges and universities. Additionally, important company initiatives include creating and encouraging employee resource groups and ensuring that interview rooms for prospective employees hold diverse representation.

Customers' shifting expectations

Utilities can no longer rest on their laurels. Customers see what other companies are doing – utilities and otherwise – and expect us to do the same. They want it all with minimal impact to their bill, Smith said. To meet customer expectations, we need to retain knowledgeable, talented employees and ensure smooth transitions when they decide to leave or retire. NiSource's retention practices include on-the-job coaches, knowledge transfer and phased retirement options.

No longer keeping our success a secret 

Members of the Ohio State Center of Operational Excellence will tour the Columbia Gas Training Center in Ohio next month. These kinds of tours were not a common occurrence until recently, but their reputational impact has proven important.

“In years past, we almost never invited people in to see what we do. It was almost like a secret recipe," said Birt, who has been with NiSource for 15 years. “It's great that we are now inviting more people in to learn about what we do."