Brent Poarch pulled up to the security gate at CAP Headquarters, glancing around at his new place of employment. It was all new and unfamiliar. He picked up the call box phone and explained to the security officer on the other end that it was his first day at CAP. He found the signs that directed him to the front desk entrance.
For CAP’s newest relay electrician, this first day on the job was unlike any other. He was hired during the COVID-19 pandemic, which meant he’d applied online and interviewed through WebEx; he’d never met his boss or new co-workers in person.
“I went through two virtual interviews and was hired without ever physically meeting anyone or coming to Headquarters,” said Poarch.
Human Resources Manager Stephanie Lee said COVID-19 changed many things in CAP’s hiring and new employee orientation process; however, the focus remains the same: CAP’s mission to reliably deliver water to Arizona.
In mid-March, many employees who could effectively work remotely were sent home to work to ensure everyone’s health and safety. Recruitment stopped temporarily, but a few months later returned to the full recruitment process, with several modifications. All interviews are done virtually, as is new employee orientation.
“At first, people were really reluctant to do everything virtually, but the overwhelming feedback is that it’s working,” said Lee. “It’s not something we want to do forever, but because of situation, it’s allowing us to get people hired and keep the water flowing, and keep our current employees safe.”
Poarch isn’t the only new employee who started during the pandemic. Receptionist Nikki Martinson spent about an hour at Headquarters on her first day, working with Information Technology staff to get her all the equipment she needed to return home so she could start working. Planning Supervisor Matt Smith started the same day; however, he and his team remained working onsite, protecting themselves and others by wearing face coverings and practicing social distancing.
Despite the pandemic, Smith said this experience wasn’t that different from other places, with the exception of the dispersed workforce.
“My manager and entire team are on-site,” said Smith. “But because so many others are working from home, it’s an extremely productive environment without many distractions.”
The opposite side of that benefit is missing the in-person contact and getting to truly understand the people who make up the organization.
“The biggest challenge is just getting to know all the different people and departments without meeting them,” said Martinson. “It’s hard to connect to a piece of paper with bunch of names and titles; that’s only one piece of the info, you really need the in-person connection.”
The ongoing impact to Poarch’s work has been minimal. He meets with the entire team at the beginning of the week and then hits the road for a work week that minimizes contact with other crews.
All of those hired during COVID say the pandemic has created a slower pace, one that is less stressful than most new employee experiences. But they look forward to returning to “normal” and meeting more of their CAP co-workers in person.
One thing is for sure: CAP has focused on reliably delivering water while ensuring the safety of all employees.