Class act takes ‘big picture’ employee message on the road

By David Bertola

Dan Bunszell and Chris Paglia have been on the road together much of the past 15 months, teaching a course they created for National Grid electric operations staff throughout the New England service area. With school in session at our field employees’ convenience, class start time can be late afternoon – or as early as 4:30 a.m.

Dan, vice president of electric operations for New England, and Chris taught their 50th session of “How the Company Operates Financially” on Feb. 8 to overhead and underground employees in Malden, Mass. To date, just over a thousand workers have attended the sessions, which Dan and Chris offer in addition to performing their daily jobs supporting the Electric Business Unit. The two say they will keep going until all 1,440 New England electric workers have had the opportunity to take the course.

The idea took root when Dan, then director of New England North Operations and Chris as his finance business partner, realized there was an opportunity to teach operations staff about the impact that field workers have on the budget and the company. Then in 2017 an opportunity came along to have a course assembled through a Capstone Project in the Graduate Development Program.  The course, assembled by the program, aims to help employees make important big picture connections.

“With our course, we try to draw a line from the customer to the employee,” said Chris, director of business resilience and electric services.

Dan was aware of National Grid’s many employee course offerings outlining how the company operates. But those opportunities largely target management staff. “The lion’s share of my group is a unionized workforce and unable to attend any of those sessions,” he said. “Our class allows us to address a variety of topics; sometimes it means talking about transmission-related jobs or showing a rate of return to illustrate how our work is supporting the bigger picture.”

Dan Bunszell, left, and Chris Paglia teach their course in Malden, Mass. on Feb. 8.

“I’ve been here four years, and I’m glad I had the opportunity to learn more about the business and how what we do every day impacts the company and customers,” said Daniel DiGiovine, overhead line supervisor in Malden. “Dan and Chris do a great job, and I was grateful to have been in the class.”

Keith McAfee, vice president of New York electric operations, noted similar efforts have been underway upstate since 2011, as part of New York electric operations field meetings. “Over the years I’ve seen firsthand the importance of the kind of work Dan and Chris are doing,” Keith said. “Our leadership team regularly visits crew locations to provide key business updates across the 25,000 square miles we serve. We also regularly review CAPEX, O&M, rate agreements and other critical information with our field force. These meetings are invaluable for opening dialog and answering questions.”

Chris said that traveling throughout New England has provided him with a better understanding of the division because he gets to hear from those on the front lines. “Attendees are engaged and want more information,” he said. “It’s great to be able to provide knowledge that crews can learn from and use every day.”

Added Dan, “Every time we teach our course, I learn something different, whether it’s from Chris or the people in the class. It’s been a lot of fun.” He said a next step could involve tailoring their course so it could be offered to the gas side of the business.

Topics covered in “How the Company Operates Financially” include:

  • How National Grid earns profits
  • How field staff directly impact the company’s performance
  • Interpreting portions of a customer bill
  • The importance of accurate accounting
  • Defining operating expenses and capital expenses
  • Defining delivery and commodity charges
  • Describing how rates are set and various components of a rate case

 

 

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