At a recent onboarding presentation, Kristy Swegheimer asked new hires how they had first learned about Power Grid Engineering (PGE) and CE Power Engineered Services, the two subsidiaries that make up Qualus Power Services. One employee had been following PGE since attending a seminar led by the company’s CEO—five years ago. “Five years had gone by, and that person is now our employee,” says Swegheimer, the executive vice president of human resources at Qualus. “This type of story is a constant in what I do.”
The reason why such stories are so common at Qualus is due to the company’s unique approach to training and development. In her role, Swegheimer spearheads efforts to recruit new talent and to help existing employees refine their skill sets. Underlying those efforts is a companywide commitment to putting people first that Swegheimer extends not only to Qualus’s own employees, but also to talent across the power industry.
Although the power industry was new to her when she joined PGE in 2017, Swegheimer likens her current landscape to the HR outsourcing space where she got her start as a recruiter. She worked her way up to sales and management roles, until one of her financial services clients, Newport Group Inc., invited her to build out the company’s in-house recruiting team and later the full HR department.
As director of HR at Newport Group, Swegheimer helped the company navigate tremendous growth, achieved both organically and through mergers and acquisitions. The M&A growth presented Swegheimer with the challenges of preserving company culture and laying out all HR elements in advance of a deal. “The aspects that people don’t always think about, like the basic structure of benefits and the payroll, are components that make employees feel secure,” she explains.
When Swegheimer decided to leave Newport Group after eleven years, PGE proved to be a perfect fit for her. “I fell in love with the owners’ commitment to people,” she elaborates. “The culture was extremely important to them, so I knew that I could really make a contribution.”
Swegheimer’s level of contribution only increased when PGE merged with CE Power, forming Qualus Power Services, in 2018. She transitioned to the EVP at Qualus, where she now oversees an HR department serving roughly 780 employees between the subsidiaries.
But first, she needed to integrate the two companies’ HR systems and processes, drawing on her prior M&A experience to bring the halves together into a cohesive whole.
Throughout the merger, Swegheimer focused on the company’s employees––a people-first attitude that remains at the heart of Qualus’s operations. Indeed, Swegheimer’s meetings with company leadership center around the impact of changes on employees. “Every decision that we make, we think about how it will affect our people,” she says.
Putting people first has mattered all the more to Swegheimer since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. “As a company, we took a step back to regroup, assess the situation, and create a plan that would safeguard employees,” she says.
Despite the unanticipated nature of the pandemic, Swegheimer believes that Qualus implemented a successful response. The company already practiced openness in employee communications, but Swegheimer leaned in even further to keep employees in the loop as updates emerged in real time. “Our communications helped ensure that our employees felt connected,” she says. In fact, Qualus has continued to grow and gain new employees throughout COVID.
While industry training methods changed due to COVID, the demand for training and internal expertise stayed the same. QualU, the company’s training department, is an established leader in industry training, offering courses to those both internally and externally.
“Our philosophy has been to help train the industry, not just our own employees but those we work with, work for, and even compete with,” Swegheimer notes. She sees this philosophy as critical to building long-term relationships and to being seen as an organization that knows the importance of internal knowledge and continuous development.
“The trainings that our teams deliver allow the company to forge relationships with other companies in the power industry and to attract talent to Qualus based on the company’s dedication to growing employee skillsets and competency levels,” she says.
Swegheimer speaks passionately about hoping to expose more young people to the industry as part of Qualus’s work to lead talent development in the field. She also hopes to increase opportunities for current employees to step into higher-level roles as the company expands. To that end, she champions maintaining visible career paths within the company and promoting effective top-down communications to reinforce employees’ connection to Qualus’s overarching goals.
Whether reminding employees of their essential contributions to Qualus or encouraging them to take their careers to the next level, Swegheimer will always have her employees’ best interests at heart. “Our business is based on people, and people who have a strong impact in the industry,” she says. “It’s vitally important to the company and to me that our employees are taken care of.”
Through industry training for both those inside and outside of Qualus, Swegheimer is always encouraging, putting people front and center.
A dynamic HR leader, Kristy Swegheimer has an innate ability to build consensus, successfully aligning cultures and HR policies, while integrating vendor relationships and administrative platforms in pursuit of a clear mission. Marsh & McLennan Agency is pleased to partner with Kristy and Qualus in developing an employee benefits blueprint to achieve their strategic initiative goals.