Lessons in Connections

Andrea Goertz is helping TELUS’s employees work from home, and she’s building better offices for those who still commute

“We’ve been able to save $40 million a year with about 60 percent of our team members working on a mobile basis.” —Andrea Goertz, Senior VP, Strategic Initiatives, Chief Communication & Sustainability Officer
“We’ve been able to save $40 million a year with about 60 percent of our team members working on a mobile basis.” —Andrea Goertz, Senior VP, Strategic Initiatives, Chief Communication & Sustainability Officer

With so many people around the globe now virtually dependent on 24-hour news, streaming video, and constant contact with friends, innovative telecommunications companies such as TELUS Corporation have emerged as key players, keeping people connected with the simple click of a mouse or the swipe of a finger across a touch screen. Andrea Goertz, who serves as senior vice president, strategic initiatives, and chief communication and sustainability officer of TELUS, joined the company 23 years ago and has seen it grow from a regional West Coast communications organization into the nationwide giant and global leader it is today, with services ranging from wireless and data to television and high-speed Internet to health care.

However, all that growth has meant handling more employees—40,000, to be specific—who collaboratively helped TELUS earn $10.9 billion in revenue in 2012 alone. “We’ve outperformed our global peers since 2000, generating an outstanding 233 percent total shareholder return over the past 13 years,” Goertz says.

5 Questions
with Andrea Goertz

 

1. What does innovation mean to your company?
Innovation is at the heart of everything we do, whether we’re helping citizens stay connected, transforming health care by bringing patient-centred applications to the market, developing LEED-certified buildings, being recognized for our environmental efforts, or helping businesses optimize their operations.

2. Is there a technology, trend, or idea that’s driving your company forward?
To deliver leading-edge products and services for our customers and provide them with the fastest wireless service in the world.

3. How does technology drive innovation?
Our teleconferencing and videoconferencing solutions are enabling our team to collaborate effectively, moving ideas instead of people to also reduce our carbon footprint. Our new intelligent Internet data centres are supporting growth opportunities in cloud computing for our wireline and wireless clients, and our Telehealth solutions are enabling patients in rural communities to have access to leading medical care.

4. Where do you hope this innovation will lead you in the next five years?
The TELUS team is committed to consistently putting our customers first on our journey to become the most recommended company in the markets we serve. We are achieving this through exceptional client interactions and by fostering innovation throughout our team and company.

5. How do you cultivate innovation within your workforce?
There’s a certain tolerance for mistakes and learning and quickly moving on to what the right solution is, if you didn’t quite get it 100 percent out of the gate. I think that kind of culture really inspires future innovation and future growth and attracts the right talent to thrive in this industry.

The company has been able to yield such positive results partially because of its innovative work culture. In an attempt to cut down on office costs while maintaining a strong and thriving workforce, TELUS has implemented a mobile workplace program called Work Styles that enables its team members to work remotely across the country. The goal is to have 70 percent of the company’s staff working on a mobile basis, either from home or elsewhere, by 2015.

In order to reach this ambitious goal, Goertz herself is working closely with TELUS’s human resources department to help adjust the company culture to better support a mobile team, ensuring staff members have access to the necessary tools to stay connected. “We undertook this shift to evolve our policies and perspectives and to leverage our technology, in order to foster increased efficiency, cost savings, and team engagement,” Goertz says. “As a result, we’ve been able to save $40 million a year with about 60 percent of our team members working on a mobile basis. And when we achieve our steady state, we are anticipating a savings of $50 million a year.”

At the same time, Goertz is overseeing the company’s real estate portfolio and making sure that those who don’t work remotely still work in comfort. She is at the forefront of TELUS’s efforts to build environmentally friendly and technologically advanced office spaces that encourage innovation and creativity, and she first took on stewardship of the company’s properties seven years ago, when their siting was more scattershot. “Every time TELUS made an acquisition, the real estate of the company came along with that,” Goertz says.

At one point, the company had more than 15 different locations in the Greater Toronto Area alone. In order to merge the cultures of the different acquisitions and bring the newly formed team into a consolidated area, Goertz spearheaded development of one of the country’s first major LEED Platinum–certified office towers, in Toronto. “The opportunity inspired us to have the courage to innovate and collaborate and make a statement for our brand,” she says.

Goertz is now immersed in an even larger real estate project on the West Coast at the company’s headquarters, in downtown Vancouver. The one-million-square-foot TELUS Garden will feature a 24-storey office tower, a 53-storey residential tower, and new retail and outdoor public space. Such high-profile projects are proving that the company, when it does need space for on-site employees, can build responsibly.

“Once the development is completed, we will have done something architecturally significant to transform an aging downtown block,” Goertz says. “We began with humble real estate projects, but because of the confidence that we built within our team and the credibility that we’ve earned, we’ve been able to embark on these exciting legacy projects for the benefit of our company, our team, and the citizens where we operate.”