Isaiah Wattree started his job as an HR analyst at Evergy in May of 2020 during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“So I had to start remote,” he says, explaining that Evergy was created in 2018 as a result of a merger between Westar Energy and Kansas City Power & Light.
But that doesn’t mean he wasn’t able to hit the ground running – doing everything from internal and external recruiting to building relationships with future potential employees to developing strategies that address gaps in the company’s workforce and crafting fulfillment plans.
We touched base with Wattree to learn more about his important role in the workforce development side of the energy business.
What kind of training brought you to your role?
I got my master’s degree in industrial organizational psychology and human behavior in the workplace from Emporia State University in Emporia, Kansas.
I did an internship with Evergy during my first year in my master’s program in 2018 and then came back for a “winternship” during the following winter. From there, I kept in touch with my supervisor and before I graduated, a position opened up. I was able to secure it before graduation.
For anyone interested in this role, I would suggest a background in industrial organizational psychology to teach them about the culture of the workforce. A background in human resources would also work.
What is your typical day like?
I do a lot of back and forth between internal and external recruiting. I talk to our school partners about presentations and getting involved in high schools as the school year is about to begin. We’re also sharing information about scholarships and internships, as well as continuing to build relationships. We target organizations and schools in underrepresented communities as well to bring awareness to the diverse roles we have at Evergy.
Internally, we are working on updating our succession planning. Twice a year we also do our talent reviews.
Lately, I’ve also been doing a lot of work overhauling our processes. We’re slowly transitioning our processes to newer, more modern tools so everything is easier to keep track of and utilize electronically.
We’re also constantly working on educating people about the different jobs available in energy. For lineworkers, for instance, these are jobs someone’s grandfather or father did and shared information about them with their family members or friends. But others aren’t aware of them. So we’re trying to build exposure and awareness to all types of roles, encouraging people that anyone can do these jobs and showing them how it can be done.
What’s the more rewarding part of your work?
The coolest part of my job is doing ground-breaking work. It’s a lot of stuff we’ve never done before, such as working with new tools, learning how to utilize new software, or building awareness around our work and presenting our findings to a risk committee where we highlight areas where we’ll be lacking in labor and where we can find people to fill those roles.
What would surprise people most about your work?
The sheer amount of the different types of projects I work on – from talent reviews to internal resources to employee value propositions and deep dives into our workforce cultures. All of it has a hand in our overall workforce planning piece.
What is your favorite time of day and why?
I love the mornings because I can block out my calendar for some focus time where I can bury my head and work on projects. This is especially important while working from home. Working from home can be a double-edged sword: You have freedom and autonomy, but your day can easily stack up with back-to-back calls. Blocking out some time in the mornings ensures I get a solid day started and feel more prepared and well-planned.
What is next for you in your career path?
This industry offers tons of career advancement. I definitely haven’t narrowed down my options specifically, since it depends on what opportunities present themselves. I want to grow into a leadership position, such as a supervisor, manager or director. I love working in the HR space, and I also love the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion area as well. Diversity has a hand in every part of our business.
What advice would you give to people interested in getting into a job like yours?
The best advice I can give someone is just to go for it, especially early on. You may not have all of the answers, but learn everything you can and if you have an idea, don’t be afraid to express it. It’s OK not to know everything, as long as you are open to learning. It’s also OK to fail. A lot of times, we’re doing work we’ve never done before so we will fail and learn from our mistakes. That’s how we succeed.