b LEADERS Interview with Joan M. Shafer, Executive Vice President – Human Resources and Organizational Effectiveness, WEC Energy Group



Women Leaders

Joan M. Shafer, WEC Energy Group

Joan M. Shafer

An Engaged Workforce

Editors' Note

Joan Shafer was named to her current post in June 2015, and became Compliance Officer in April 2016. She previously served for three years as Senior Vice President – customer services for We Energies, the principal utility subsidiary of Wisconsin Energy Corp. In this role, Shafer directed customer research and programs, eServices, the meter-to-bill and credit and collections processes, and the business and residential customer care centers. She also was responsible for the company’s administrative services department, including facilities, security, property management, and mail services. Shafer joined We Energies in 1978 and has held a variety of positions in human resources, operations, and customer service. These positions included Manager – customer services in the company’s Fox Valley service area and Process Manager – customer contact center in Pewaukee, Wisconsin. In 1998, Shafer became Director – customer contact centers. She was named Assistant Vice President – customer services in 2002, and Vice President – customer services in 2003. Shafer earned a Bachelor of Science degree in psychology from the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point and a Master of Arts degree in industrial relations from the University of Cincinnati. Shafer is a trustee for Mount Mary University and a member of the Alverno College School of Business advisory board. She is a board member of Seton Catholic Schools, and Vice Chair and member of the board of directors of PAVE (Partners Advancing Values in Education). She is the past President and current ex-officio member of the board of trustees for the Milwaukee Montessori School and past-Chair of the board of directors for the Girl Scouts of Wisconsin Southeast. She also is a past member and Secretary of the United Way of Waukesha board of directors and served as the Vice Chair for the 2011 annual campaign. In 2004, Shafer received the Athena Award in recognition of her outstanding leadership and numerous contributions to her field and the community. In 2009, she was among the recipients of the Women of Distinction Award from the Waukesha County Community Foundation. In 2012, she was co-awarded the United Way of Waukesha County Outstanding Volunteer of the Year. She is a customer service expert and has spoken at numerous national conferences.

Company Brief

WEC Energy Group, based in Milwaukee, is one of the nation’s premier energy companies, serving 4.4 million customers in Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, and Minnesota. The company’s principal utilities are We Energies, Wisconsin Public Service, Peoples Gas, North Shore Gas, Michigan Gas Utilities, and Minnesota Energy Resources. The company’s other major subsidiary, We Power, designs, builds, and owns electric generating plants. WEC Energy Group (wecenergygroup.com), a component of the S&P 500, has nearly $29 billion of assets, 8,500 employees, and approximately 55,000 stockholders of record.

How has the HR function evolved and what are the keys to being effective in human resources today?

HR provides a critical business service and, at its best, serves as a full partner to our operating companies to help them achieve their business goals. Our role is to help our businesses attract and retain the most effective and engaged employees through creative recruitment and supportive programs. We also serve the employees, retirees, and applicants and are responsible to be a resource for them on a myriad of questions they may have associated with our companies. We need to be easy to do business with through actively listening to the voice of our customers.

WEC Energy group places a major focus on building a diverse and inclusive workforce. Would you discuss these efforts and how critical they are to the long-term success of the company?

As an organization, we believe and value a diverse and inclusive work place that reflects the customers and communities we serve. We have active employee development networks that encourage education, mentoring, and networking. Through our succession management process we work to ensure that we are cultivating diverse talent.

How do you measure employee engagement and ensure that you have an engaged workforce?

Traditionally, we have used survey tools given to the entire workforce. We believe that all engagement is “local,” meaning that the most important relationship is the one between the employee and their immediate supervisor. As a result, we have asked each leader to work collaboratively with their team and develop their team “engagement” plan. Another critical component to engagement is that each employee believes they have a method and means to grow and develop within the organization. To further this, we have a tool that an employee can use to meet with their supervisor and collaborate on a plan for their individual growth. Both components are critical to ensure a highly engaged workforce.

You commit a great deal of your personal time to community engagement and supporting various causes. What makes this so important to you and would you highlight some of these efforts?

I’ve been very fortunate in my life. I had parents who cared about me and valued education and community. While there wasn’t a lot of money, they always made sure we got to the library and had lots of books at home; we took music lessons and I had the opportunity to participate in Girl Scouts and attend camp. I credit my parents, and many others along the way, who helped me to become successful. I believe it is my responsibility to pay back by paying it forward.

I spend most of my volunteer time with organizations that are assisting children and young people. For many years, I was a member and Board Chair for our southeastern Wisconsin Girl Scout council. I was a member of the board of First Stage Children’s Theater. I was President of the Board of Trustees of the Milwaukee Montessori School and continue as an emeritus member. I am Vice Chair of PAVE – Partners Advancing Values in Education. PAVE’s mission is to make excellent education opportunities possible for all Milwaukee families. I am a member of the board of trustees for Mount Mary University.