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Culture in a time of crisis


Corporate culture comes in so many forms.

In some organizations, it’s thrust upon you. That’s not culture, it’s a cult. In others, like TELUS, it manifests amongst its team members, percolating the walls of buildings, projects, initiatives and actions. Culture builds as others catch the wave of goodness. Culture (and thus employee engagement) can become the soul of an organization; whether for good or for bad.

In a time of crisis, in a moment of despair, it’s often an organization’s culture that can carry people through the situation. If you’re a customer facing organization like TELUS, it can make or break a situation.

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In the Spring of 2011, the people of Slave Lake, Alberta got to experience the TELUS culture firsthand in what can only be described as a moment of personal crisis for that community.

Slave Lake is a tiny hamlet of 7,031 people located 250 km northwest of Edmonton at the south-eastern tip of Lesser Slave Lake, within the Municipal District of Lesser Slave River. Slave Lake’s economy has been driven throughout the past three decades by the Oil & Gas and Forest industries.

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On May 15, 2011 the Slave Lake community was hit by sudden and devastating wildfires that inflicted the entire area causing mandatory evacuation orders leaving residents with only minutes to vacate their home. By the time the evacuation order was given – if you can believe it – the local radio station had burned to the ground. Even a year later, a report suggested the fire was unstoppable. Once the fire had dissipated, 40% of the town had been destroyed or damaged; including the town hall, the library, a radio station, a mall and a significant number of homes and other buildings. Mercifully, no injuries or deaths were reported.

It’s at this precise moment that the TELUS culture of ‘we give where we live’ and a true belief in ‘spirited teamwork’ sprang into action. What did we do? It’s probably best explained by a letter we received from Tom Sampson, the Emergency Operations Centre Manager at Slave Lake when he wrote:

In life, there are many examples of how the moment defines you or you define the moment – TELUS has defined the moment.

TELUS, the company and especially its people, has lived up to their give where we live philosophy. I have witnessed first-hand TELUS’ dedication and professionalism as they worked tirelessly to maintain telecommunications services in the area during this emergency. The customer service they have provided is legendary and they have stepped up and met all challenges head on.

The fire that ravaged Slave Lake and surrounding areas was nothing short of devastating. I cannot stress enough how critical it was to have a solid communications infrastructure this entire time. Throughout the emergency situation, members of the community and our emergency responders were able to rely on TELUS, who provided virtually seamless communications service. Their teams worked around the clock to support our operations and to ensure telecommunications services were there when we, and the community, needed them. The emergency responders have an incredibly difficult job to do and, thanks to TELUS, communications was something we never had to second guess.

On behalf of the emergency responders, we are proud to have worked with TELUS during this time of crisis.

That’s the TELUS corporate culture; a belief in spirited teamwork and a willingness to give where we live.