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Oilers Strike a Chord With Local Businesses

by Staff Writer / Edmonton Oilers

Taking a slapshot on a powerplay and playing the violin in a concerto may not have much in common but the strategy behind selling out Rexall Place for an Oilers game and filling the Winspear Centre for the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra share a lot of similarities – and that is how the two groups became partners in a new innovative venture. 

The Oilers knew the NHL work stoppage would reduce workloads but they wanted to avoid layoffs so they created a plan to place their people on secondments. The organization identified their employees’ strengths and then went about determining local businesses they could help. Shortly afterwards, the placements began, including two people heading off to the Winspear Centre in ticketing and business analysis.

“I’ve been gaining a lot of valuable experience while at the same time applying what we know from the Edmonton Oilers into my new role,” said Tony Bao, who’s taken a leave from his duties as the Oilers Ticketing Supervisor. “We have a really nice structure in place at the Oilers and to be able to bring some of that to another organization is pretty valuable.”

The Oilers graphic designer is testing his skills at Sticks & Stones Communications , a partner specialist is securing sponsorships at West Edmonton Mall and the Oilers Community Foundation’s coordinator is lending her hand at E4C. The other charities and companies that have taken on Oilers employees include the Christmas Bureau, Williams Engineering and Etelligence. Altogether, 20 people have been placed at partner organizations. 

“We think all our employees are terrific,” says Oilers President and COO Patrick LaForge. “We’ve recruited and selected them very carefully. By using the secondment idea, we’ve found ways to place people. It’s a way to make a good thing out of a bad situation.”

Under the agreements, the Oilers maintain the employees on the payroll and provide regular benefits. The secondment employer is invoiced for a portion of the salary, creating a relatively seamless transition. When the lockout concludes, the employees return to their regular posts with some new skills.

“We have a lot of the same business structure so it’s been a win-win opportunity for us to get some insights from the Oilers operations, and I’m hoping that will be a mutual experience for the staff,” says Winspear Centre’s Executive Director Annemarie Petrov.

As for Tony Bao, he’s enjoying his time in his new surroundings. “They’ve put a lot on my plate so that’s good – it’s a challenge. The people here are really great - it’s been fun.”

The Oilers are thrilled to have found a novel solution to the challenge of workforce retention and employee satisfaction, rather than implementing across the board cutbacks or layoffs. The employees have also welcomed the opportunity to broaden their experience, expand their knowledge and provide meaningful support to business partners until the NHL work stoppage is over.
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