Touchstone Energy’s Road to Member Engagement offering, a 90-minute interactive employee workshop that focuses on the cooperative difference at your cooperative, is picking up steam. We asked our newest national facilitator, Beth Knudson, to give us her take on the value of the program as she worked with seasoned facilitator Eddie McKnight and employees at a Wisconsin co-op. Read on to learn why she feels, “It’s an awesome way to spend a morning.”
A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of observing and then teaching Touchstone Energy’s Road to Member Engagement course to a group of employees at Adams-Columbia Electric Cooperative in Friendship, Wisconsin. A few things struck me during these interactive 90-minute sessions:
First of all, what a diverse bunch! We had indoor employees, outdoor crews, management, part-timers…and everyone in between. All in one room!
How often do we have (and hold) department meetings? Departments work among themselves and discuss best practices and problem solve and there is seldom much cross-contamination. And this makes sense most of the time. But sometimes, it’s nice to get everyone up and out of their silos. It’s community-building. It’s relationship-strengthening. It’s…FUN!
What kicked things up a notch as our day progressed was that these diverse employees weren’t discussing anything specific to their careers. There were about a dozen linemen in there at one point, and I didn’t learn a thing about voltage or meters. Instead, they were sitting with the co-op accountants and front office staff discussing ways that they all, as co-op ambassadors, can be more involved in their community.
And this brings me to my third thought – they were discussing Member Engagement. There is something absolutely fantastic about such a diverse group coming together to discuss Member Engagement at their cooperative, and Touchstone Energy’s Road to Member Engagement program gets us back to this. Back to our roots. It’s our opportunity to explore the reason co-ops started in the first place and why we aren’t going anywhere.
The dynamics of our industry have changed numerous times and there is no sign of this slowing down. Consciously and continually keeping our members as our main focus and working as a team to serve their evolving needs is what makes a cooperative different. And, if you take a peek at why the employees at Adams-Columbia Electric Co-op like being part of this difference, I hope you find yourself nodding your head.
The program is about 90 minutes and can be scheduled so not everyone is away from their core tasks at once. It gets employees talking and excited. And actively engaged. Great example – We have a graph indicating the nationwide member satisfaction level is higher at the co-ops than any other electric utility. That is awesome and worth a whole lot of high-fives. But this program specifically focuses on your co-op! So when I was at Adams-Columbia, I got to tell the group that when their members were polled, their satisfaction was among the highest in the country. That lit up the whole room. There were a lot of smiles and head nods. And everyone felt great about it.
That’s what this course is all about – it reinforces all the whys. Why do we do what we do? Why does it matter what our members think of us?
Working together to answer these questions and then taking things a step farther and showing our communities who we are is what makes co-ops different. It’s innovative. It’s not something done at an investor-owned or municipal utility. It’s what makes us … “us.” It’s the cooperative difference.
And it’s an awesome way to spend a morning.