Cooperative is more than a word to Clark County REMC. The member-owned electric cooperative in southern Indiana believes in collaboration and wants to empower its employees, partners and consumers, CEO Jason Clemmons said.
In 2022, Clark County REMC and its contractor, Townsend Tree Service, came together with a training team from Indiana Electric Cooperatives. Following some challenges with efficiency and work culture, the trainings facilitated more effective communication and stronger teamwork.
“Typically, in the cooperative way of life, you always try to take care of the members,” Clemmons said. “We really try to take care of the employees because we know that when our employees are happy, they’re automatically going to take care of our membership. That means we respect each other, communicate well, love each other, and when we need to have hard conversations, we have those in a kind way.”
The participants underwent two days of training, which included group and personal exercises focused on identifying values, articulating important character traits and considering what the group wanted to get out of the meetings.
- Townsend employees (tree-trimming contractors) feeling unappreciated, feeling like they were “just tree trimmers”
- Frustrations between Clark County REMC and Townsend employees
- Work orders from Clark County REMC not being completed
- Facilitate effective communication techniques and to provide resources for building relationships to set a solid foundation for ongoing interactions
- Extend communication techniques and relationship-building resources to Townsend managers and their teams to multiply the impact across both organizations
- Invite Townsend employees to explore additional leadership opportunities they otherwise would not have considered
GUIDING PRINCIPLES AND TOOLS
- Align values through a values exercise; found that many values were the same
- Create a mutual respect
- Learn to communicate effectively and respectfully
- Create an understanding both groups are in it together and Townsend is an extension of Clark County REMC
- Turnover has stopped
- All work orders were caught up within two weeks of training
- Right-of-Ways are perfect
- Townsend crews are now proud of their work and want to show off their progress
“I think what is so empowering is that they really became leaders,” Clemmons said. “Some of the people I wouldn’t have ever expected chose to get up and give of themselves, to make themselves vulnerable, and to really talk about their feelings and their missions and how they see themselves moving forward as a group.”
Clark County REMC didn’t really know where the problem was until it started the process, Clemmons said. The training helped “peel back the layers” to help reach the team’s real issues.
“I think what is so empowering is that they really became leaders. Some of the people I wouldn’t have ever expected chose to get up and give of themselves, to make themselves vulnerable, and to really talk about their feelings and their missions and how they see themselves moving forward as a group.”Jason Clemmons, Clark County REMC
“Through this training, we’ve been able to look at these issues, and for the Townsend Tree Service employees to understand that they truly are a part of us,” Clemmons said. “They may have a different name, but what they do is just as important as what we do.”
During the second training, five linemen volunteered to come forward and thank Townsend for their work.
“What more could you ask for?” Clemmons said of the experience.
Thanks to these successful trainings, turnover has decreased and workers are more fulfilled, Clemmons said.
A major goal was to ensure that Townsend employees knew how vital they were to the team.
“The second meeting with Townsend involved everyone, and it was just amazing,” said Dave Barton, a now-retired manager of operations and engineering at Clark County REMC. “It was truly not training but transformation. It was something I was really happy to be a part of.”
Clemmons said he wanted to explore how the team could make sure every party felt “like we feel every day.”
“We wanted to make them feel like ‘hey, we won the lottery by being able to work here,’” Clemmons said. “There hasn’t been a day that I have been here where I really came to work, because when you truly enjoy what you’re doing, it isn’t truly work.”
Clemmons shared that because of the culture at Clark County REMC, most of the employees feel similarly.
“So, when you notice you have a problem, the first place to go to is the personal side of things and ask, ‘How can we help each other get to a better place?’” he said.
“We were able to partner with Townsend to improve work culture, and there’s so much more being done,” Barton said. “They’re all proud of what they do, and they can’t wait to show you.”
The trainings, which fostered stronger communication and underlined the co-op’s mission, allowed both teams’ perspectives to grow.
Clemmons said that due to the trainings, the situation progressed from Townsend employees feeling like “Why are you checking up on us?” to “Look at the great things we’re doing. We’re proud of it. We hope you’re as proud of it as we are.”
The meetings occurred June 20 and Oct. 26, 2022, but the lessons learned have spread far beyond those two days, Barton and Clemmons agreed.
“It wasn’t like we had these two meetings and then we moved on and forgot about it,” Barton said. “Clark County REMC paid Townsend for two days where we didn’t get a single limb cut, but there’s so much more efficiency and buy-in that we’ll get that back 100 times.”
“We appreciate the transformations that IEC are able to help us with,” Clemmons said. “We think there’s nothing more important than the people side of things, and that’s exactly what they give us every time.”