Commitment to Cooperative and Workforce
In the last few years, Basin Electric has focused in on the fundamentals of an organization committed to the cooperative principles. That means building a stronger workforce; growing the cooperative model through strong linkages with the membership; become a shining example of the co-op model within the communities in which Basin Electric serves, and to do this all in the light of building a better Basin Electric.
It began with the board on governance. The board wanted staff to take a comprehensive look at the policies and practices of the everyday business. Technically, it’s housekeeping, but an important process on a few different levels. Policies need to be clear and concise, establishing the broad priorities from the board. This gives staff the opportunity to clearly see what the board wants and begins the roadmap for how to get there. It’s all part of the governance that makes a cooperative successful.
At the same time, staff has worked to eliminate fluff and focus on issues of importance to the employees and deliver those messages in an easy to find, understandable format.
As Basin Electric has made strides in governance, significant progress has also been made in strengthening the cooperative’s workforce.
Basin Electric always has and continues to vie for the best in the workforce. Over the last five years there’s been a significant transition within the cooperative, and due to a competitive environment for recruiting and retaining employees, along with many long-term workforce retiring, more than 850 employees have transitioned out of Basin Electric’s workforce.
During the last few years of this transition, it was clear the cooperative had work to do in recruitment; orientation and training; retention and communication.
Improving communication began with changes made at the board level and a more intentional and in depth dialogue with the employees and membership. CEO and General Manager Paul Sukut furthered that commitment by consistently communicating with employees through weekly staff updates. He also made in-person visits to all cooperative facilities multiple times during the year to speak directly with employees regarding the issues facing the cooperative as well as answer questions. To enhance that effort, Human Resources visited the facilities with a goal of re-establishing relationships with supervisors and managers.
Changes have been made in recruitment and the cooperative revised its orientation program. Instead of a stack of papers, new employees are now taken through a program that spans the first several months of their career at Basin Electric. That effort rolls into training and employee development. The cooperative is currently in the process of advancing a robust program and doing so in new ways.
The cooperative is also working to keep employees healthy in direct ways because having every Basin Electric employee healthy and ready for work each day is vital to the cooperative’s success.
In 2007, Basin Electric expanded the role of the on-site physician at Dakota Gasification Company, Dr. Kaspari, from that of a part-time industrial medicine role to a full-time doctor who visits all facilities on a rotational basis. Having access to an on-site physician is a time- and money-saving reality for the cooperative and workforce. In a matter of 15 minutes, they can visit with Dr. Kaspari about their medical needs versus spending a few hours in a clinic and the associated costs.
On a monthly basis, Dr. Kaspari sees an average of more than 400 employees across all of our facilities.
Basin Electric takes the role of supporting all employees very seriously. Among its workforce, the cooperative employs 203 military veterans and 46 active military members. And those employees in military service and who voluntarily sacrifice so much deserve consistent and continuous support. Basin Electric takes great strides to support employee-soldiers at home and abroad.
The cooperative’s efforts to make life better for all employees and community have paid off with recognition.
- The Bismarck-Mandan Young Professionals Network named Basin Electric one of the top 10 places to work, based on employment strategy, benefits and workplace development.
- The Bismarck Tribune recognized Basin Electric as the Best Large Company to Work For, of those workplaces with 75 employees or more.
- Right-of-Way earned an international award – the International Right of Way Association’s Employer of the Year Award. That award is given to workplaces that promote leadership, education and personal growth opportunities.
A solid employee base provides the foundation to strengthen ties with Basin Electric’s membership. The long-term contracts with the members serve the financial underpinning of a great organization. They represent a relationship based on a common goal.
To help directly connect employees with the members, staff is developing a cooperative internship program, with the premise of having Basin Electric employees spend a few days at a member cooperative, Class A or Class C, to learn about the business from their point of view. On the flip side, the program would give distribution cooperative employees the chance to come work at Basin Electric for a few days to see what happens at the generation and transmission level. The program is currently in development, but providing an opportunity for employees to “walk in the members’ shoes” will help them better understand the impact of the work they do each day.
The connection between employees and members is vital. That connection directly translates to the communities where they live and work. As challenges arise, it’s cooperatives like Basin Electric that step up to help find a solution. Sometimes, it works out that the solution benefits both its employees and communities at the same time. This happened when Basin Electric decided to tackle the issue of child care.
Child care has been an ongoing issue for some time and Basin Electric has attempted to tackle it in the past, but it’s been a tough nut to crack. Building an in-house child care facility has been discussed, but the issues of space, expertise and cost were daunting. To overcome some of those obstacles, Basin Electric teamed up with the Missouri Valley Family YMCA and local hospitals in Bismarck to announce a child care partnership. It’s a unique, first-of-its-kind partnership for the YMCA to expand its quality child care services.
There is a major shortage of child care available in the Bismarck-Mandan area, and this is an innovative move to address employees’ child care needs. The new facility, which opened Feb. 1, 2016, can accommodate 240 children. Through the partnership, 50 spots are designated for Basin Electric employees.
When employees struggle to find child care, it affects everything. Basin Electric wanted to be a part of finding a solution to help fill that void in its communities. The next challenge will be finding a solution for the child care shortage in the Beulah-Hazen, ND, area and Wheatland, WY. The cooperative has more than 1,000 employees working near those small communities. Further, the resources for child care are scarce. Creativity and diligence will be vital to help solve this issue in those rural areas.
Care for kids in the cooperative’s communities is one part of helping to nurture future generations. Another is education. Working with young people in schools is something Basin Electric has a long tradition in.
The Story Behind the Switch is one of the cooperative’s most successful, long-standing programs. It’s been in existence for more than 30 years and teaches students to be safe around electricity, how electricity is generated and how electricity gets to homes. Each year, the one-hour program is presented to more than 12,000 fifth graders across Basin Electric’s nine-state member region, and it was recently produced digitally to allow even more members to extend the important message to kids and adults throughout the cooperative’s membership and beyond.
This digital format can be shared online through social media, a vital channel to engage with the next generation of co-op members. Additionally, the popularity of Story Behind the Switch prompted the creation of the train the trainer pilot program, where staff from Basin Electric’s Class A members learn to deliver the Story Behind the Switch presentation. Basin Electric pays for the cost of the turnkey kits, customized to its Class A members.
It’s an exciting time at Basin Electric. The membership has grown and evolved as has the cooperative’s workforce. Supporting this process has required more than additional generation and transmission, it has required new resources and employees to best meet the members’ needs. As a result, the amount of space at Headquarters is maxed out, leaving little room for collaborative space, conference rooms and new employees. Currently, Basin Electric has more than 550 employees in Bismarck spread out among four different locations.
For many years, Basin Electric has been prudent in responding to space needs at Headquarters. In early 2015, the Basin Electric board took a practical approach to addressing the need for more space and, after much review and analysis, approved a major expansion to the Headquarters building in August. The addition will include 91,000 square feet to the existing building’s west entrance.
The new working environment will help increase employee engagement, enable formal and informal interactions and collaboration, and enhance the transfer and exchange of knowledge in the workplace. The completion date for the project is summer 2017.
Providing reasonable work space reinforces Basin Electric’s commitment to its employees. When they know who and what they’re working for and they’re provided a clear direction in terms of the cooperative business, employees engage in the business and work with purpose.
It sets the foundation for employees to become Basin Electric ambassadors.
Direct inquiries about jobs or internships at Basin Electric's North Dakota facilities to:
Human Resources Division
Basin Electric Power Cooperative
1717 East Interstate Avenue
Bismarck, ND 58503-0564 USA
Phone: 701.223.0441 (ask for Human Resources)
Basin Electric gives more than 180 scholarships each year for children of Basin Electric members and employees. Since 1991, the cooperative has given scholarships worth nearly $4 million.