In his 30 years at Great River Energy, metering foreman Darien Gaddes has experienced a lot in getting the job done safely. But without a handy way to address mistakes and miscommunication, he has seen errors repeated.

“That leads to frustration within your own department and any department you work with. It kind of has a domino effect," said Gaddes, who works at the generation and transmission co-op's Elk River Station in Minnesota.

To enhance safety and operations, Great River Energy in 2018 launched myExperience, a human performance and safety initiative. The program offers staff a means to share incidents, close calls and concerns through an online portal and a welcoming discussion process.

The Maple Grove-based G&T has piloted myExperience in its transmission division. This year, it's taking the program enterprise-wide. And it's working.

“It's gone from days of saying, 'It's the same thing again,' to a nice way to iron out any wrinkles," said Gaddes.

The online process is easy. A participant clicks on a box and writes their story. An interview by the myExperience team follows, and other employees may be contacted for an open discussion about possible solutions. An incident summary is sent to the initial filer to accept or add details or comments, and follow-up communication keeps everyone up to date on a resolution. 

“The goal is to provide a learning environment for employees to share their experiences," said Jackie Bentz, the co-op's manager of generation services who is heading up the program.

“The genesis was really the desire to foster a culture that promotes continuous learning, operational excellence, and open communication. We recognized that a more formal program was needed to make sure we were effectively identifying corrective actions and lessons learned and sharing them."

The program is showing promise. One of the metrics used from the original pilot measures “good catches." In 2020, 51 “good catches" were identified, compared to just three in 2019.

“Fifty-one potential events were averted," said Bentz. “This is a testament to the success of myExperience."

Priti Patel, the co-op's vice president and chief transmission officer, said myExperience has created a mindset that “every result matters." It has encouraged hundreds of corrective actions from staff, ranging from improved substation signage to better vehicle safety chain installation. One corrective action consolidated and automated the annual member billing process—saving Great River Energy about $3,000.

“It's showing us that the improvements we are making benefit all of us," said Patel. “The program is helping improve operations, and that improves the value we provide our members."

Delaine Orendorff, NRECA's senior principal/director for human capital planning, said programs like myExperience can help build a more engaged workforce.

“They encourage engagement by soliciting and acting on employee ideas, resulting in increased inclusion and a positive workplace culture," she said.

Gaddes said he's already seen the benefits of the program a few times.

“Getting things done flows smoother when you have a program like this," he said. “Nobody is going to get hollered at or in trouble if something doesn't go the way you wanted."

And he and his workmates appreciate the “opportunity to share."

“It's kind of nice to get your voice heard."