“The only thing worse than training your employees and having them leave is not training them and having them stay.” – Henry Ford.

With an industry that changes as rapidly as the electric utility trade, making sure employees have the most up-to-date knowledge and training for their jobs is a task that can never be neglected.

At Baldwin EMC, that challenge falls into the hands of the cooperative’s training and development department, which oversees more than 10,000 hours of employee instruction every year, covering everything from job-specific education, to safety training, to personal development.

Prior to 2002, employee training was predominantly handled by each individual department at the cooperative. This naturally led to some inconsistencies in the way essential training programs were carried out among employees. Recognizing the need for thorough and consistent planning, coordination and tracking of employee training across the cooperative, Baldwin EMC’s board and management team established the training and development department twenty years ago.

One of the first orders of business for the newly established manager of training and development, at that time a department of one, was to create semi-annual all-employee training days, which would allow the cooperative to close for business twice a year, while employees participate in preplanned informative sessions, motivational workshops and department networking.

“Initially, these Training Days were just for that – training,” says Melissa Hollingsworth, who’s held the position of training and development manager since 2012. “Now these events are seen as a valuable time for employees to not only learn from instructors, but to share ideas and collaborate with one another.”

Today, in addition to all-employee training days, the department maintains an active schedule of classes, both online, onsite and out of town, and coordinates Baldwin EMC’s participation in training offered by the Alabama Rural Electric Association and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, among other industry organizations.

Career development has also come into prominence for the training and development department, which is part of Baldwin EMC’s efforts to build bench strength, as more and more employees reach retirement age. Every employee is given the chance to work with the department to identify and pursue their own desired path for progression. “Our goal is to serve as a resource for anyone who wants to be forward-thinking with regards to their career,” Hollingsworth explains. “In doing so, we’re helping to give our management team a wider pool to pull from when it’s time to fill leadership positions.”

Also included in the Training and Development’s wide variety of responsibilities is the orientation program for new employees, and a company-wide cross-training program, which employees at any stage of their careers can apply to be a part of.

But regardless of whether they’re contributing to the employee onboarding process, helping a new team member learn valuable job skills, or walking a seasoned Baldwin EMC veteran through their own development path, the training and development department has one goal in mind. They’re working to enhance the quality of service Baldwin EMC’s members receive by enhancing the skillset, engagement level and safety knowledge of the employees who provide it.

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