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Did you know that disengaged employees costs the U.S. economy more than $500 billion per year? And there’s a lot of them: 88 percent of employees aren’t passionate about their job.

Meanwhile, 70 percent of employees say that being empowered to take action at work when a problem or opportunity arises is a top way to engage them. What if you could bridge the gap by empowering employees to be involved in decisions, and save your business the cost of replacing unhappy or lost employees?

At this year’s Customer Intelligence Summit, Susan Corbelli, principal market research specialist at SMUD—Sacramento’s not-for-profit, community-owned electric service—talked about the importance of creating a space where your front-line staff can easily contribute, give feedback and connect with one another. She argues that employee insight communities are key to not only engaging staff, but also solving issues facing companies today. Here’s why:

The utility company that empowers employees to make decisions

In 2013, SMUD launched SMUD Power Voice, it’s first insight community of 3,900 utility consumers. Since then, the SMUD team has conducted more than 100 studies with residential consumers and 30 with commercial consumers.

Building on its success, the company launched SMUD Currents, an insight community of 1,000 employees, in 2016. SMUD employees have a vested interest in providing the best service possible. Not only do they take pride in their work, but they’re also utility customers, homeowners and neighbors with the people they serve. Corbelli only had to show the ROI of past studies with customers to convince leadership to invest in hearing more from its employees.

“We work with many stakeholders to ensure they get the information necessary to make better business decisions,” said Corbelli. She explained that there are multiple groups that tap into SMUD Currents: human resources, corporate communications, many different employee groups and union leaders. Before launching, she met with various stakeholders to help them define responsibilities, ownership and priorities. 

"We work with many stakeholders to ensure they get the information necessary to make better business decisions.”

To get the most out of the employee insight community, the SMUD team educates the various stakeholders on strategy and best practices, such as how often to engage and how to encourage greater participation. They also manage a research calendar to avoid overwhelming employees with too many interactions, and hold stakeholders accountable for their research efforts.

Corbelli always tries to share the results of interactions so that employees know how they’ve influenced change throughout the company. For example, the employee communications team created a survey asking employees how they preferred to receive and access information to help them do their job better. Getting employees involved in the decision-making process is a great way to make them feel heard—and keep them engaged.

Studies have shown that higher workplace engagement leads to 41 percent fewer safety incidents, 41 percent fewer quality defects and 37 percent lower absenteeism. These are all essential qualities for a utility company charged with powering a local community. And for a company that prides itself in being a good neighbor and a great place to work, SMUD has taken a definitive step toward empowering employees to lead by doing.

Find an online community that works for your business. Download The ‘Enterprise Guide to Online Communities’ to learn more.

The enterprise guide to online communities

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