SEDC has provided utilities with cutting-edge billing and accounting solutions for four decades. They believe that with each technological innovation, there is an opportunity to streamline workflow and improve business efficiency. Their utility software suite, utilityPOWERnet (UPN), reflects this philosophy, and delivers a vast array of CIS Billing and BIS Accounting functions – as well as unparalleled integration points for the industry’s leading products.
Building a Unified Culture: from Corporate to Community
Founded in 1976, today SEDC serves over 500 distribution utilities across the United States with leading enterprise software solutions, serving the data processing, IT, and operational needs of numerous clients. In 2014, with a new CEO, SEDC found itself in a period of internal transformation. Decreasing employee morale, silos, remote employees, and difficulties with work-life balance contributed to management’s desire for implementing online and offline change in order to improve internal communication, employee engagement, and increase team collaboration. SEDC needed a platform that would unify 30+ departments, and connect 350+ employees to company information, while fostering a culture of engagement.
They decided to implement IC’s intranet software to disseminate information across the company, finding it attractive since it “was packaged with lots of modules that could be built upon without the need for additional internal bandwidth;” it seemed already designed for their needs. They purchased IC’s intranet software in the fall of 2014, and had PeopleNet up and running in three months.
A sense of pride spread through the organization. Common tasks were simplified and knowledge sharing improved.
Prior to using IC, SEDC stored information on a share drive which was labor intensive and “very non-interactive.” Incorporating information previously only available in the share drive into the Intranet platform simplified and eased the process of knowledge gathering and sharing, “there’s better ways to get it now, there’s no need for people to use the drive anymore.” The homepage turned out to be a particularly useful tool, and today it is used for sharing important news, linking digital materials, community engagement, and team building. It’s also used for bypassing other directories in order to provide employees with an easy way to learn about their colleagues (and deduce who to contact when a need arises) and even for educating employees about their customers, “so they have a better idea of who they are serving.” SEDC’s Intranet currently serves a three-floor office and they are in the process of extending its reach to include remote employees and staff from other offices.
Employee morale is high. IC has helped in doing that – to get people to be proud to work here.
– John Martin, Instructional Designer
Fostering Employee Engagement
The dawn of a new era of employee engagement at SEDC began with the intranet launch party: “We really went all out! There were music and party hats, trivia questions from employee profiles, and a massive vinyl background with PeopleNet specially made for the launch. It felt like we were on the red carpet! Photos were taken; it was really fun.”- Nell McCauley, Communications Advisor. The launch party posters included trivia questions pulled from employee profiles to encourage people to learn more about each other.
Sharing photos through the intranet has proven to be an effective tool for getting employees to learn more about each other and foster a sense of community. From the ‘Employee Picture of the Day’ (which features a short bio), to sharing photos of employees on field trips and/or engaged in volunteer work, employees become better acquainted with each other and see themselves as part of the team. ‘Did You Know’ posts and public recognition awards for employees further foster a team atmosphere. The Intranet has been useful for sharing photos, simplifying scheduling, creating contests, and keeping people informed of each others’ achievements – all of which contribute to a sense of comradery and improved employee morale, which in turn fosters even more employee-company engagement, as well as employee-employee engagement.
An example of merging online and offline initiatives to engage employees in a fun way while educating them is the company’s scavenger hunt. Each month, employees at all levels from every department come together in roundtable meetings with the CEO. Here they discuss what’s happening within their area of the organization. This is for the CEO to gain more accurate insight into the company. These discussions are then summarised in a blog for the entire company to read on the intranet. These summaries are often text heavy, so to make it interesting, SEDC initiated the scavenger hunts. Employees read the summaries while ‘hunting’ for text pertaining to milestones, revenue, sales, the number of interns/students, etc. This scavenger hunt, which features a monetary prize, incentivizes employees to read over the meeting blogs, increasing knowledge transfer and keeps the employees engaged with the affairs of other departments and the company as a whole.
We had a banner contest and found some employees with graphic design skills that they can now use for other projects.
– John Martin
A Focus on Employee Appreciation
Cultivating an environment of happy and engaged employees requires a lot of focus and work. While a lot of work occurred in the office (including a PeopleNet launch party), IC’s intranet helped to assist a lot of other initiatives that focused on employee appreciation. They have a lot of software programmers who are typically more introverted, so the company wanted to make sure they were enjoying their work and knew their work was appreciated.
The homepage became an area where SEDC demonstrates its employee appreciation through creative initiatives like contests, highlighting skills and achievements, and producing a sense of community through group activity. A few of these initiatives include:
- A fun photo caption contest (with award);
- A homepage banner contest (with award);
- High-five bonuses (whereby employees are recognised for outstanding work with a bonus);
- Employee picture of the day (which features a picture and a narrative about an employee: “people get connected to them and they are the celebrity of the day!” – John Martin);
- Employee Appreciation Day;
- Veterans’ Appreciation Day (which included a photo shoot of the veterans they have in the office);
- Featuring galleries with 2000+ photos of employees at work, on field trips, and engaging in volunteer activities; and,
- Scheduling free massages in the office, which has proved quite popular; time slots are often filled up shortly after they are posted!
Employee recognition through these initiatives boosted employee morale and improved team comradery. SEDC held a banner contest for the Intranet homepage, for example, which was ostensibly a fun contest with a $50 prize, but as a result management discovered some employees with graphic design skills they were not previously aware of, and subsequently they have been able to leverage those skills for other aspects of their jobs:
A digital workplace can make human connection a challenge. With IC, it’s much easier to get to know one another.
– Nell McCauley – Communications Advisor
Increasing Team Collaboration
Because of improving employee engagement and demonstrating employee appreciation through creative initiatives through the Intranet, SEDC has also seen an increase in team collaboration. Transferring the company directory from the previous shared drive to the intranet has drastically changed the way colleagues interact with each other. Previously, the contact information was stored on an excel sheet that included a name, email, and phone number. Today employee profiles include a photo, a description of their responsibilities, personal interests, hobbies, educational background, and fun facts. This has helped colleagues develop a relationship that is difficult to accomplish when they do not interact in person.
IC has also improved scheduling in-house and offsite events. Employees are allotted 8 hours of volunteer time, for example, and they can sign up each quarter if they’d like to participate. Activities change each quarter but include organizations such as the Atlanta Food Bank, Habitat for Humanity, the Humane Society and the American Cancer Society. Incorporating the intranet calendar with the HR department has eased how activities and events like volunteering and tutorials are scheduled, making it easy and fast to sign up and allowing for employees to note things like what items they plan on bringing to a cook-off. From training modules to cook-offs, scheduling has become much more efficient.
Having a system for internal communication that fosters relationship building has drastically improved employee morale and comradery, contributing to a real team dynamic within the company:
The Intranet has also contributed to how managers motivate employees. Motivation encompasses a wide variety of tactics, including common interests, individual investment in growth, shared voice, and positive words of encouragement. Managers can now utilize the intranet for a variety of these tactics which are designed to encourage input, teamwork, and, most importantly – productivity.
The Homepage: a fun and interactive way for company engagement, knowledge transfer, and getting to know co-workers
Document Storage: comprehensive, easy to access, navigate, and share information
Flexibility: non-technical users can build their own sites with schedules, links, training, images, and sales graphs, sharing information immediately
Scheduling: drastically increases event sign-up times and provides for nuanced information sharing