The motto of the Minnesota National Guard — “Always ready, always there.” — also rings true to the men and women who provide electricity to cooperative members across Minnesota.
It should come as no surprise that many employees of Great River Energy and its member-owner cooperatives come from military backgrounds — and that cooperatives strive to support them.
In 2017, Great River Energy was honored to receive official designation as a Yellow Ribbon company, joining of a collective of organizations committed to supporting military employees and their families. On April 12, Great River Energy hosted Minnesota’s Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Company Spring Conference, an event dedicated to sharing best practices and collaborating on challenges facing organizations and military employees.
“Our service members depend on the support of their employers. Without our community of Yellow Ribbon companies, the military could not do all we are asked to do,” said Maj. Gen. Johanna Clyborne, Minnesota National Guard’s assistant adjutant general and deputy commanding general of the Cyber Center of Excellence, during her address to more than 100 attendees at Great River Energy’s Maple Grove, Minnesota, office. “You are leading the way and setting an example for how companies can support, honor and recognize military service.”
Great River Energy Vice President and Chief Corporate and Member Services Officer Mark Fagan, who sponsors the company’s Veterans Employee Resource Group, shared how the cooperative discovers new and better ways to support military employees.
“We work closely with our employee resource groups on outreach, so we have a diverse and inclusive team at Great River Energy,” Fagan said. “Our employee resource groups are successful because they are grassroots — they are driven by our employees.”
Great River Energy shared its own best practices with conference attendees, who joined both in-person and virtually, and also facilitated small-group discussions on topics ranging from recruitment and retention to supporting employees during military deployments.
Great River Energy Director of Communications, Marketing and Member Services David Ranallo told attendees that attracting and supporting veteran employees is the right thing to do, but it also benefits the business.
“Veterans and active-duty military members dedicate their lives to serving those of us who enjoy life in this country,” Ranallo said. “They also bring a wealth of knowledge to Great River Energy, and that helps us do a better job serving our member-owners.”
In addition to supporting military employees, Great River Energy has prepared care packages for deployed servicemembers, volunteered at military residences and adopted military families during the holidays.
All of these efforts add up to a culture of inclusion, according to Great River Energy Technical Analyst Joe Griffitts, an Air Force veteran who leads the company’s Veterans Employee Resource Group.
“Our culture is what allows each individual to provide something to the company that nobody else can,” Griffitts said. “Individuals are filled with their own ideas, and they each have their own special way of making a difference.”