On my mind-One Year In
I have been reflecting on the past year and the many transitions we have managed. Our world is much different than it was one year ago. The pace of change is overwhelming, and I am proud of how we have responded and adjusted as an organization. And, yet one year in, we are still living with uncertainty and unprecedented challenges that require creativity, patience, and collaborative effort to navigate step by step. Here are some of the tensions we are holding right now:
• Working remotely and safety: We continue to work remotely and explore what a return to the office will look like and when. For some people, remote working has been beneficial, and for others, each day brings a challenge and sense of isolation.
• Meeting customers where they are at: Virtual services changed how we serve customers. We have seen innovations in engaging customers and a reduction of in-person trips to get into a customer-centered program. However, some folks struggle with virtual engagement.
• Grief and overwhelm: Last week, our country surpassed 500,000 COVID-related deaths. We are experiencing collective grief, and we know there will be more loss before we put this behind us.
• Vaccine access: Vaccines are available, but availability is limited. How does this impact our ability to re-open?
• Childcare and education: While there is a trajectory to re-open schools for in-person learning, there continues to be a shortage of childcare options.
• Economic wake: The economy is sputtering, and small businesses, especially hospitality, travel, and retail, struggle. Unemployment numbers are still staggering, and reskilling is crucial to recovery.
• Building an equitable world: Race, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (REDI) continues to be at the forefront of conversations nationally and locally. While there is an increased level of awareness of the realities of systemic racism, progress is slow, and there are miles to go to create a just and equitable world.
What does all this mean for Career Path Services? It means we are grappling with tough questions.
Return to Office
We exist to serve. How do we balance customer needs for service delivery with flexible work options for our staff? It is crucial to understand the customer experience through their lens and understand our employees’ needs and concerns. We need to understand what our fund source needs and expectations are. From there, we can evaluate what we learn and build solutions. I believe that we will see some return to the office and limited in-person services within the next few weeks. We are reviewing our return-to-work plans, realigning with the state’s new phases. The timing of a return will look different by area and function and some of you are already back in some capacity. Our commitment is to ensure that a return is done safely. Our Voluntary Vaccine Policy can be found here.
COVID-19 has disrupted our economy and there will be long-term impacts on employment. There is much to be done to reconnect the unemployed and underemployed to meaningful work opportunities. The effect on women is disproportionate, and childcare options are still limited. Businesses need assistance in the recovery. Our ability to understand our local labor market skills and needs is more crucial than ever. Our focus is on understanding our customers’ unique needs and increasing our ability to engage and connect them to resources that address those needs. The Aspen Institute released a Job Quality Tools Library full of great resources for defining meaningful work.
COVID’s impact on our physical and mental health and the toll will carry on long into the evolution of the “new normal.” There are resources to help employees on our COVID Resource page on the Peyton Post. It is good to have resources, but equally important is our ability to connect. It is okay not to be okay, and it is okay to share if you feel challenged by something. I know you are asked to carry a lot, and there is an emotional toll on hearing people’s stories. I recognize there is pressure in meeting our contractual obligations and balancing self-care. I hope that we have created a brave/safe place-where sharing and caring is the norm and that we find ways to support each other, where we work together to develop solutions.
Race, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion
Since May, we have been learning together about racism, equity, diversity, and inclusion. We have engaged in conversations and started the work of assessing our organization’s REDI Culture and looking at our policies and practices. Part of the work was collecting benchmark data on our employee demographics and a sense of belonging. Thank you for responding to the survey. We had a 74% return rate (73 of 98 employees) and are in the process of disseminating the information. Once that dissemination is complete, we will share out the learning.
We completed our Learning Zone in February, utilizing the YWCA challenge curriculum; this was a time to expand our understanding of race and equity and look at ways to continue the conversation and learning. Stay tuned for additional learning opportunities. For self-paced learning check this 21-Day Racial Equity Habit Building Challenge. Some of our areas have started systemwide DEI learning and evaluating practices and policies through an equity lens.
This kind of deep-dive can feel uncomfortable and scary, and yet confronting racism, privilege, and social injustice is not only needed, but it is required. Race, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion is Workforce Development; we exist to ensure that all people have equitable access to services. Our purpose is to address the drivers of poverty and identify and recognize who is being left behind. I am asking you to join me in this profound work. What does this deep work look like?
• It looks like seeking to understand others’ lived experiences, engaging in respectful conversations.
• Demonstrating openness to understanding the impact of unconscious bias and then examining your own bias.
We want to create an organization and society that is just and equitable, where we see people as individuals, value cultural differences, and speak out against injustice.
Our Winning Strategy
In times of uncertainty, I find it helpful to ground myself in our mission purpose and vision. Our Winning Strategy is my road map, and it serves to remind me of the things we value and the differences we want to make in the world. Spend a few minutes looking at it again; where do you see yourself and your work? How do our purpose and guiding aspiration speak to how we serve customers and align with your WHY?
We received news that we did not make the Non-Profit Times list of Best Places to Work. While disappointing, what we value is the information we get from you in the survey results. We are in the process of reviewing the results with the management team and will be sharing them through the Employee Advisory Group and TEAMS later this month.
Dignity of Work
We continue to release two Dignity of Work Podcasts a month. In February, we released a two-part series with our new board member Dr. Kristen Allott. March podcasts feature Anthony Singleton on Courageous Conversations and Heather Woodruff on Serving Youth. Coming in April, Paula Beckner kicks of our Inclusion series with a focus on serving refugees.
Now I need your help; we want to do a series on inclusion-serving specialty populations. Do you have a best practice or have a story of success that has influenced service delivery, or do you know of a partner who does incredible work? Specialty populations include persons with disabilities, LGBTQ, formerly justice-involved, older workers, displaced homemakers, youth, or If so, please reach out, and let’s chat about your idea. We will be recording this series during March and April for release April-July.
50th Anniversary Planning-March 9
Employee Advisory Group Meeting-March 18
Management Team Meeting-March 24-25
March 5 is Employee Appreciation Day, and I want to close by expressing my deepest appreciation. I mentioned earlier that we exist to serve, which is our purpose. A critical component to fulfilling our purpose is YOU. Thank you, the last 12 months have asked a lot from all of us. You have persevered through uncertainty, and your resilience has inspired me. Here is a Gratitude Playlist for your listening pleasure. It is an honor and a privilege to work alongside you.
stay resilient ~ seek beauty ~ keep hope ~give kindness
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