Monday, January 9, 2017

Listening for the truth

Written by Marisa Geitner, president and C.E.O.

"But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light..." John 3:21

Sometimes the truth is hard to find -- and hard to hear -- but it is always worth seeking. Anything less means narrow perspective and guaranteed misalignment.  You're building on an unstable foundation, one that will crumble when changes and difficult times come.

Right now we are facing steep challenges as an agency and as an industry and the only way to succeed is to listen to one another share our truth and that means listening with an active ear, seeking to understand all perspectives. Some of our truths are pleasant. They are things that we celebrate, like reaching more people in need of support through our community support programs and the opening of a new Expressive Beginnings Child Care. We celebrate those we have been able to welcome into our residential and day programs and all those we are supporting in seeking employment.  How blessed we are to partner with over 100 different employers!  We are also sharing education and best practices across the country through the Center for Human Service Education.  Certainly much to be thankful for, but some of our truths are tough because they threaten our ability to serve, like securing the resources to pay our support professionals a higher wage.  In addition, the demand for our support continues to grow and the funding necessary to offer equal access for those with more complex needs, remains insufficient.

If we listen, we can work together to figure out how to live out our mission. Some of the key places we're starting:
  • ·         We are advocating for a liveable wage for support staff so we can attract and retain high quality employees. New York state is increasing the minimum wage in the Rochester and Buffalo areas to $12.50 an hour by 2021 with the goal of reaching $15 an hour shortly thereafter. Today, if we were to pay people a minimum wage of $15 an hour, it would impact almost 80 percent of our current employees. We project it would cost our organization – including our child care and  community services businesses – $8.3 million a year. 
  • ·         We are expanding our emerging services such as community habilitation, brokerage, employment and fiscal intermediary services in both the Rochester  and Buffalo areas.  We will also continue to work toward offering a variety of housing options including certified settings, customized settings and other affordable housing options.
  • ·         We will continue to differentiate our employee  recruitment and engagement strategies in order to introduce dedicated, diverse support professionals  to those who choose our supports.
  • ·         We are working to offer the people closest to us the chance to recognize support staff with a note of thanks or encouragement electronically, and we are again offering educational opportunities for managers and directors. For example, we'll use a $100,000 award from the New York State Department of Labor for managers and emerging leaders to participate in leadership training during 2017.

Truth be told, we need your help. We need your commitment of time and talent and treasure. We need to listen to one another so that together we can be guided by the Truth and prioritize our efforts and ensure a powerful impact -- to ensure that the service experience people expect can be met.
We move forward into 2017 with grateful hearts for  the richness of our blessings while working together to fulfill our mission.

May you have a blessed 2017.

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