Pivoting in the Pandemic: December 2020

TCFD Goes From Flexible to Agile
by John Conway
HURLEYVILLE—Amanda Ward says caring for staff—and attracting new hires—during the pandemic has required “a shift in traditional ways of thinking.”
Ms. Ward is the Chief of the Division of People Operations and Educational Sustainability at The Center for Discovery, where she heads the team that oversees recruitment and training of new employees and—just as importantly, she says—providing a stable, safe and upbeat work environment for existing staff, responsibilities that are challenging under the best of circumstances. Throw into the mix an ongoing pandemic of historic proportions, and the challenge becomes even more daunting.
“We have always been creative and proactive in our approach to caring for staff,” she says. “But no one anticipated COVID, and the ripple effects it has produced. People everywhere are facing new, unforeseen constraints that could not be planned for. We have had to respond to that, and continue to respond to the unpredictable.”
The response, reflecting the longstanding people-centric approach of TCFD President and C.E.O. Patrick H. Dollard, has included innovative ways to help The Center’s 1700 employees cope with the disruptions the pandemic and its accompanying restrictions has caused in their lives.
“Staff well-being is always a priority,” Ms. Ward says. “But even more so now, with so much instability in everyone’s lives. The programs we have put in place have served to smooth out some of the bumps in our staff’s roads, so to speak.”
She cites The Center’s ongoing ride-share program and the staff co-op store that was available during the height of the pandemic earlier this year and then re-opened after Thanksgiving, as two examples that have proven particularly popular with employees. The Center has also instituted a free laundromat for staff and for a few months during the initial stages of the pandemic restrictions was providing free meals for its employees. The Center also provides employees with personal protective equipment, and perhaps most importantly, access to reliable up-to-date information about the pandemic.
The day-to-day uncertainty of how local school districts are dealing with the pandemic, particularly the reliance on remote learning and hybrid teaching models has made it difficult for some parents to juggle work and childcare. The Center has responded to that new challenge, as well.
“In addition to traditional daycare for the younger children of our staff, we are now offering school-age day care during the pandemic,” Ms. Ward points out.
Even in times of a contracting economy, The Center is hiring staff, she says. Toward that end, a new incentive program has been offered to current staff to help with the recruiting process.
“We have just begun a new Holiday Employee Referral Program, where all staff will have the opportunity to win a $100 gift card,” she says. “Despite all this year’s challenges, we have felt the power of community and connection at The Center more than ever. And that community, connection, strength, and spirit come from our staff and for that, we are grateful.”
For the holiday season, The Center is encouraging employees to spread the word about the life changing work they do and to give others the gift of a career.
Here’s how The Center’s new Holiday Employee Referral Program works:
• All staff will refer as many direct care candidates as possible in one month, starting on November 19 and ending on December 18, 2020.
• Each member of the team* or location* with the most employees to successfully start base camp, will win a $100 gift card PLUS any of the employee referral benefits he/she is eligible to receive.
The Center has also begun to offer new and existing staff Enhanced Pandemic Pay, a program that entitles Residential Associates working evening or overnight shifts to what amounts to the best hourly rate in the field.
“When it comes to attracting new staff and caring for existing staff, business as usual will no longer suffice,” Ms. Ward says. “Our People Operations office has had to shift from being flexible to being agile, and we will continue to search for and implement innovative solutions to make life easier for our staff. I firmly believe that when you tap into organizational intelligence and prioritize values, it allows creative solutions to emerge.”