Change; it seems to be the word of the year where I work. In 2017 we were told as employees by management that change was coming. Not just change for the sake of change as so often happens in some workplaces, but real change to meet the needs of those we serve at present and those we will position ourselves to serve moving forward.
Now as you know, not everybody deals with change in the same way. This should come as no surprise for we all experience and react to any number of things in our own way. In fact, there is no, ‘right way’ to react to change. Yes, it’s true all employees have to eventually get on board with new procedures, processes and/or policies, but how a person experiences the adjustment between what they’ve done and what they’ll do moving forward is uniquely lived by that single person. Some get on board and find change easy while others take more time. Be too resistant to change or pull with all your might in an openly opposite direction and you could find yourself on the outside looking in.
In my work setting, we’ve recently had a change in Manager, we’ve two new Supervisors, we’ve had some people with two decades and more experience retire, and we’ve added new employees to fill the voids. We’ve also had our teams realigned, meaning some staff moved from one team to another; from one job to another. Our Administrative team is also going about doing their jobs differently too; sharing workloads more. There are staff changing physical offices, others stay where they are but their desks have been reconfigured for reasons of safety and service. Oh but it doesn’t stop there. Our Resource Centre is getting a new flooring surface this year, and there’ll be a new staff desk better situated for service and safety as well. That’s a lot of change!
Now most important of all is a change in how we interact with those we serve. We are moving to a more holistic model of service; one where the recipients of service will be better served. Many years ago there was a time when the mantra of the day was to get people off social assistance as quick as possible. Whatever the shortest route to a job happened to be, that was the plan. It sounded good to the general tax base and politicians touted this as their way of reducing money paid out to those in receipt; saving tax payers dollars in the process.
It didn’t work; well, not well. Sure people got jobs and got off assistance in some cases. The problem? Without addressing other key issues and only focusing on their unemployment, people lost those jobs quickly and returned to receive social assistance, sometimes regressing significantly, making it far more difficult for them to get past the feelings of not being ready to work.
A return to looking at a person from a holistic point of view requires us to look at more than just their unemployed status. When you bring in daily living skills, problem-solving, job maintenance, mental health services, relationship-strengthening, networking, social and interpersonal skills and – well a longer list than I’ve got space for here – a person becomes better empowered and equipped to deal with many more of the issues which they will need to deal with moving forward.
And moving forward is what it’s all about. The real question becomes, “What is moving forward” with respect to this single person you’re working with? From their point of view, what’s going on and what goals if any, do they have for what they consider to be a better life? Sure for a lot of people the end goal is to get a job and become financially independent. Yeah, we’re all for that. However, for many people, there are a lot of things that need to be addressed before a job is actively sought out.
By way of example, two large barriers many people are presenting with these days are increasing mental health issues and one’s decision-making skills. Not surprisingly, the two are connected. The state of mental health a person experiences often determines their ability to make good decisions. Poor decisions that don’t result in the positive outcomes a person had hoped for reinforce feelings of failure, weakness and lead to hopelessness and further dependence. Good decisions on the other hand reinforce forward movement in a desired direction, spurring self-confidence and self-worth.
There’s infused energy in our workplace. People are setting up their offices, getting used to where others are now sitting, learning the way things are actually done in the new jobs they have. We’ve only just begun to glimpse what our collective futures will look like when it comes to who we serve and how. We will work more in partnerships with others; including our fellow employees and those outside our organization. Communication lines will be expanded and service more coordinated.
This is good news for those people we serve. Sure we were doing a good job before, and while many of us are on the move, I like to think we’re being better positioned as people to use the strengths we have, making us a collective body better positioned to serve our community at large.
Change; it’s a good thing and there’s more of it yet to come.