Best Places to Work Honoree 2022

Organization Name: Living Independently Forever, Inc. (LIFE)
Address: 550 Lincoln Road Extension, Hyannis, MA 02601
Website: https://lifecapecod.org
Phone: (508) 790-3600
Contact Email: marketing@lifecapecod.org
Describe in detail the culture of the company and a recent experience supporting that.
The LIFE culture is driven by the organization’s mission “to support adults with autism, learning and intellectual disabilities in their pursuit of a meaningful, healthy independent life, for LIFE.” As a result of the community we serve, LIFE is a supportive, flexible, kind, broadminded, collaborative workplace. We understand that not everyone does everything the same way. There are different paths and versions of success. LIFE respects others’ ideas and perspectives. At LIFE's main office location in Hyannis, an outdoor open pavilion with picnic tables and colorful Adirondack chairs surrounds a firepit near the main LIFE office building. This pavilion is a central meeting place for LIFE individuals where they catch up with friends, wait for their LIFE coach, or ride to work. As staff enters and exits the building, we experience exuberant greetings from the individuals we serve. "Good morning, Janine. Nice to see you. Hope you have a great day." residents say with a big smile and enthusiasm for the day. This energy is pervasive. The LIFE staff helps each other and is constantly sharing resources and ideas. For example, a new employee was having an issue communicating with his work colleagues. He was frustrated, and so were his co-workers. He wanted to quit. Our human resources Administrative Assistant stepped up to the challenge. She stayed with him past her end-of-day (and the start of her family dinner) to research the issue. She also requested an alternative screen interface to ease this potential issue for future employees (during this tight job market), trained herself on the issue, and then the employee. Understanding that employees may see things differently relieved the team tension and retained an employee for future growth.
Has the company/organization offered rewards or incentives for great customer service or a positive employee attitude?
LIFE offers part-time and full-time employees quarterly bonuses for meeting individual goals. In addition, LIFE provides holiday bonuses, staff appreciation gifts, a staff paid luncheon, and referral bonuses for new hires referred by current employees.
Does the organization offer training for levels of advancement? Is there room for growth?
LIFE invested thousands of dollars in a learning management system with over 5,000 courses to help staff develop new skills, train for new positions, receive certifications and prepare for greater responsibility in management positions. Numerous courses and tracks are offered at no cost to LIFE staff of 200+ employees. LIFE also provides staff training on issues of Positive Approach to Behavioral Challenges and Sexuality in the intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) population we serve. Additionally, LIFE pays those trainers to train staff. We have sponsored staff to become Registered Behavior Technicians supporting our clinical team. This service is paid at a higher rate, offering the staff growth in their career development and earning potential. There is tremendous opportunity and support for growth and transitions to management positions. Anyone who wants to advance has the opportunity to take training and move into a new role within the organization.
Does this organization promote from within, or hire outside when looking for employees?
LIFE has a solid track record of promoting from within. We have numerous success stories of staff joining at a junior role and growing within the organization to department directors overseeing multiple staff on their team. One example is our Group Home Director who started as a part-time direct caregiver and now oversees the group home programs with one of the largest departments at LIFE.
Provide an example of how this organization has recently gone above and beyond for an employee, team or client/customer.
Every day we see staff going above and beyond to support their co-workers and the individuals we serve. Our monthly newsletter has a “Shining the Spotlight” feature to recognize staff that goes above and beyond to help the individuals we serve and their colleagues. Recently we recognized Randi, a LIFE Coach in our Plymouth community. She started during COVID and the staff shortage. With great success, she quickly learned and took on a full caseload almost immediately. She developed her own creative techniques for teaching and guiding, which were an instant success with the clients she supports. We receive numerous emails and text messages from parents expressing their gratitude for her. Many kudos to Randi!
Communication is key, how effective is the organization at communication with their employees and/or client/customer? *
The culture at LIFE is positive, supportive, and collaborative -- this is evident in our communication style. With LIFE locations spread across Cape Cod and Plymouth, our organization has consistent communications, including emails from the Executive Director and marketing, to keep the staff and families we serve informed. In fact, over the last two years during COVID, families praised our regular communications to keep them up-to-date and share success stories of how their loved ones are succeeding with healthy habits, socializing safely, and maintaining work as essential employees. LIFE launched an internal Microsoft SharePoint webpage that’s a centralized hub for all employees to share documents and news. This webpage has had over 6,000 views in the last 30 days. Recent posts include a stipend paid Special Olympics Swim Team Coach opportunity, congratulatory job announcements for the people we support, a financial raffle for employees who reach billable targets, and news about a gas mileage reimbursement increase. Monthly staff meetings also provide time for open communication, brainstorming solutions as a team, and keeping our team connected.
In what ways does the organization give back to their community? Please provide an example.
LIFE gives back to the community through our employee volunteering and fundraising. In addition, LIFE's Community-based Day Service (CBDS) program has over 50,000 hours a year of individual volunteering time. LIFE collaborates with numerous Plymouth and Cape Cod organizations, including the Penny Pinchers Thrift Store, where our individuals prepare merchandise for sale and cook meals for the indigent in their commercial kitchen. In addition, LIFE individuals volunteer at Happy Hope in Plymouth, making care packages for chronically ill children in the area. Keep Barnstable Beautiful is a project that we work with to clean up trash in Hyannis area parks. This collaborative program with the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce honored LIFE with an award for service to the community in 2019. Other volunteer opportunities include multiple Meals on Wheels routes in Plymouth and on Cape, the Aids Support Group of Cape Cod, and multiple animal shelters in Plymouth and on Cape. The LIFE staff also takes time to volunteer regularly. Our Director of Shared Living, a LIFE employee for 22 years, has a weekly commitment to volunteer for the deaf every Wednesday of the year, with no exception. And LIFE’s Director of Fitness runs the Boston Marathon annually as a fundraiser and, in 2020, he raised $12,500 to support Special Olympics Massachusetts.
Are you actively hiring/recruiting outside your organization?
Yes!

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