At work, it’s easy to see employees in one-dimensional terms. There’s Jerome, working security at the main entrance. There’s Clara, wheeling her housekeeping cart into the elevator. There’s Cynthia from accounting, with her usual morning coffee.
We might know one or two details about their lives – Jerome’s childhood loyalty to the Miami Dolphins, or Cynthia’s once-a-week splurge on a fancy latte—but often not much more than that. Yet every one of them has a larger story and their own dreams, worries, and motivations. They bring those to work, too.
Finding and keeping talented people is an ever-increasing and costly challenge for businesses of all types. As employers strive to create workplaces that are magnets for talent and maximize employee engagement, the key is seeing and responding to employees’ unique needs in three dimensions, not applying one-size-fits-all strategies.
That’s exactly what we are helping a growing number of innovative employers across New Orleans do through our work at EdNavigator, a nonprofit focused on guiding hard-working families along the path to a great education. In partnership with committed businesses like International House Hotel, Marriott, the Ruby Slipper Café, and Tulane University, we bring expert educational support right to the workplace as a benefit for employees.
Our “Navigators” – veteran teachers, school counselors, and other professionals – meet with employees on breaks and before or after shifts to make plans for school, troubleshoot challenges, and help them stay on track to reach their goals. Navigators do much more than provide advice; they roll up their sleeves and get things done, whether that means assisting with enrollment paperwork for a new school, researching college programs, or attending an important school meeting with an anxious parent.
Why educational support? Because few things matter more. What if you knew that Cynthia needs her daily coffee partly because she has to get up at 5 AM every day to get three kids to three different schools? Or that Clara spends every shift worrying about her 8 year-old son, who is not getting the special education supports he really needs? Or that Jerome dreams of going back to school to get a degree in business? How much would it change their attitudes about work if they knew their employer cared about those things, too?
Quite a bit, it turns out. This summer, when we surveyed employees across New Orleans about their experiences with EdNavigator, 90 percent strongly agreed or agreed that “having EdNavigator makes me feel my employer cares about me.” Eighty-two (82) percent said “having EdNavigator makes it easier for me to stay focused on my work.” And 3 in 4 agreed that “having EdNavigator makes me more likely to continue working for my current employer.”
We believe everyone involved wins with this approach. Busy families get support navigating schools; businesses get more engaged and loyal employees; and students get on the path to success in school and beyond.
America's workplaces are filled with Jeromes and Claras and Cynthias. They all want to do well in their jobs, and to give themselves and their families an education that positions them for even greater success over the long term. Let's help them do both at once.