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I have allowed the practices of Gentle Teaching to bleed into all aspects of my life

Making sure someone is feeling safe, loved, and engaging in whatever we are doing has allowed so many relationships to flourish and has made me a better care giver and support

When I started supporting with Creative Options Regina two years ago I had a very different understanding of Gentle Teaching. After supporting in this environment, having the pleasure of taking both Gentle Teaching Levels 1 & 2, as well as the countless other training’s provided by COR, I have completely transformed my understanding, and my way of supporting. Being able to support someone in such a positive environment, one that is flexible to the needs of the individuals rather then having them bend to the needs of the organization, has allowed me to see so much growth and positivity in the lives of the individuals I support, as well as one’s I have had the pleasure of meeting and spending time with. I have allowed the practices of Gentle Teaching to bleed into all aspects of my life. Making sure someone is feeling safe, loved, and is engaged in whatever we are doing has allowed so many relationships to flourish and has made me a better care giver and support.

I have allowed the practices of Gentle Teaching to bleed into all aspects of my life

Lauren,

COR Family Member

4to40 Selected as Recipient of India Night 2019

Campus For All

After graduation from high school, students with intellectual disabilities have very few opportunities to further their education.  As a result, these young adults often find themselves ill-equipped for the workplace and lacking the skills that might otherwise provide important opportunities in life – such as employment.    The reality is that 80% of people who have an intellectual disability are jobless and heavily reliant on government support services.

The good news is that together we can turn this number around!  University is a viable and beneficial means to improve employment outcomes, job quality and income for individuals with intellectual disabilities.  In fact, graduates of inclusive post-secondary initiatives have an employment rate of nearly 80% — but they need support to get there.  Without support to find and maintain employment, the lives of inclusive post-secondary alumni are – upon completion of their studies — in danger of stagnation personally, educationally and workwise.  They are very much at risk of ending up segregated in our community.

As it foundational mandate, Campus For All: Inclusive Post-Secondary Education encompasses three pillars:  academics, social networking and employment. To address the employment pillar, Campus For All partnered with Creative Options Regina to create an employment project entitled 4to40.

 

4to40 Project

4to40 delivers employment services to students and individuals who experience both an intellectual disability and related barriers to entering the workforce.  These individuals want to work and contribute to our community.  4to40 receives no government funding and relies heavily on donations and fundraising.

4to40 is a unique grassroots project connecting people experiencing disability with employers who embrace a flexible 4 to 40 hour work week.  The overall purpose of 4to40 is to achieve social and economic inclusion.  4to40 works with one person at a time by developing customized employment opportunities that enable individuals experiencing disability and other related barriers to make a contribution to the community.    Behind every job created there is a story like this one written by a mother about her daughter, an alum of the University of Regina who was supported by Campus For All:

 

On Nicole’s full resume from Grade 10, she has 5 years of employability training,
2-1/2 years of volunteering and 15 job experience placements.  Nicole has been doing something every year since grade 10 to somehow get a job – except November
2010 to September 2011 when after doing another employability training program
with big promises and no follow through, I hit a wall and gave up.  She enrolled in Campus For All and the partnership with COR in 4to40 led to a job offer from Farm Credit Canada (her first long-term paying job at the age of 29).  So, needless to say,
to everyone involved (it takes a village).  How could I ever express how thankful
I am other than  . .  . THANK YOU VERY MUCH (with tears of joy).

 

Not only does 4to40 make a difference in individual lives, it generates macro level impacts for the betterment of our community.   4to40 is changing the culture around employment.  For example, many organizations in Regina are developing and implementing diversity strategies, but they don’t know where to start, how to implement, or find a pool of available employees.

4to40 provides information and support to employers – essentially creating inclusion within diversity. When individuals experiencing intellectual disabilities are hired typical understandings of disability are disrupted and new possibilities for belonging and contributing are uncovered.

We invite you to join us on September 14, 2019 at India Night:

Caring for the caregivers is key for Creative Options Regina

Caring for the caregivers is key for Creative Options Regina

Employees at Creative Options Regina with a client. Supplied photo  

The job of providing supports for people with disabilities or those struggling with their mental health can take a heavy toll, though Creative Options Regina discovered when you care for the caregivers it benefits both the clients and the company.

This is their second year being named as one of Saskatchewan’s top employers. This year will mark Creative Options Regina’s 10th year in business though executive director Michael Lavis notes it was about seven years ago when the company started to refocus their efforts to create a healthier and happier work environment for their employees.

“The field of work we are in may not be physically demanding, but it’s very emotionally demanding,” he explained. “We need to ensure our employees feel supported and have the supports they need to be doing well both physically and mentally to be able to provide the quality care.”

Lavis said the key to providing this supportive work environment was to understand the needs and wants of their employees, which he credits as being the non-profit’s most valuable assets, and make sure they felt valued, respected and that their voices were being heard.

Not only do they offer their more than 200 employees flexible hours — including the opportunity to work shortened and condensed work weeks — and the option to telecommute, they also encourage the employees to share their passions — leading to the introduction of a number of sports teams, clubs and fun nights out.

“It’s about facilitating relationships both in and outside of work,” Lavis said. “When you think about the amount of time people spend in the workplace throughout their life, you would hope they have those relationships and connections with their coworkers.”

Putting these extracurricular activities in place is generally at a very minimal cost to Creative Options Regina, Lavis said. Even when there is a fee — such as the $1,000 entry fee to participate in the Regina Dragon Boat Festival — the amount of time and the number of employees who come out to support is more than worth it.

“All summer long they practice once a week, they’re engaged in this physical activity and connecting by doing something that they all love. So to me, thats $1,000 well spent,” he said. “Sometimes you just have to give it a try.”

Though Lavis notes it’s not always easy to manage the different needs of all their employees, he says this approach has also helped them retain employees longer — which in turn has helped maintain a sense of trust with their clients alongside the high quality of care they are known to provide.

“In the support services sector the turnover rate is quite, quite high and we’ve been year after year between nine and 14 per cent — which is a fraction of the provincial average,” Lavis finishes. “I believe a big part of that is because of the work environment we are cultivating and the attention we pay to our employees.”

Click here to view article on the Leader-Post site.

 

Proud to be a 2019 Top Employer!

Preparing employees for tomorrow is what makes this year’s ‘Saskatchewan’s Top Employers’ stand out from the crowd

 

REGINA, Feb. 13, 2019 /CNW/ – A lot of employers talk about the need to train employees to make sure they have the skills needed to create the products that will be in demand tomorrow. But only a few leading employers have put these words into action. That’s the message from this year’s Saskatchewan’s Top Employers, announced today by the organizers of the Canada’s Top 100 Employers project at Mediacorp Canada Inc.

Saskatchewan is unique in Canada in having a significant public-sector component to its economy combined with relatively modest levels of immigration,” says Richard Yerema, Managing Editor of the Canada’s Top 100 Employers project. “For employers, this makes it even more important to ensure their existing employees have the skills needed to succeed in tomorrow’s economy. More than in other parts of Canada, Saskatchewan employers have a significant incentive to develop the skills of their existing workforce.”

“We see Saskatchewan employers taking a greater role in preparing their employees for tomorrow’s skills,” adds Kristina Leung, Senior Editor at the Canada’s Top 100 Employers project.  “With softer prices for many of Saskatchewan’s primary commodities, more organizations are realizing they have to move up the value chain to compete internationally.  The best way to do this is with employees who have the skills needed to create products and services that the world needs.”

Here are some of the notable initiatives that the editors recognized this year:

  • Regina-based ISM Canada, a subsidiary of IBM Canada Ltd., operates a company-wide program called ‘Think 40’ that strongly encourages employees to complete a minimum of 40 hours professional development each year.
  • Saskatchewan Crop Insurance Corp. encourages ongoing employee development through full tuition subsidies for training courses, whether or not the course is related to an employee’s current position.
  • Saskatchewan Indian Institute of Technologies builds on its role as an educator by promoting employee skills development through in-house courses and subsidies (to $1,500) to obtain various professional certifications.
  • Saskatoon Police Service reaches out to the next generation through a dedicated summer jobs program for Aboriginal students, as well as a special outreach program to youth who are newcomers to Canada and interested in a career in policing.
  • Synergy Credit Union in Lloydminster encourages a culture of learning with tuition subsidies for courses that help employees improve their skills, plus cash bonuses (to $1,800) on the completion of particular training programs.

Now in its 14th year, Saskatchewan’s Top Employers is a special designation that recognizes Saskatchewan employers that lead their industries in offering exceptional places to work. Employers throughout Saskatchewan were evaluated by the editors at Canada’s Top 100 Employers using the same criteria as the national competition: (1) Physical Workplace; (2) Work Atmosphere & Social; (3) Health, Financial & Family Benefits; (4) Vacation & Time Off; (5) Employee Communications; (6) Performance Management; (7) Training & Skills Development; and (8) Community Involvement. Employers are compared to other organizations in their field to determine which offer the most progressive and forward-thinking programs. The annual competition is open to any employer with its head office in Saskatchewan; employers of any size may apply, whether private or public sector.

Founded in 1992, Mediacorp Canada Inc. is the nation’s largest publisher of employment periodicals. Since 1999, the Toronto-based publisher has managed the Canada’s Top 100 Employers project, which includes 18 regional and special-interest editorial competitions that reach over 13 million Canadians annually through a variety of magazine and newspaper partners. Mediacorp also operates Eluta.ca, the largest Canadian job search engine, which includes editorial reviews from the Canada’s Top 100 Employers project and is now used by almost 8 million users in Canada each year. Mediacorp also organizes the Top Employer Summit, Canada’s largest annual conference for senior-level HR professionals.

The full list of Saskatchewan’s Top Employers for 2019 is attached. This year’s winners were announced today in a special magazine published in the Regina Leader-Post and Saskatoon StarPhoenix. Detailed reasons for selection, with dozens of additional stories and photos, were released this morning and are accessible via the competition homepage.

Saskatchewan’s Top Employers
2019 Winners

3sHealth / Health Shared Services Saskatchewan, Regina
Access Communications Co-operative Ltd., Regina
ClearTech Industries Inc., Saskatoon
Cornerstone Credit Union Financial Group Limited, Yorkton
Creative Options Regina, Inc., Regina
Group Medical Services / GMS Insurance Inc., Regina
Harvard Developments Inc., Regina
Information Services Corporation / ISC, Regina
ISM Canada, Regina
K+S Potash Canada GP, Saskatoon
Pattison Agriculture Limited, Swift Current
Ranch Ehrlo Society, Regina
Saskatchewan Apprenticeship and Trade Certification Commission, Regina
Saskatchewan Blue Cross, Saskatoon
Saskatchewan Construction Safety Association, Regina
Saskatchewan Crop Insurance Corporation / SCIC, Melville
Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority / SIGA, Saskatoon
Saskatchewan Indian Institute of Technologies / SIIT, Saskatoon
Saskatchewan Polytechnic, Saskatoon
Saskatchewan Research Council / SRC, Saskatoon
Saskatchewan Workers’ Compensation Board, Regina
Saskatoon Police Service, Saskatoon
Saskatoon, City of, Saskatoon
SaskPower, Regina
SaskTel, Regina
Solvera Solutions, Regina
Southeast College, Weyburn
Synergy Credit Union Ltd., Lloydminster
University of Regina, Regina

SOURCE Mediacorp Canada Inc.

For further information: Anthony Meehan, Publisher, 416-964-6069 x1464

Two organizations prove that nice guys can finish first!

Mastermind Toys and Creative Options Regina

September 17, 2018
Your Workplace Sept-Oct 2018
While they may not seem that similar on the surface, Mastermind Toys and Creative Options Regina (COR) are two organizations proving that when you take care of your employees, your employees will take care of your clientele. One is a toy retailer and one is a non-profit providing services to people with disabilities, but both focus on creating a warm and caring atmosphere and building a culture based on shared values.

The result? These two organizations have earned exemplary reputations with the communities they serve and enjoy unusually high staff retention rates for their industries.

Mastermind Toys

Mastermind has a unique philosophy for selling children’s toys and books. By fostering an educational approach, the company enriches not only the customer experience but the employee experience as well. In fact, they enjoy an average employee tenure of close to seven years — an almost unheard-of retention rate in retail stores.

Ryan Thorson, store manager of Mastermind Toys Terra Losa in Edmonton, Alberta, believes that the company’s workplace culture promotes a fun and inviting atmosphere that lives up to their motto: “We take play seriously.”

“I wanted to find a company where I could not only pursue career advancement,” Thorson says, “but also have it be a place that shares my values… a family-like atmosphere and a track record for treating its employees with fairness and respect.”

Mastermind was originally opened in 1984 by brothers Andy and Jon Levy in Toronto to sell educational software to families excited about their new home computers. Two years later, they opened a store in the Ontario Science Centre. Now with 60 stores across the country, and growing, Mastermind’s CEO, Jon Levy, understands the impact that his company can have on the communities where the stores are located.

In 2015, the company launched a partnership with WE (formerly Free the Children), a charity that supports youth education in Canada and overseas. In 2016, Mastermind stores raised $400,000, but the initiative isn’t just about giving back to the community; it’s also about engaging employees.

“Anne [Baston, vice-president of marketing] and I started to talk about the charitable side of our business and what we could do to broaden our horizons from the standpoint of how our employees were engaged charitably,” says Levy.

After much deliberation and brainstorming, the company selected WE. Its educational mandate plays well with Mastermind’s objective to sell toys that educate.

When they launched the initiative, many of the company’s younger employees were already familiar with WE from their school days. Selecting a charity with broad appeal, and that their employees were already comfortable with, made for a smooth, easy transference of enthusiasm from the top down. To drive home the impact that they are making through their charitable efforts, Mastermind takes managers of the stores that raise the most funds to Kenya on a yearly basis.

“Behind every great manager is up to 60 employees that get that store to greatness. Two store managers went with me and my wife, Karyn, who also works in the organization, the first year. The rest of their teams back in Canada got a fantastic reward package … Even though they didn’t go on the trip, they were highly congratulated with lots of prizing.”

Levy is always on the lookout for ways to connect with his employees. He started creating videos for the staff that, in addition to educating about a product, also introduces him to all employees in a playful, easygoing manner. This, in turn, helps break down uncomfortable hierarchy in the organization.

“Our inner kid, the way we like to play and what we think resonates with the community, really comes through in a personal way [with this] video program… so, it’s kind of fun,” he says. “When I visit stores, the newly hired staff say, ‘I know you, you’re on the video.’”

“Every store you go into, whether it’s out in B.C. or in Nova Scotia, it feels like family,” says Baston. “There’s a community feeling to all of the stores. Despite the fact that we’re growing… Mastermind does a really good job of hiring people with similar values. You can feel that when you walk into the stores, into the home office. I think that makes it very different from other retailers.”

Creative Options Regina (COR)

A culture of gentleness is woven into all aspects of the organization at COR — not just in how the individuals and families COR serves are treated, but in the people it hires and how each employee is mentored.

Michael Lavis, executive director, says that their method of “gentle teaching” is not specific to disability but rather can be applied to all people constructing supports for marginalized populations. “There are a handful of organizations — I think there are four of us now in Canada — working on this philosophy… which is really the foundation, the bedrock of the work that we do. And this is rooted in whether or not a person feels safe and valued — putting relationships at the core of care giving,” says Lavis.

The company is the seventh-largest care provider in Saskatchewan and employs 200 staff who serve 20% of the most challenging cases in the province’s service delivery system. Like other service providers, COR is contracted by the government to provide personalized support services for people with disabilities. What differentiates them from other providers, though, is the intentional shift they made to focus on their employees — the caregivers.

“By making that shift — by making sure we are nurturing our caregivers and that our employees are feeling cared for — what ends up happening is they give the utmost care to [our clients],” says Lavis. “So, it’s shifting the focus as an organization to our employees — to what the employee experience looks like, what the employee wants, what they need from us to feel supported and how we can really understand what is meaningful to our employees.”

Organizational culture is a popular topic these days, but Lavis challenges people to go one step further and work on shared values, as he feels that that has the greatest influence on culture. “What drives culture is value alignment. That’s something we’ve focused on, understanding the values of our employees … and where we see that alignment and shared common purpose,” he says.

In the Saskatchewan disability services sector the employee turnover rate was around 60% in 2015. By contrast, the turnover rate at COR has remained at a steady 9 – 14% since the company’s inception.

Creating a caring staff atmosphere is about understanding who is working for you and what is important to them. For most employees, a fair wage is critical. But for many that is only a small piece of a larger picture. There are other crucial factors, such as whether or not employees feel engaged and if their ideas and suggestions are listened to and valued. At COR, they have found that exploring employees’ passions and helping them bring those passions to life in the workplace is key.

“We have to have that conversation with our employees, because we need to know what it is that they want and need and whether that is something we are able to provide,” says Lavis.

Helping employees bring their passions into the workplace enables them to impart important life skills. For example, one COR employee who loves cooking offered to teach other employees to cook. As the average staffers’ age is 28, this is a skill that some of them may lack. COR helped the employee develop a monthly cooking class with regular attendance of 10-15 staff, who can now pass that skill onto COR clients.

Lavis says they plan to develop an art initiative next. The idea was brought to him by two employees who wanted to share their passion for art. “It’s a pivotal moment,” says Lavis. “A matter of us saying, ‘Yeah. I’d love to help you. How are we going to do this?’

“It’s easy to think of barriers of why they can’t do it. And that takes the wind out of their sails. But, by saying, ‘I love this idea. We just have to think it through a little bit more. Let’s talk.’ — Then, they are motivated and energized, and you know what? [Here we are now] developing an art studio. There were lots of barriers, but we have been able to work through [them] to be able to see it realized.”

Lavis believes that a customer-centric focus has actually harmed many companies. “People tend to focus on the customer and forget about their employees,” he says. “I think that, whether it’s a for-profit or not-for-profit business, if we want to provide the utmost care for those we are contracted to provide services to, that starts with us caring for our employees. If they feel well cared for, they are going to provide great care.”

 

Click here to view on the Your Workplace website.

 

Supporting at COR has made me approach life at a slower pace and truly take in my surroundings

Gentle Teaching has transformed the person I am and aspire to be by making me more personally aware of who I am and who I want to be. Through my time at COR I have truly learnt the meaning of empathy, as opposed to sympathy. It is easy to be sympathetic towards someone and just coat situations with nice words so everyone is happy; it’s another to understand why someone feels that way and put yourself in their position to see the entire picture from their perspective.

she’s with COR, and COR is family

Supporting at COR has made me approach life at a slower pace and truly take in my surroundings and understand complex situations. It has allowed me to view problems from all perspectives to get a grasp on what the next step should be without making a rash, quick decision. We live in such a fast-paced society and sometimes forget to sit back and take it all in. The people I support have taught me how important friendships are and how valuable a good friend is. These relationships that have evolved over the years have truly become more than a “client” and “worker” relationship; I consider these people my family which is one of my favorite perks of being a support worker at COR. One of the girls I support said it best when she was standing up for another COR individual by saying, “she’s with COR, and COR is family.” This small, and relatively simple quote truly warmed my heart and sums up my time with this wonderful organization. My time at COR has truly allowed me to appreciate the little things in life like what a true friendship is.

 

-Shelby B.

My time at COR

Proud to be a 2018 Saskatchewan Top Employer

On January 24th, 2018, COR became a TOP Employer in Saskatchewan! We are proud to receive this recognition and are truly grateful for all those who have supported us on our journey! A special THANK YOU to our 185+ team of young, passionate professionals who are dedicated to nurturing a culture of compassion in the work place. We too are grateful to our partners, funders, supporters, family members and the people we serve for their continued support. I invite you to read our story below…

Take a peek at COR’s organizational profile online on Eluta.

Read more about Canada’s Top 100 here.

SHSAtv: The First Steps to Mental Health in the Workplace

COR is proud to be recognized by the Service and Hospitality Safety Association (SHSA) for our efforts to incorporate Mental Health within our Safety Management System.  To learn more about Mental Health in the Workplace, watch their SHSAtv video segment.

…..

Lisa Chavady, SHSA’s Senior Advisor will guide you through the first four steps to implementation, from gaining leadership commitment, conducting a baseline assessment, devising a plan, to measuring and revising.  Remember, what works for one organization may not work for another.  Find out what is required at YOUR organization, and do what works for you!

Special Guests Experts:

  • Elizabeth Rankin-Horvath, CSA Group Project Manager for the development of the National Standard of Canada on Psychological Health & Safety in the Workplace
  • Rory McCorriston, Mandy Boersch & Kristyn White from Creative Options Regina, who tell a first-hand story of how they have successfully integrated the mental health aspect into their safety management system 

To learn more, visit the SHSA Website.

 

A Culture of Gentleness

The true integrity that Gentle Teaching is related to creates an atmosphere where people are truly loved, feel safe and can embrace a culture of gentleness. Given these elements of John McGee’s philosophy of Gentle Teaching as teams of support people at Creative Options Regina we have created positive places for supports and the people who we serve to grow together. My personal contributions to my team’s culture of gentleness relate to true caring for the woman I support. They are fostering positive relationships between her and the team who supports her, including myself, as well as promoting independence in unique ways. These elements of support help to create a culture of gentleness where everyone feels safe and loved.

Creating and maintaining good relationship among the team and with Angie is extremely important when considering the support to an individual and support to Support relationships, as well as the inter-reliance of both relationships. Coming into my employment opportunity with Creative Options Regina I thought that maintaining so many positive relationships was going to be difficult. This was not the case because the nature of Gentle Teaching with the four pillars (safe, loved, loving, and engaged) and the four tools (presence, words, hands, and eyes) helps everyone to maintain positive relationships that help us to better work together to provide support. With everyone working together, bringing ideas, concerns to one another and the ability to be honest with each other creates a positive team atmosphere for us as supports, which in turn results in the ability to provide better support.

Promoting Angie’s own form of independence and what she wants to do, as well as achieving what she wants is one of the best ways of maintaining a culture of gentleness. Whether it is playing dominoes all day or venturing out on the town, it is important that the people who we support have the most impute in their every day lives and that we are there to help them — not do for them. Another element that adds to Angie’s form of freedom is creating a home that truly reflects her personality. Whether it is blasting Christmas music in July, helping her decorate her house for holidays, or bringing my guitar, the thing we are there to do is help her achieve what she wants and be her companion every step of the way. Although her way of independence appears different from that of most people, what is important is that we create a culture of gentleness that helps her to be independent in a way that involves help from her friends. After all, the founder of Gentle Teaching John McGee stated:

“Loneliness is not freedom. Decision-Making is not freedom. Independence is not freedom. Autonomy is not freedom. These are only expressions of possible freedom. It is each persons becoming the author of his/her own life-project, but in the context of being-with-others, feeling at home with others, feeling safe within oneself, and feeling connected and engaged with significant others.” (McGee. 2.)

As a support person, I feel that being there for what Angie wants is my biggest contribution to creating a culture of gentleness

As a support person, I feel that being there for what Angie wants is my biggest contribution to creating a culture of gentleness.

Given the kind nature of Gentle Teaching, the goal of creating a culture of gentleness and kindness is made easier if one follows the teachings of John McGee’s philosophy. Two of the ways that I try to encourage this culture of gentleness are by fostering positive relationships between the team of supports, Angie and myself, as well as helping Angie to create her own form of independence. Encouraging this gentle community of people leads to a better experience for anyone who enters Angie’s house and more importantly improves Angie’s quality of life.

 

Andrew, COR Support

References:
McGee, J. Self-Determination as an Expression of Engagement.

 

Casino Night – Support Appreciation at the Artesian