We all want to belong. We need food, water and shelter. But the desire for human connection and belonging has been proven as just as essential to life as these basic components.
Because life is more than survival. Without positive relationships, we can feel disconnected and discontented. We live, but we fail to thrive. Study after study shows that until these needs of belonging and esteem are fulfilled, we cannot reach the best version of ourselves.
That translates to the workforce environment as well. What we experience during the workday—our interactions with coworkers, the goals we set together, the meetings we join—all contribute to a sense of belonging, which is fundamental for our personal growth and well-being but also for the health of the organization as a whole.
“We know that if we, as a company, are truly to commit to excellence,” says QLI’s Vice President of Residential Services Nash Mahupete, “then it is essential to foster a culture that values every member for their experiences, who they are, and what they bring to the organization.”
As discussion on the importance of individual inclusion has increased in the greater community, so too has QLI pushed itself to build an even better environment for team members. One step in that direction is the inception of the CODE (Commitment for Opportunity, Diversity, and Equity) team. The CODE team acts as an advisory group and team member advocate. Every meeting is an opportunity to discuss what can be done to provide an environment of inclusion.
One of CODE’s first initiatives was “Huddles,” a company-wide Zoom offering a space to discuss inclusivity and conscious and unconscious bias. The first Huddles coincided with the early days of George Floyd’s murder and the subsequent unrest. “These discussions offered team members a safe place to gain a perspective on current events,” says Nash Mahupete. “It was an opportunity for us to examine what biases are and how they impact everyone.”
True inclusivity goes beyond discussion. It requires action.
It began in 2019 as a project to help further workforce development efforts. The IMPACT program, led by Melissa Elvig, is a joint effort with Avenue Scholars, providing high school seniors with training in job and life skills before they graduate. Students are introduced to careers in health care as they train to become Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs). Many IMPACT students go on to join the QLI team as interns, and then employees, following graduation.
“We’re able to bring students from around the community, from differing socio-economic circumstances and backgrounds, together for the purpose of learning, equipping them to be confident in their future,” says Elvig.
When team members with differing backgrounds and perspectives are introduced, it creates an opportunity for the individuals to learn from one another. The more a team learns from each other, the more cohesive and unified they will be and, ultimately, the quality of care provided to clients will also be strengthened.
Chad Arnold is a graduate of QLI’s rehabilitation program and now a proud team member, employed as a Life Path Specialist since May 2022. A paraplegic for five years, Chad uses a wheelchair for mobility. This offers him a unique perspective on inclusion from both sides of the organization, being a recipient of strengthened, unified care, and now a part of it for QLI’s clients.
“If you have a desire to learn and have a positive approach to life, there is a place for you here,” says Arnold. “Because of my physical limitations, I was not able to perform the demands of a CNA. I may not be able to help physically care for someone, but I have perspective and experiences that are highly valuable to our clients. We are more apt to create a role around someone’s abilities rather than consider what they can’t do. This is an ongoing commitment but they are conversations that no one is too uncomfortable to have.”
We are better together.