A partnership forged with ServiceMaster in 2020 provides a precedent for future alliances as services provided transition from center-based to community-based employment.
It represents a concrete case study for how relationships between employers and ODC can be modeled in other communities and across businesses in various industries.
“Which is what is so exciting about this partnership: it’s a way to show other employers how these relationships can work for mutual benefit,” explained MaryBeth Gibson, Int’l Falls Program Specialist.
Fourteen employees were placed onto ServiceMaster payroll Oct. 1.
“For our people served, the only thing that changes is where the paycheck comes from,” MaryBeth said. “ODC clients still get the same supports provided by their job coach, and the work still gets done. It’s a win-win for everybody.”
Last year, while reviewing ODC’s janitorial service contracts, an opportunity to create a mutually beneficial situation with a competitor revealed itself to MaryBeth. She reached out to Todd Coulombe, owner of ServiceMaster, in the beginning of July.
“I didn’t even have to sell it to Todd,” MaryBeth said. “It was a brief conversation over the phone about, ‘Hey, you can have these contracts and I’ll supply you employees,’ and he said, ‘Yeah, I’ll think about it.’”
A few days later he returned her call with some good news.
“Todd called back and said, ‘Yeah, we’re interested in doing that. What do you think?’” MaryBeth continued. “Having an employer come in and say — yeah, I see your vision too and yeah, we can totally do that — it was a dream come true!”
“I just think it’s an exciting thing to team up with ODC,” Todd said. “We’re looking forward to what opportunities this will present for other employers. It’s going to be good for this community.”
How this employer-provider relationship works is simple: a community employer adds a new employee or group of employees from ODC onto their payroll, and ODC provides all supervision, accommodation, interventions and job training required.
The benefit to employers is that they gain dedicated and eager employees with training and any supervisory needs provided by ODC. And the benefit to ODC clients is that they are earning competitive wages, becoming part of a larger team, and pursuing independent employment in the community.
A major benefit to ServiceMaster in this partnership is that they now have “a hiring tool that isn’t available in the wider community: an on-demand workforce,” MaryBeth explained. Having this on-demand pool of employees means that shifts will never run short of staff. Employees are interchangeable because they’ve all received the same training and know the sites and routines.
MODEL FOR SUCCESS
ServiceMaster hired employees of all different levels of mental and physical abilities, including individuals with conditions like high anxiety. “Something so simple, but they can’t work without that added support,” MaryBeth explained. “Accommodations don’t necessarily affect productivity.”
A hesitation for some employers is the inability to see how these partnerships can work when presented abstractly, or they don’t know how they can apply it to their business model.
“There’s a fear of the unknown, an uncertainty of how to adapt to each individual person’s needs,” MaryBeth stated. In this partnership model, ODC takes on the job of accommodating and training employees: taking these uncertainties out of business owners’ hands. “If it means another employee has been successfully placed, ODC is committed to supporting them,” she added.
Julie Bartkowski, ODC board member and mother of Jared, an ODC client and one of the employees that ServiceMaster has taken on, is optimistic for future partnerships that will help others like her son.
“As an organization that is always looking out for the benefit and growth of their clients, this opportunity really serves both of these purposes,” Julie said. “This is a great opportunity for our clients to continue to expand their skills and involvement in the community. To keep moving forward.”
Since this story was first published in October 2020, ServiceMaster has hired an additional 7 employees, bringing the total to 21. Two other community employers have reached out to the I. Falls ODC to hire employees with competitive pay offers, including Dairy Queen (read Briana’s story). Others have indicated they will be hiring as the economic recovery continues.
“The only individuals at this division who have not been hired out are those with significant disability, have aged out, or otherwise choose not to work,” MaryBeth said. “Everybody at this division who wants to work and is capable of working is employed. That is a wonderful success.”
Entering International Falls along Highway 71. A tight-knit community of over 5500, it has an economic history in the timber, trucking and paper industries. The pandemic has bolstered local business with an entrepreneurial spirit, resulting in a surge of new restaurants, services and shops.
MaryBeth Gibson, left, stands with ServiceMaster owner Todd Coulombe in early October after taking on the initial 14 employees from ODC. ServiceMaster has now hired a total of 21 individuals through this partnership.
Roneisha Saari (right), Dairy Queen manager, held Briana Larson’s job for her throughout the pandemic and the resulting shutdown. A full year after her original start date, Briana (left) was excited to join the DQ team in March 2021.
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Prepares individuals under age 25 with job and life skill development, career planning, job search, interview practice and resume writing.
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