How Degree Programs Helped Build a Company Culture of Dedication


Posted In: Case Studies, Workforce Insight

Mar • 22 • 2017

Granite State Independent Living (GSIL), a nonprofit with eight offices in New Hampshire, provides tools for people with disabilities to live independently by offering five core services: education, information, advocacy, support, and transition services. They also offer College for America’s degree programs to every interested employee.


To deliver these services, GSIL relies on office workers and home care attendants attuned to the values of the organization. Along with quarterly meetings and internal training through an online portal, GSIL partners with College for America to allow employees to attain college degrees. Between four and six employees at a time have been enrolled in the program since last year, studying toward degrees in healthcare management.


We were interested to get GSIL’s perspective while developing our new eBook, The Liberal Arts at the Office: Addressing the New Skills Gap, which includes employer insights on the role that foundational lifelong skills play in the workplace for entry-level and frontline employees.


Below is an excerpt of the eBook included in that eBook from Debbie Krider, Chief Operating Officer, at Granite State Independent Living.


What skills are the most critical to develop in GSIL’s frontline employees?


They need to be able to write well, including the “who, what, where, and when,” along with the ability to document future needs and tasks, as well as what has occurred. We’re trying to figure out how to be more efficient, so employees need to be open-minded about learning new technology.


As employees move up and become supervisors, giving meaningful and constructive feedback is an extremely important skill. Giving meaningful and constructive feedback is an extremely important skill, and I find the more personal the subject is — such as appropriate business attire — the harder time new supervisors have.


How is GSIL helping employees develop these skills?


We hold quarterly meetings for all managers that include training, introducing new policies, and talking about other things they need to pay attention to. We also use an online portal to develop skills around computer programs, leadership, and project management.


Which employees have taken the most advantage of GSIL’s partnership with College for America?


Right now the students in the program are entry-level employees in office positions, but some home care attendants have expressed interest, too.


Many are single moms, so we’re hoping the pacing of the program will be helpful so that if they have a bad week, they don’t fall behind. All of the students enjoy learning and they’re motivated, so it works well that they can guide themselves into the next steps.


Is GSIL’s training designed to help employees move up in their careers or to shore up skills necessary for their current jobs?


A little of both. Many are interested in moving up in the organization, and we like to give people an opportunity to grow and to promote within. It fits both of our goals.


Learning new skills is so important — it can only be a positive thing for employees to go back to school. What used to be efficient or appropriate can change pretty quickly in our industry. Ongoing training helps people get into the mindset of “I need to continue to learn throughout my career”.


What would you advise peers in other companies about developing the skills of their frontline employees?


Instilling company culture and values into employees contributes so much to the company’s success. We are really deliberate with our communication, whether it’s written or in meetings, to be constantly educating and reeducating about our values and our culture. Sometimes it feels like over-communication, but it’s important to who we are.


How has workforce development contributed to GSIL’s success?


We’ve found that education opportunities attract people who want to help our consumers. Most people come to work here because of our culture, values, and mission. They know we are about making people independent and helping them live up to their full potential. It’s really rewarding as an employee to work at a company where these are the goals.