Among the first things Laura Lamb did after becoming president and CEO of Episcopal Retirement Services was convene a team that created Our Ways of Working, a 24-point listing of how ERS team members express and uphold our culture and Core Values.
Although she had been with the organization more than 20 years at the time, there was not one place she could point to define ERS’s culture. She asked the team to help her create one.
Laura Lamb, foreground, and the rest of ERS' Servant Leadership Team.
An enlightened document
Laura describes Our Ways of Working as the “double click” on each value. How do we express the values? How do we show that we value relationships? Our ways of working provide more detail on how we act because of the value.
Some examples include: “We treat one another as we would like to be treated and show respect in every interaction, even when we disagree.”
And this: “We learn and grow from our mistakes without fear of blame or shame.”
Also: “We are clear and forthcoming in our communication.”
Further: “We demonstrate enjoyment, enthusiasm, and passion for our mission.”
There’s also a hallmark statement about working with older adults: “We support elders to live on their own terms.”
Our Ways of Working are so important to the organization that teams regularly read them at the start of meetings, going around the room, taking turns to read the items. Our Ways of Working is so important to ERS' culture that it's also a part of every staff member’s annual performance evaluation.
A different type of organization
Joan Wetzel, ERS’ vice president for human resources and organizational development, says Our Ways of Working helps preserve the organization’s notable culture of caring for older adults in ways that focus on them, their needs, and their wishes for living well in ERS communities.
“Our culture is special because ERS is an organization that clearly defines and values our North Star, which is our Mission (what we do), and our Values (how we do it),” Joan said.
Many organizations have employees who do what ERS team members do, but many do not do them with the same care and kindness, she said. “What we do doesn’t necessarily differentiate us from the rest, but how we do our work certainly sets us apart."
The Ways of Working document “has a tremendous impact on our culture because it defines our values,” she said. “It gives us all a clear framework of specific actions and behaviors to help us uphold and live out our values as we nurture our relationships and go about our daily work.”
Joan Wetzel, ERS’ vice president for human resources and organizational development
ERS’ Mission and Core Values
If Our Ways of Working help achieve ERS’ Mission and Core Values, what are those?
The Mission is: “We enrich the lives of older adults in a person-centered, innovative and spiritually based way.” (That said, ERS welcomes all faiths for residents and staff.)
The Core Values are: Relationships; Integrity; Engagement; Inclusion; Person-Centeredness; and Progressive Thinking.
Laura started with ERS 30 years ago in January as an intern while earning a master’s degree through Xavier’s Hospital and Health Administration program. Her master’s thesis explored ways to create participatory team-based environments while still offering high quality, customer satisfaction, and financial results.
After she earned her degree, she began the first of several jobs at ERS, and her mission was to implement her master’s thesis at the organization. Effort has been a continuing thread throughout her three decades with the organization. Seven years ago this month, she became president and CEO.
Episcopal Retirement Services has been named an Enquirer Media Top Work Place 14 consecutive years. No company has achieved that honor more.
Residents appreciate the dedication
Residents of ERS retirement communities often offer their highest praise for those who work on their campuses. They often point to our culture and Our Ways of Working as a reason ERS is a special place to live.
A resident of the St. Paul Village Affordable Living by ERS community, for example, had this to say about JoAnne Lacey, the activities coordinator there, who won the prestigious Martindell Award for exceptional staff in 2023: “JoAnne works tirelessly, and so very dedicated in providing various activities for those who reside here…. She is genuine in her concern for the seniors here, and I believe that she displays her love for us every day that she’s with us.” JoAnne upholds our Ways of Working.