Stephanie came to COA in April 2017 as a supervisor in our Aging and Disability Resource Center (call center) , was later promoted to manager of the department, and has managed two other departments since.
Stephanie’s prior work experience included exposure to COA and our community-based programs. Because of this exposure, Stephanie thought she had a good understanding of how COA worked. She was surprised, not only by the complexity of our programs and services, but also by our culture.
Continue reading to learn about Stephanie’s experience at COA. And don’t miss her Eggplant Parm recipe at the bottom!
As you were considering a career change, what drew you to COA as an employer? What keeps you here?
I was ready to take my career to another level, but I’ve always been interested in and passionate about working with the aging population, so I wanted to stay in that realm. If you are a social worker – especially if you want to work with older adults or people with disabilities – COA is one of the places you want to look for a position.
I was looking for a manager or supervisor position that would move me out of direct practice (case management). COA had those opportunities. I was familiar with COA and had worked in COA programs from the outside, so I thought this would be a good fit for me.
I do love my [current] job, but I don’t want to be in it for the next 10 years. I see other advancement opportunities here to explore.
What resources and support do you have at COA to develop a high-functioning team?
COA’s culture is much more complicated than I anticipated. A positive about COA’s culture is the amount of support we have here. For example: quality. There’s a whole department here for quality. Where I came from, we didn’t have that. We also have a Business Intelligence (BI) department. Those were resources that were all new to me but that were beneficial in helping me determine a baseline of where my team needed to start and where improvements needed to be made in terms of policies, procedures and staff training.
Professional development is also encouraged at COA. I’m always looking for external opportunities for professional development. I’m an OSHIIP volunteer, so I try to keep up with that.
Staff also attend Forum on Aging (COA’s annual professional development and networking conference). I attended before I was a COA employee and plan to attend in 2019. It’s a good venue for professional development for nurses and social workers. There’s a good variety of speakers and topics.
COA is known as a place where change is always happening. As a manager, how do you help your staff adjust/cope with these changes?
Personally, I don’t mind change. I actually like it. But it is fast-paced here, at times. So I try to listen to staff and their concerns. Change can be hard for people, especially if they’ve been doing their job for a long time and they don’t understand why the change is happening. I try to help them see the benefits of it and I try to always be positive and transparent. We recently worked through major changes, initiated by the State of Ohio, that were impacting abandonment rates in our call center. The changes required staff to be on the phone with callers longer than normal. As a result, people got tired of being on hold and hung up. We saw our abandonment rates grow from an average of five to eight percent, to 22 percent at its peak. But the team did a good job of streamlining processes and finding efficiencies and now we’re back to our normal rates. I think this success is due mostly to the self-directed team model that COA has adopted. Self-directed teams are empowered to make decisions, test new processes and find solutions on their own. Instead of the manager telling the team how to solve a problem, the team comes up with possible solutions, tests them and then takes a recommendation to the manager.
COA recently began offering LISW supervision. What does this mean for current employees or those who might be thinking about a career at COA?
LISW is for anyone who has a masters degree in social work and wants to further their licensure or develop new areas of proficiencies. I hold a supervisory license (LISW-S) and joined a team of other LISW-S staff to develop the supervisory training at COA. LISW Supervision is something COA staff wanted. And when social workers are looking for employment, they want to know if supervision is offered as a benefit. If you don’t work somewhere where it’s offered in-house, you have to seek it outside of work and it can be expensive and time consuming. Offering this to employees shows COA’s commitment to professional development, positions COA as a competitive employer in the marketplace, and also provides more flexibility for the organization in pursuing different types of contracts.
More about Stephanie
Which COA values are most important to you?
- Integrity – Integrity is doing what you say you are going to do; following through and doing things the right way. I think that’s really important. I would never ask one of my staff to do something I wouldn’t do myself. That’s kind of my motto – treat others how you want to be treated.
- Service – I went into this profession to help people and to improve either something about their situation or their quality of life. So that’s important. Even though I don’t do direct case management, I have this responsibility at a higher level. I set the expectation for the level of service my team provides to our community.
- Teamwork – I think it’s important for everyone to work as a team. I try to look at the bigger picture, but I need everyone to work together to accomplish a goal.
- Innovation – I’m really big on creating efficiencies and streamlining processes. I’m always ready to challenge the process and ask why we do something or if there’s a better way to do it. Just because someone says something should be done one way doesn’t mean there isn’t a better way someone hasn’t thought of yet.
Ohio Senior Health Insurance Information Program (OSHIIP) volunteer
Do you have any hidden talents?
I can cook, but I can’t bake and I’m not crafty at all. I have zero coordination.
But I make a good eggplant parmesan – it’s my favorite thing to make – it’s really good. The secret is getting all the moisture out. Once you cut it you have to put salt on it and let it sit for half an hour to get the water out of it – then you have to pat it dry. It’s so good! Click here to try Stephanie’s recipe.