What a loss that some of Baltimore’s best employers continue to fly under the radar for “Top Workplace” recognition, especially when they consistently get high marks from their employees in all of the areas that a recent Baltimore Sun survey determined make people want to come to work each day. So, what keeps these great employers from making even a blip on the Sun’s “Top Workplace” radar? It may be that like Caroline Center they have fewer than the fifty employees required to be considered even a “small” company.
With fewer than twenty-five employees, Caroline Center is a powerhouse nonprofit workforce development organization for women in Baltimore City whose employees are not at all shy about using the “L-word” – yes, we love our work. It’s a love that shows in the achievements and successes of our graduates – strong and capable women whom Caroline Center helps prepare for new careers and for whom Caroline Center provides, for life, a wealth of opportunities for educational and professional advancement.
Workplaces of all sizes can (and, do) have in abundance all of the things that matter most to employees. The common thread producing high levels of employee satisfaction that the Baltimore Sun’s survey found among employers both large and small was “having a healthy organization.” The survey went on to say that a sure sign of a healthy organization was employees who felt “connected to their workplaces through meaningful work and the belief that their companies were headed in the right direction.” At Caroline Center, the perception of a healthily functioning organization that is headed in absolutely the right direction is palpable; and, the feelings employees have of connection to work that is meaningful are profound. Each Caroline Center employee, according to his or her individual talents and strengths, feels that he or she makes a remarkable and meaningful contribution every day to the education of the courageous women who enroll in our program seeking change and better lives.
As Caroline Center employees, our work is an investment in the potential and capacity we believe that women have to positively change our communities, our city, and by extension, our world. The women of Caroline Center make us proud to be able to engage with them in a mutual educational enterprise that is entirely local and sustainable. At Caroline Center, trainees, teachers, staff, and volunteers are empowered to bring their best to the table each and every day for the mutual uplifting of all. While we intentionally make our classes small and keep our focus on the individual woman, the positive and transforming results our program produces and the huge dividends it yields are far-reaching and often beyond measure.
As an employee in any organization, to want to “be part of something greater” is one thing – but, to feel the expectation and to be given the encouragement and opportunity to be part of something greater is something else altogether. The culture of Caroline Center centers around this fundamental and deeply human expectation and desire – a “call and
response,” if you will – to step up and be part of something greater, because everything depends upon it. When employees are invited and empowered to bring all of who they are as people and as professionals to the workplace is nothing short of exhilarating. Admittedly, workplaces that are bold and innovative enough to extend invitations like this and who empower their employees in this way are rare – befitting only the most visionary and entrepreneurial companies in the world – and, Caroline Center is among them.
So, how does one super-small, very local nonprofit workforce development organization for women come to embody the very best qualities prized by the employees of Baltimore’s somewhat larger “Top Workplaces?” Well, that’s the blessing of Caroline Center – to have so much of what it takes to create a workplace with the attributes and a community with the values that really matter to employees. Visionary leadership. Strong positive direction. Deeply felt connection and great expectations. Sincere appreciation. Optimism and joy. Innovation and entrepreneurship. Teamwork and good communication. Strong values. And, maybe most importantly, the freedom to be your best personal and professional self every day.
On top of all of this, there is the inspired teaching of the School Sisters of Notre Dame and the powerful guiding spirit of their North American foundress Mother Caroline Friess, Caroline Center’s namesake, which give this workplace a little bit of a leading edge when it comes to the “feelings of connection” that employees value. Rather than looking beyond the work to connect to something greater, Caroline Center employees look deeply into the
work and to each other to be able to connect with the oneness that unites us all. Caroline
Center employees are truly “driven by a meaningful culture” at work – a culture that might best be captured in these words from Mother Caroline Friess – “Now, take new courage and make it your own.” If that’s not a good mantra for a “Top Workplace,” I don’t know what is.