Waco Employer Resource Network (WERN) helps employees stay on the job!

By Sion Firew

The Waco Employer Resource Network (WERN) incorporates community collaboration with uniquely tailored case-management plans to help Waco employees retain their jobs. The WERN initiatives originated from the Prosper Waco working group of the same name and have developed into a stream of connection between employers, employees and local resources. With the help of Goodwill Industries and Caritas, WERN has facilitated crucial communication between the participating Waco employers and their employees while raising employee awareness of local opportunities available to help navigate personal obstacles to successful long-term employment.

The average retention rate for the 16 employers that are active in WERN is currently 61 percent. According to Tiffany Gallegos, the development director of Goodwill in Waco, the employment turnover rate in previous years has been as high as 70 percent.

“We are the first Employer Resource Network in Texas, and that is something I am really proud of,” Gallegos said. “I think this shows how our city is dedicated to moving the needle on keeping people employed and successful in their jobs.”

To have the retention rate increase from 30 percent to 61 percent over the past few years is incredible to say the least, but what factors in particular caused such a shift?

There are numerous WERN programs that are beneficial to those in the workforce, but the addition of success coaches has caused a major shift in the way employers and employees interact and understand one another. Success coaches identify the personal burdens with which an employee might be struggling and find the resources that will allow the employee to keep their job by successfully managing the obstacles they face. Success coaches most commonly aid with accessing resources related to food, utilities, family support, education and financial support.

Caritas success coach Cletha Tyler explained, “We’ve made a difference in many people’s lives. The success coach and the solutions found help them because they fall through the cracks of a lot of other resource options.”

Though many companies have employee assistance programs that provide support, they may not take the hands-on approach of WERN success coaches. Thanks to the WERN success coaches’ ability to craft case-specific solutions and guidance on overcoming personal obstacles to employment, extra steps can be taken to ensure job security. Tyler described how employees who may not have access to the help they need, including food stamps and government housing, can be at risk of losing their job or missing out on promotions. Success coaches step in and create a bridge of understanding in which employers and employees can work together to create compromise and meet the needs of both sides.

“One lady this summer was going to lose her job because she didn’t have anyone to keep her 10-year-old son,” Tyler said. “The employer called me that day and said ‘Look, if she misses work tomorrow, she’s getting fired.’ So, I went out there and I contacted the Waco Boys and Girls Club, and I was able to get her into the summer program. It just so happened that it was around the corner from her house so she could drop her son off

[before]

work.”

This situation with a woman and her son is only one of many in which people feel stuck in their circumstances because they are not aware of or do not have access to the opportunities for assistance around them. Tyler explained that success coaches build a detailed list of resources for these Waco employees. They do not simply tell people to call random 1-800 numbers, but instead refer their clients to local community resources. This local focus is vital to creating the community connections needed for positive WERN results.

Tyler and her colleagues exemplify the resounding theme of community cooperation and individualized case management that WERN upholds. WERN, Goodwill and Caritas have been working to see employees have the opportunity to keep their jobs and advance in their chosen fields. The improved retention rate of employees dramatically demonstrates the effectiveness of WERN’s hands-on, personal approach to helping the employees of Waco. While WERN has done a substantial amount to decrease the turn-over rate, with the help of the success coaches, and cooperation from these Waco companies, even more employees will be able to find resources and have access to job opportunities and promotions that they might not have had otherwise.


Sion Firew is a communications intern at Prosper Waco.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email ashleyt@actlocallywaco.org for more information.

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