The YMCA of Greater Charlotte, North Carolina, employs approximately 5,000 people, across 19 full-sized branches and two year-round overnight camps. The majority are part-time staff running programmes, such as working with children, running sports activities or teaching swimming lessons.
Previously, when changes occurred or during periods of uncertainty, the organisation relied on relatively inefficient systems, such as phone trees and personal email addresses. However, in 2016, Greater Charlotte’s YMCA began using a benefits and communications platform provided by StaffConnect.
Molly Thompson, vice president of PR and communications at YMCA Greater Charlotte, says: “What we were looking for was not just a way to funnel information to our employees, [but] something that was going to engage employees and give them the opportunity to provide some feedback.”
Part of the driver for this approach is the organisation’s vision plan for 2024, when it will be turning 150, which includes building awareness around its impact in the community.
“The most important audience to begin with in building that awareness is our staff, so we were looking for a way to really engage with them, to elevate our impact and motivate our employees to do their work for the greater good,” says Thompson.
The mobile app, Thompson reports, provides the opportunity to not only directly communicate with staff regarding this vision, but also allows them to highlight their own examples of ways they are living the organisational values.
From broad visions and strategy to day-to-day administration, connecting to employees’ mobile devices has proven invaluable. The importance of immediate communications truly became evident, however, in the Autumn of 2018, when two hurricanes hit Charlotte in quick succession.
While taking in information from various sources, including local authorities, meteorologists and employees themselves, the YMCA was able to send push notifications and detailed reports of both the dangers being faced, and the actions being taken to protect both staff and programme participants, including keeping employees updated on branch closures and programming changes.
Using a group chat feature that came online in 2018, the organisation also coordinated decision-making across widely dispersed managers and branches. Thompson states that this helped make quick decisions, while also ensuring that all employees were relaying a united and up-to-date message to members of the community relying on the services they provide.
Beyond the practical advantages, these communication channels also allowed for a more unified, engaged outlook, particularly as staff were able to share pictures and videos with one another and leadership.
“[It] allowed our staff not only to react in terms of work, but [be] fellow human beings and friends, to look out for each other and to ask if there’s anything [others] need,” Thompson explains.
“There’s no greater team-building than actual personal relationships, and so during times of crisis, we’re concerned for one another. Building the social capital of our team makes us better as people, and stronger as a non-profit serving the community.”