Teamwork and Collaboration – by Susie RutkowskiOn November 13, 2019 by Raul Dinwiddie
>>Hi. Thanks for joining us today at VCU.
We will be talking about teamwork and collaboration in Project SEARCH. My name is Susie Rutkowski,
co-director of Project SEARCH. Thank you again. Two years ago we got a grant from the Mitsubishi
Electric America Foundation to study our highest performing sites in Project SEARCH, which
means we were looking at the sites who got 90 and 100 percent employment outcomes to
try to figure out what are those teams doing, what are they doing well in order for their
young people to get competitive jobs in the community. Many of the slides and information
in this presentation are the result of that research study, and I want to publicly recognize
the Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation. Thanks again.
Project SEARCH is based on teamwork. Project SEARCH is based on collaboration of agencies
and partners coming together to put together a training program for young people with disability
in order to prepare them for the world of work.
There are in every Project SEARCH site a educational partner, a supported employment partner, families,
businesses, DB agencies, and whatever else it takes.
In many ways you would think this would be the easiest thing to do in Project SEARCH,
but it’s probably one of the most difficult is bring the partners together in a very open
and honest way. Every site that we talked to, and we researched
almost 40 different Project SEARCH programs, said that teamwork, collaboration and communication
were the reasons that they were so successful. Let’s take a look at some of the things that
these teams said. Bon Secours, one of the programs here in Virginia, said everyone on
the team is committed to the success of the interns. There is not one person on the team
who will not pitch in to help, no matter what the need or situation. That is from Bon Secours
at St. Mary’s. We have high achieving teams, we keep referring
to them as our HAS sites, noted the teamwork, collaboration and communication are the keys
to their success. When we think about collaboration, there is
actually a lot of research out there, and how we often collaborate is something called
a cooperative model. If you look at this diagram and if you propose that these are two different
organizations, so let’s say that we want to talk about transportation in our communities,
because we know that that’s often a barrier to people with disabilities getting jobs.
And what if two supported employment agencies get together and talk about how we are going
to solve the problem of transportation. You might have each organization coming together
and discussing it, but then what typically happens is we go back to our own organizations,
and we use our own knowledge and our skill set and our abilities and attempt to solve
the problem alone independently, in the way that makes the most sense for us.
So that we don’t end up really working together. We might come together to admire the problem
or to discuss things but we try to solve it on our own. We use different paths toward
the same goal. We often wonder why we don’t come to some common solutions. Project SEARCH
looks at things differently. What we ask of each organization in Project
SEARCH is something called transformational collaboration, where each partner actually
gives resources and oftentimes staff to come together to form a brand-new piece, a brand-new
partnership that we call Project SEARCH. In Project SEARCH again the education partner
is giving an instructor, the supported employment partner is giving a job coach, the business
is giving us a business liaison, and internships. And there are other entities as well, might
be a university, might be the families, might be another DB agency, but they are all contributing
staff, time and resources in this new organization. And the richer that new organization is, the
more transformative and what we have seen is the better the outcomes.
So what else did we learn from these high-achieving sites? That they have strong Steering Committees,
and Steering Committees are the leadership from each of those partner agencies that we
just saw. They have collaborative on-site teams. The on-site team is the team that is
there at the business day in and day out, working with the interns.
The interns support each other, and I can tell you many stories about how that happens.
But it’s important that the interns know what the goal of the Project SEARCH is and help
each other achieve that goal. We have a program in St. Elizabeth Hospital
in Nebraska. They say that the students encourage each other. They help each other when something
seems too hard. Additional support teams can be the managers
and coworkers from all the different internships, the Business Advisory Committee that are formed
from various businesses across the community, with the sole goal of opening up new opportunities,
work opportunities for students. The families, we have a family involvement
curriculum, where the families come together to help each other reach the goal of employment.
And then whoever other teams and groups are in your community, that could help you reach
the goal of employment. Again, those Project SEARCH teams are important
to end up forming the kind of partnerships that you need so that students get skills
that they build the kind of resume’ that they need to get a job.
Every Project SEARCH team starts with a Planning Committee. And their sole goal is to put that
Project SEARCH team into place, so every Project SEARCH team starts with people kind of coming
together around the table and how are they going to put this Project SEARCH team in place.
Once the Project SEARCH program starts, that Planning Committee morphs into your Steering
Committee, which is kind of like continuous improvement, how do we make the program better,
how do we reach our goal of employment, and they look at other, challenges that the program
might be having, maybe they need more internships. Maybe they want to put together a business
advisory committee. Typically, you have a Planning Committee that
morphs into a Steering Committee. Then you have your on-site team which is usually your
teacher, your job coaches, your business liaison that are at the Project SEARCH program at
the host business site day in and day out working with the interns; then a Business
Advisory Council, committee, etcetera. The secret of those structures is how open they
are, how honest they are, how willing they are to bring challenges to the table, and
what resources they can bring to the table to solve those challenges. If nobody knows
that we are having an issue about recruitment, that the only partner that knows is the school,
then we can’t bring our resources together to solve those challenges.
So it’s important that those teams are open, honest and transparent with each other, so
that they can use their joint resources to move forward, solve problems and always get
better. Again when we researched these 40-plus teams,
we did survey monkeys, and these graphs that you are going to see are the result of the
information that we got from the various HAS teams or high-achieving teams.
I’m not going to read it word for word. But I’m going to look at a couple of the bars
that come up the highest. This talks about the Steering Committee and again, the Steering
Committee, we want those Steering Committees to stay in place once the Project SEARCH teams
are up and running so that they can continually work towards improvement.
This says which of the following partners participate in those Steering Committee meetings.
That highest red bar is voc rehab. Voc rehab is a funder and a participant of Project SEARCH.
It’s important that they are involved in the Steering Committee.
The host business is that first orange bar, the school district is that kind of royal
blue bar, and then that smaller blue bar is the community rehab providers.
Those are typically the groups that make up the strongest members or the most common members
of your Steering Committee. But it might be other educational partners. DD agencies, independent
living centers, parent training centers and university programs are some of the other
common members that we see in Project SEARCH Steering Committees.
How often do they meet? The most common answer was monthly. That seems like a lot, doesn’t
it? It seems like a lot of time for your Steering Committee to be together. But again, these
are our most, these are the teams that are getting the best employment outcomes. We need
to pay attention to what they are doing. Some of them said quarterly, and a few of
them said every six weeks. Most, our best teams are meeting monthly.
The on-site support team is kind of where the rubber meets the road. Those are people
that are on site every day, that instructor, the job coaches, the host business liaison.
If they are not a strong team, if they are not honest with each other, if they are not
working together, then we are going to have issues and we are going to have challenges.
The stronger they are, the better results that we are going to get for our young people.
How do you build a strong on-site team? Those high-achieving teams support the staff that
are doing that day-to-day work, the job coaches and teachers are the ones that are there every
single day. Many times our HAS teams said a specialized supervisor, leadership from
the different organizations, especially the host business, director from supported employment
teams, voc rehab supervisor, comes often to the site, the Project SEARCH site where the
work is taking place, to problem solve, to encourage, to create new strategies, to teach
the on-site team how to work best with the students, and not only the students but how
to work best with the host business. Again, at Bon Secours the team meets every
day to plan the day’s activity, and weekly to talk more in depth about future needs.
I know our program at Cincinnati Children’s, the job coach and the teachers talk all the
time during the day, and lunch is a sacred time for them, time that they can get together
and talk about the students, to plan, to plan where the students are going to go, to problem
solve and to talk about future needs. That on-site team support has, they send their
teams to statewide conferences, to national Project SEARCH conferences, to statewide meetings,
so that they can interface with other Project SEARCH teams and see what they are doing,
and see how they are challenging their students and getting great employment outcomes.
Some of the ways, how can you support your on-site team? How are those HAS teams doing
it? They cross agency interview for new staff. If you need a new teacher or job coach, it
is perfectly fine for the supported employment agency to be involved in hiring or interviewing
a teacher and vice versa. Why shouldn’t this be educational partners be involved in interviewing
for new job coaches? That is one way that they can support each other and give input
to new staff that is going to come on board. If you have training that you want your Project
SEARCH staff to go to, could those professional development days that a district gives be
used in creative ways to support team training? What we are talking about here is maybe at
the school district, the school district has a whole district day, maybe the Project SEARCH
team doesn’t go to that. Maybe they have their own staff development that will help that
HAS team get great results. You have to give autonomy to the day-to-day
team because they are there every day and sometimes leadership can’t be there every
day. You have to trust that they are going to do a good job and support them when they
ask for that help. And be certain to be there when they have
challenges about students, about internships, about situations that might come up in the
program. Lots of times, our HAS teams are finding other
creative ways to bring in community groups that are helping them. So managers and host
site mentors are involved. Many times those host site mentors are giving each other ideas
about how to support students, how to create job accommodations, how to work with young
people with disabilities, and giving each other ideas, and that has proved very beneficial,
because they are giving, they are supporting each other as another manager, another mentor
from another internship department. Business advisory committees are groups that
are coming together that represent businesses from across the communities to open their
doors to the teachers, job coaches, the students, to help them improve their interviewing skills,
to help them look at what other opportunities there are in the community for employment.
Then our family involvement programs are becoming more popular. That is a way for families to
get together and support each other in this kind of new adventure of employment for their
own young people. We have a program in Georgia that is just north of Atlanta that says we
recruited the CEO and HR director of the hospital, the executive director of the Down Syndrome
congress, and CEOs and convention visitors bureau and other business leaders to help
us reach out to business. To us, that was a very unique way using that convention and
visitors bureau, because who knows the businesses better than some of those organizations.
So they create business leads for the teacher and the job coach. So a really unique way
to reach out to your community. We keep talking about the business advisory
committee. This is still a fairly new concept with some of the Project SEARCH programs.
Let’s look at our HAS teams and what are those folks on the business advisory committee doing.
The business red piece of the pie so to speak is they help prepare for interviews. They
set up job fairs, do mock interviews an help students get ready for interviews. The big
blue piece is reviewing resume’s, helping them to have the best possible resume’ that
they can, whether that is a electronic resume’, whether a paper resume’.
The purple slice is hosting an intern into their company, finding out more about another
opportunity for them in a business community. Then the orange one is introducing the job
developer, who is helping the young people find leads, showing them other businesses
in town and in the community, because our job developers need to have a really rich
knowledge of what is going on in their own community.
How frequently does the BACs meet? The most often is quarterly. A couple of them are meeting
monthly. Some are meeting every other month and once every rotation which would be three
times a year. Quarterly seems to be about the most common
times that the Project SEARCH business advisory committees are meeting.
Then what we found from our HAS teams is that they are looking around for other resources,
other opportunities in their own communities, that will help them meet the needs of the
interns. This is really a great way. We have a program in northeast Georgia in Gainesville
and they have a small college in their backyard that is strictly to train occupational therapists.
They approached Brenau University to can they help do assessments on their students, they
help a lot with assessing the potential interns, so the new classes that would come in, so
they have a strong team and their members include not just their Project SEARCH staff
and their VR staff. They use their Workforce Investment Board, their voc rehab provider
which, their supported employment, they have a mentor group from their host business, their
hospital and parents. It says the entire team is involved in the
selection process for their new interns, with the assistance of the Brenau occupational
skills therapy assessment group. The team collaborates for best solutions and practices
for new interns. I think that is a really interesting way to use a member of your community.
Medtronic in Minneapolis uses the young professionals group, a group of young professionals who
are about the same age as our interns who do both on-site and off site activities and
networking with the students. I had the opportunity to go to one of their
activities, when they were doing actually a wine and cheese event, with both the interns
and their families, teaching them how to exchange business cards and how to appropriately act
at an adult exchange like that. We have a program at the Department of Education
in Washington, D.C., and as some of you know, Arne Duncan, the secretary of the Department
of Education, he is very involved in this program.
He comes to meet the students and talk with them periodically. Who is in your corner?
Who is in your community, that might help you, your students, your partners, your job
developer, make new leads for you so that you also can get that 90, a hundred percent
employment for your interns with disabilities. What other resources might you have? The Workforce
Investment Board, as we know now, that they have more legal responsibilities to work with
people with disabilities. There is a percentage of funds that are mandated for people with
disabilities. They know the business community, know who is hiring, who is leaving, who may
be coming into your community. So don’t be afraid to ask that Workforce Investment
Board to be very active with your partnership. We have a program in Ohio, at the Atrium Medical
Center in Middletown, a little north of Cincinnati. I love this quote because it’s very true.
It says we have become accustomed to keeping everyone in the loop, with open, honest communication.
Everything affects everyone. And in Project SEARCH this is very true. I
want to just give one example. So let’s just say that one of your interns has to leave
the program, for whatever reason. Maybe they needed to leave, maybe they moved.
So if all of a sudden your intern pool goes from eight to seven, that is going to affect
your staffing. It might affect how many job coaches you can have. It is going to affect
the reimbursement from voc rehab. So now all of a sudden, you might have one
less staff person at your host business, which could be detrimental, not just to the interns,
but to the managers, to the mentors, so everybody is affected by that.
You need to have discussed ahead of time with your partners how is that going to work, how
is that going to look? How is that going to affect the on-site staff, the managers, the
mentors, and then of course the other interns. Even families will be affected.
So when the Atrium Medical Center said everything affects everyone, that is true in every single
case. If you have a intern that is doing fabulous work, everybody hears about it. If you have
an intern that is having challenges, everybody hears about it.
So think about that, so that your communication with all your team members, and look at this
whole list, everybody from interns to advocacy groups are affected by this. So keep that
in mind, that pebble in the pond that image of one thing happens and it ripples out and
affects everyone is very very true in Project SEARCH.
Then let’s talk about communication, because how do we keep each other informed? When you
think about all the partners that are there, you can’t call everybody up on a day-to-day
basis and tell them what is going on. So you need to strategize to communicate.
So people use newsletters, that can be effective, E-mail to everyone, distribution lists, if
I need to get a quick E-mail out to everybody, I’ve got a list, so nobody is left out. Then
of course, regularly scheduled face-to-face meeting, nothing beats having people sitting
around a table, talking to each other about challenges, celebrations, progress, and whatever
it is that we need to work on. Special events are wonderful, there is all
kinds of opportunities in project search to celebrate special events, whether it’s a holiday,
whether it’s somebody getting a job, whether it’s the intern is ending, the internship
is beginning, numbers are coming in, so special events are a great way to bring people together.
Some of our HAS teams do an E-mail every single week, to all the programs in that state, just
to say, hey, what is going on here with our program? We want you to know, we want you
to celebrate with us. We want you to be aware of the great things that are happening. What
communication tools are being used by Steering Committees and Project SEARCH?
The big orange piece is the face-to-face meetings again. The purple one is E-mail. That is probably
still the way we communicate the most. Conference calls, the blue piece. Newsletters, and some
people are using blogs. These are just ways to communicate. Other ideas, there is a document
in the Project SEARCH resource guide that probably people see ongoing, that roles and
responsibilities document. It is about six pages long.
However, think about that that document was created at the minimum ten years ago, you
need to think about the roles change, people change, people move, new people move in. So
it’s important that you take that document, review it annually, review it when a new person
comes in, so they know what is expected of them. So that is a good document to look at,
as often as you need to and make it your own. There is nothing sacred about it, but you
need to agree as a team what people are doing and what they are not doing and how are they
working together. It’s okay to have the same tasks on multiple
people’s roles and responsibilities. So for instance, job coaching is on the instructor
role. Job coaching is on the job coaching role. Multiple people are doing job coaching,
multiple people are doing teaching. Your Steering Committee, talk about roles
and responsibilities. Have some questions about to manage, who is doing what, and if
we have people that in addition, we need more folks to do a job coaching or we need more
people to do job development, talk about that and how is that going to happen. How do we
get the funding for that. How do we get the time for that.
Make sure that we bring up things that are affecting the young people, and their goal
of employment. How do we measure success? That is an important
question to ask, because every partner in project search measures success differently.
Schools might measure success by graduation. The supportive employment partner might measure
success by the jobs that they get, the VR measures success by their closures. How do
we make sure that everyone gets success, that all the interns still get jobs. So that is
important to know. If I know that a partner needs a certain thing
to happen for them to feel successful, the whole team needs to work together to make
sure that that thing happens, whether it’s a marketing piece, whether it’s a job, whether
it’s a job at a certain place. What is it that is going to help my partners feel good
about Project SEARCH and how can I as a good partner help them feel successful?
Funding. Funding is critical. Funding is not endless. Funding is finite. Everybody needs
to understand where the money is coming from, how does the job coachings get paid, how does
the teacher get paid, how does funding work so that I understand funding for each of my
partners and can talk intelligently about it in the community if I need to, to other
funders, to families, to businesses. Then really review and confirm the leadership
structure of the team. Some teams change leadership. Some teams say, this year, this supported
employment agency is going to run the Steering Committees and next year the educational partner
will run that. That is fine. But as long as you know that, and understand that, and can
support that. You always need to be in support of what your
team has decided, and how that is going to work.
I keep talking about teams. There are some research out there that shows that teams go
through stages. It would be interesting to read a little bit about how teams work.
We know that teams form together and there is that awkward stage of getting to know each
other, and that what we just talked about, figuring out who is who, what is the leadership
structure, what is your funding structure, but that is a important stage to go through.
Then there might be some storming, there might be some clash, there might be a little bit
of jockeying for positions, and you are going to have to work through that, and be respectful
of each other during that time. Then hopefully, there is the norming, where
we are coming together, we are working together in a good way. But then finally we have to
perform, which for project search that means starting your program, students gaining skills
and students getting jobs. We hope that teams don’t adjourn, that teams
do go through changes, so as your team moves from one area to another as people move off
teams, come on teams, be respectful of their knowledge that they might not know as much
a Project SEARCH and you as a older member may need to help them do that. Know a little
about how teams work. I’m going to end with two quotes from Paul Wehman. He works at Virginia
Commonwealth University. He’s done a lot of work to implement Project SEARCH, not just
throughout Virginia but throughout the country. I want to read what he talks about and keep
this in mind as you think about your Project SEARCH team.
He says, “It is time-consuming and requires a lot of careful thought to follow the guidelines
in the Project SEARCH model as well as organize the many personalities that are necessary
to launch a new Project SEARCH site.” That being said, here is how he ends. “Project
SEARCH builds on the knowledge of the host business, and combines that with what we best
know about community-based instruction, mentoring, on-site behavioral assessments, assistive
technology, and supported employment.” So Paul is saying that you all bring gifts
to the table, our educators, our supported employment folks, our job coaches, our VR
staff. Everyone brings gifts to the table. But to recognize those gifts, let’s celebrate
those gifts, let’s use those gifts as we work with our young people, so that they can gain
the skills they need to get competitive employment in the community, which is the goal of Project
SEARCH. Thanks, Paul and thanks to you for listening.
Thanks for being part of this webcast today.