HCN News & Notes

MHA Invests in Employees Through Innovative Training Program

SPRINGFIELD — GAIN, which stands for Growth and Investment Network, is a leadership course at MHA that seeks to eliminate barriers to career advancement by delivering leadership skills and tools that staff need to be successful. The program began in February, and the first class graduated on Oct. 3.

MHA employees must apply for admission to GAIN, a process which includes securing letters of recommendation from their supervisors. Those accepted meet every other Wednesday afternoon at MHA’s main training facility in Springfield. Each session lasts two hours and emphasizes instruction, discussion, coursework completion, and practice. The format is much like a college seminar.

“In business, there is a tendency to take employees who perform the best in staff roles and move them into management,” said Sara Kyser, director of Learning and Development for MHA. “Trouble is, they often lack the leadership skills they need to succeed as managers. But people with the potential to be good managers, who could be taught the skills to lead, motivate, and guide the people they supervise, often leave because they didn’t have those skills. What employees need is a way to learn the leadership pieces in a supportive environment they can access easily while holding down their job. MHA provides that to our staff, through GAIN.”

One of the graduates is Sarah Mutch. A residential support specialist in an MHA adult residential program, Mutch works with residents who have a mental-health diagnosis, helping them to cope with symptoms and perform activities of daily living.

“I fell in love with working in human services, and GAIN offered me an opportunity to further my career in a convenient way,” she said. “I’m able to use life lessons and daily interactions with others to grow and become a leader.”

Mutch said she first learned about GAIN in an e-mail to staff and immediately jumped on board with the idea. “I realized that this is my way to grow in my career without having to go to school,” she explained. “Going back to school is on my list of to-dos, and I’ll get there, but GAIN is an opportunity to learn now, to develop a good range of skills to become a leader in MHA, and to do it in a way that fits with my work schedule and life outside work.”

When someone begins in supervision, Kyser said, the most common challenge they have is communicating effectively with others. “GAIN enables leaders in our organization to model good communication skills for individuals in the program. They experience communication expectations for managers first-hand, appreciate that they need to maintain a level of calm and professionalism, and begin to learn how to communicate effectively with every person they encounter at work.”

Jason Macleod, an ACCS residential program director, has two staff members who graduated from GAIN. “It’s a unique opportunity for staff who, for all sorts of reasons, may not have higher education or management experience,” he said. “GAIN participants are intentionally opening themselves up to a higher level of evaluation and criticism, but it’s within a positive context of growth and development. Graduates of the program are automatically qualified to interview for open supervisory positions at MHA. It’s not a guarantee they’ll get the job, but it offers them access to roles that may not have had otherwise. That’s an opportunity not typically available in human-services organizations.”

Added Kyser, “MHA has so much talent hidden in plain sight. Now, with GAIN, we can look internally and say, ‘here’s a person who knows what we’re about, who is aligned with what we’re doing, but who needs the opportunity to build confidence and skills to take charge of that next level of opportunity, here at MHA and anywhere they may go.’ GAIN is also further developing MHA’s reputation as organization that invests in our people. We all benefit from better-trained staff, more effective leadership, and improved client care. As members of the community, as taxpayers, and as human beings, we all benefit.”

Comments are closed.