In the following interview, ResCare President and CEO Ralph G. Gronefeld, Jr., discusses the advice he would give his younger self, what keeps him up at night, and how he works to keep himself and his employees motivated throughout his vast organization.
In your Workforce Services division, you help both unemployed and underemployed people find jobs. Do you believe this will have an effect on the economy? Every time a person finds a job, it has an effect on the economy that is pretty well documented. The worker and his or her family benefit, the community benefits and ultimately the country benefits as well. The greatest benefit, though, is for the worker. People who have been chronically unemployed or have few skills experience a success after many years of failure. A homeless mother can put a roof over her kids’ heads and food on the table. We hear over and over from the folks we have placed in jobs that, more than just a job, they have also have gained a sense of self-respect and power over their own lives.
In this program, you also provide skills training and resources to job seekers. Do you have advice for how other companies can help to close the skills gap? More than advice, we’d like to offer our services to companies that must close the gap between the skilled workers they need and the talent available in the marketplace. We have proprietary training materials, experienced and certified instructors who can help companies find the workers they need and ensure the employees have the skills necessary to do the work required. We have solutions we’d love to share.
ResCare has many different divisions. Do you have advice for leaders tasked with motivating people across different functions and roles? This is a constant challenge for many companies, and I won’t deny it’s also one for us. Fortunately, our mission helps us keep our employees motivated. Universally, we love what we do. This is true if we assist a person with a developmental disability to learn to brush their teeth or get dressed on their own for the first time, a senior with bathing so they can remain in their home of thirty years, a single mom get off government assistance and into a job, or a young man from a disadvantaged background that we are able to teach life skills, assist with education and vocational training and ultimately become employed. All these accomplishments are tremendous motivators.
With nearly 50,000 employees, how do you keep everyone engaged? We work on this challenge all the time. From developing our corporate compliance program to HR initiatives, to employee communication strategy, we are always thinking about how our messages are being perceived. We also try to actively listen to our employees to learn what issues or suggestions they have that will make their work more effective and improve services to our clients. Management training, employee surveys and other tools help, but what is most important is how we support the people we serve. It’s difficult not to be engaged when our actions help bring them success.
ResCare recently joined the Hero Health Hire initiative. What is your commitment to veterans? Why do you believe this initiative is important? We believe military veterans have the skills ResCare needs to be successful: a commitment to mission, team focus and loyalty. Our commitment to hiring wounded veterans isn’t charitable on our part; it’s a conscious plan to add effective, experienced, dedicated leaders to our company at all levels. We know our veterans are enriched by their service and it only makes sense to seek them out so they can apply those skills in helping the people we serve.
Leading a successful organization doesn’t come without its pressures. What keeps you up at night? Ensuring that everyone in the organization owns quality. Quality is an obsessive discipline. We need to meet the expected outcomes of all our stakeholders.
If you could go back 10 or 15 years and give advice to your younger self, what would that be? I am who I am because of my past failures and successes, and because of the people I have met and the experiences I have had. Sometimes, however, in the middle of a fire fight you forget it’s about the people. I have gotten better at that as I’ve gotten older. That may be the advice I would give.