‘How can we do this differently?’: Job Point emphasizes flexibility amid volatility

For the employees of Job Point, seeing clients retain jobs is the most rewarding part of their work.

“(Our employees) believe in our mission,” said Steve Smith, Job Point president and CEO. “They believe in serving the people that we serve, and seeing those outcomes.”

Job Point was founded in 1965 as a staffing agency that serves people who face barriers to employment. The Columbia-based agency serves an average of 450 people a year, providing them training courses in various industries and placing them in jobs.

The agency served 85 fewer people in its 2020 fiscal year than it did in 2019, due to the pandemic, Smith said. However, the total earnings of people who were able to maintain their jobs was $800,000 more than the prior year.

For more than 50 years, Job Point has worked to help people overcome employment barriers. | Katie Kriz/Missouri Business Alert

“While we served fewer people, we got them much higher-paying jobs, and the average pay went up dramatically from the prior year,” Smith said. “So that’s the bottom line, and reflects the dedication of our staff.”

Job Point is being honored as one of the winners of this year’s Kindness in Business Awards in the Kindness to Employees category. The awards recognize Boone County businesses and organizations that have exhibited and promoted kindness during the past year.

Missouri Business Alert spoke with Smith about Job Point and its efforts to show kindness. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Missouri Business Alert: How does your organization embody kindness?

Steve Smith: We look for ways to serve people, not ways to keep them out. We serve people who have not done well in traditional school or society. We serve folks with any number of disabilities. You know, if we sat down and did a brainstorming session on barriers to employment, we serve all those. We have open arms and look for ways to serve people.

MBA: What adjustments has your organization had to make due to the pandemic?

SS: We closed for about a week to 10 days when things first hit, because obviously we didn’t know what we were dealing with. Our staff, actually before we closed, developed quite a bit of virtual training that we could do off-site or not have everybody come here. We went very quickly to where most of our staff are not on-site, or certainly not at the same time. And actually that flexibility has continued a great deal.

We enhanced benefits a bit. We really just tried to be sure that they didn’t have those basic things to worry about. We looked at basically every position and said, “Who needs to be here?”

We’ve been able to continue to pay everybody. We laid off no one, even our hourly, part-time people. We backed off of this a few months ago, just because we feel like we’re closer to whatever normal is, but for several months we paid part-time hourly staff their full normal hours. And most of them weren’t working that many hours.

We’ve really tried to adapt (and) kind of look at everything we did and say, you know, “How can we do this differently?” And there’s a fair amount of that that will carry over indefinitely, because it did give us more flexibility.

MBA: What are some keys to maintaining a good company culture during the pandemic?

SS: Communication is the biggest thing, and I’m not gonna say we’re perfect at all, but we really have a good, strong staff. We’ve developed really strong middle management.

It’s helped people see a career path. It’s helped develop depth in the organization and made the senior management more efficient because they’re not having to manage every single detail. We have an open door policy. And we’ve tried to break down silos, because with the different programs we have, it’s really easy to focus on my piece as opposed to your piece. So I think that’s a lot of it. And then we celebrate our successes and attribute those successes to, who did the bulk of the legwork on it.

MBA: What has been a ray of sunshine during the pandemic?

SS: We’ve learned a lot about ourselves. We’ve learned a lot of additional ways and more efficient ways that we can serve our customers and our clients. You know, the fact that our clients have more opportunities than they’ve ever had, at least in recent history, is a big plus for them.


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