How they have adapted: Habitat GTA

The world has been turned upside down in the last year.

We wanted to take pause and spend a moment focusing on some positivity in the midst of the craziness. Throughout the past year it has been a period of immense change and uncertainty, and still we have seen time and time again how people have adapted. One of our clients has been an inspiration when it comes to adapting and we wanted to share their story.

Habitat for Humanity Greater Toronto Area (Habitat GTA) has pivoted their business processes while never ceasing to be a source of community support. Their Vice President of People and Culture, Rodney Mano, shared how Habitat GTA has been able to – and still are – pursue new ways of executing daily operations during the pandemic.

We hope you will find inspiration in hearing their story like we did. In the not-for-profit industry there are unique challenges; through sharing experiences such as Habitat GTA’s we hope that organizations will relate, find kinship and in turn help each other learn, grow and thrive.

Meet Rodney

“I am the Vice President of People and Culture, overseeing all People functions here at Habitat GTA, including an exceptional Human Resources and Volunteer Services teams. What I enjoy most about the role is connecting with and serving passionate people who genuinely care about the well-being of others. I have the opportunity of taking care of them while they work to take care of our partner families.”

2020 Milestones & Achievement

Throughout 2020, Habitat GTA has been hard at work:

  • 37 families became Habitat homeowners
  • 107 people including 48 children are building strength, stability, and self-reliance through affordable homeownership
  • 1,500+ volunteer devoted 48,000+ volunteer hours
  • 6,500+ donations collected and resold by Habitat ReStore to help build Habitat homes and reduce our collective carbon footprint

How They Have Adapted

What are one or two key processes that have changed in the last year?

“In 2020, we placed a significant focus on communication. We meet every month as an organization to provide Health and Safety, Covid, and general business updates as necessary, ensuring staff stay well-informed. As part of our 2020 employee engagement survey, we also included specific questions about the pandemic to gauge how our staff are doing, informing actions we can take to improve our teams’ overall experience. We also successfully deployed a front-line employee award to recognize the many efforts of our Re-Store staff as they continued to work in-store, fueling the ability for the organization to continue to operate.”

In terms of adapting, is there something your team has done that you’re proud of?

It is great to see the collective commitment to ensuring Covid safety protocols are followed across the organization. There has been and continues to be a significant effort in understanding government requirements and translating them into safe work practices within our unique environment. Ultimately, success means everyone needs to do their part and adhere to these safe work practices to ensure we all remain safe. Although we have opportunities, I am pleased to see safety being top of mind across the organization. Additionally, we are actively exploring alternative work arrangements, how to best lead hybrid teams, a focus on mental & overall wellness, and if additional changes are needed to our physical spaces and current technologies to ensure we are prepared for the future.

Were there any other major pain points you faced during the pandemic? How did you/ are you working through this?

Everyone has unique circumstances related to the pandemic. Some jobs can easily transition to being remote, others not. Certain individuals may be well prepared to work from home, and others not. It is clear, we are not dealing with a “one size fits all approach.” Rather, we need to meet staff where they are, remain flexible, and continue to listen to what they need.

What are the key benefits your clients and customers are receiving from the ways Habitat has adapted?

Based on our ability to adapt, we can continue to operate and build homes for our partner families. This is the ultimate focus of our efforts, to keep staff and volunteers working and engaged while offering partner families the ability to build strength, stability, and self-reliance through affordable homeownership.

What is special about your industry? Any thoughts about what’s on the horizon?

Non-Profits have been hit hard during the pandemic. Typical fundraising has been difficult given the economic impacts felt across industries. This impact has a trickle-down effect on us, as we rely on the generosity of others to support our cause. Now is an incredible time to innovate, think differently, and find creative ways to ensure we adjust as needed. Within Habitat GTA, all of our stores are now online. It is innovative thinking like this, which will allow us to pivot and explore alternative ways to fund our efforts.

You have been hiring during the pandemic – how do you feel about changes to this process and bringing on new team members virtually?

It is great to see the organization continue to grow, hire and welcome new staff to the team. Starting a new job during a pandemic is difficult. I did it myself, joining Habitat GTA at the end of September in 2020. There is a person-to-person connection that is incredibly important in the hiring process and during onboarding that is difficult to replicate virtually. We are working hard to address these challenges through the use of technology and thoughtful induction planning. This includes encouraging new hires to reach out and connect with others, build relationships and take time for intentional casual conversations. (See more about their hiring experience with BSG here).

More about Habitat GTA

Habitat for Humanity Greater Toronto Area has been a legacy affiliate (Habitat Toronto, Habitat Brampton, and Habitat York Region) since 1988, with amalgamation into Habitat GTA in 2014. They have over 130 employees and numerous volunteers working together to fuel their efforts at helping partner families achieve generational wealth through homeownership.

Key milestones to-date include 473 Habitat homeowner families in the GTA and 25 Habitat communities built! Their mission is to ‘mobilize volunteers and communities to help working, lower-income families build strength, stability and self-reliance through affordable homeownership’. Habitat GTA’s ultimate vision is ‘a world where everyone has a safe and decent place to live.’

To learn more about this amazing organization, please visit their website. If you want to support Habitat GTA, you can find all the possible venues to do so on their website – donations, ReStore shopping, volunteering, and more.

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Thank you Habitat GTA and Rodney for sharing your story!

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