Education through Mentorship

New team members taken under the wings of neighbourhood mentors

By Kristian Partington

Within every neighbourhood in every village you’ll find team members of wide and varied backgrounds whose individual strengths contribute to the overall betterment of village life. In some, their understanding of the philosophies that guide Schlegel Villages as an organization come naturally and in recent months, a new concept of mentorship has emerged to harness the strength of these individuals in the hopes of building even more dynamic and engaged teams.

Within the program, these mentors are called upon to support the newest team members in the very beginning of their time in the neighbourhoods. This mentorship is not so much a job-specific or task-related role but instead, these leaders act more like guides illuminating the deeper concepts that shape the Schlegel Villages approach to resident support.  

“Their goal,” explains Sandalwood Park recreation director Jennifer Gould, “is to enrich our new team members in the culture change, in the language and in the Schlegel ways.”

The opportunity for success is easier to grab hold of, she adds, when new team members hear and see, right from the beginning of their time in the village, what sort of impact they can have on the residents they are there to support.

“We introduce them to the whole building, the whole interior and the team members to give them, basically, an idea of what we’re all about,” says personal support worker Linda Torraville, one of Sandalwood Park’s mentors. Central in much of this process is the overall Schlegel Villages mission, vision and values.

Linda’s fellow mentor, Sarah Ball, says that beyond the education in philosophy, the more personalized introduction to village life also offers a bit of comfort to team members starting a new phase in their life.

“When you walk into a new place,” Sarah explains, “you kind of feel intimidated and if you can make a connection with one of us or one of the team members it’s great because at least next time you come in you know you’ve got a friendly face – someone you can go to. It makes a big difference.”

In many ways, this approach to mentorship is an extension of the concerted effort the organization has made in developing more engaged, self-directed teams at the neighbourhood level. For more than two years now the villages have been working through a program called Neighbourhood Team Development in order to deepen the connections among team members while heightening engagement. This new process of mentorship adds another layer to this development, inspiring new team members from the beginning of their time in the village.

Another Sandalwood Park mentor, Sylvester Bartley, says following up with the new team members after their initial orientation has passed is just as important as that first day.

“We don’t just leave them,” he says. “We follow up with them to see what they are saying and what they are feeling after their first couple of shifts.”

Linda, Sarah and Sylvester have all worked at Sandalwood Park for between four and eight years and they agree that positive efforts continue to move the village farther away from the institutional style of care that used to be the long-term care normal. Education, they say, has much to do with this transition and now, as mentors, they are a key component of that process.