HR Administration

Common Ground: Optimas Gold Winner for Partnership

By Kellye Whitney

Nov. 30, 2014

Common Ground logo 2014

Common Ground develops and sustains affordable housing and programs for homeless and other vulnerable New Yorkers. Founder Rosanne Haggerty led the organization since its inception in 1990,  but as Brenda Rosen assumed leadership in 2011, the organization required a new vision.

The organization partnered with Robin Hood Foundation and McKinsey & Co. to create a five-year strategic plan. Toby Sherman, vice president of administration at Common Ground, called the plan a living document of an inclusive approach to create a more transparent organization.

Optimas logo 2014Teams composed of staff from housekeeper to department leader had an equal voice to address key objectives. The partnership produced tangible outcomes in its first year. For example, one goal was to assess opportunities and current activities, and to that end, the group created an assessment tool.

Common Ground is also looking at employees’ career paths. Internal candidates fill about 30 percent of positions posted, and the company hopes that by clarifying responsibilities to move into other departments, that number will increase.

To do this job, Sherman said one has to be adept at “spinning plates.” There is oversight of human resources, information technology and payroll. All require a rapid shifting of gears from employee issues to servers, staying focused on priorities and being in the moment.

“We have very dedicated, hard-working team members that care for the people we serve,” she said. “It is up to me and my colleagues to make sure that they have the tools and resources they need.”

For its ability to work with two organizations to form an all-inclusive strategic plan aimed at transparency, Common Ground is the 2014 Optimas Award winner for Partnership.

Kellye Whitney is associate editorial director for Workforce.

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