Member Profile: Dennis Moore, Galt Foundation

Galt Foundation
Oregon and Oklahoma

Year organization began: 1999
Jobseekers placed last year: 1,800

The Galt Foundation is a non-profit that provides temporary staffing services through its offices in Salem, Eugene and Portland, Oregon, and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Galt’s mission is to employ people with disabilities and work toward a diverse and inclusive workforce.

As a Qualified Rehabilitation Facility (QRF) in two set-aside states, Galt targets government agency customers and primarily makes office-clerical placements with some 500 workers on its payroll each day. We spoke with Executive Director Dennis Moore to learn more.

How did you get into the alternative staffing business?
Twenty years ago, I was working as Director of Vocational Services at Goodwill Industries in Portland when the state of Oregon added temporary staffing to its list of services eligible for set-aside purchasing from qualified nonprofits serving people with disabilities. This presented a tremendous opportunity for us to expand employment opportunities for our constituents, and we contracted with a for-profit staffing company, The Personnel Department, to teach us the business and to provide the back office functions of the business. Our model was very successful, and after a few years, from 1995 to 1998, I traveled the country assisting 20 other Goodwill affiliates to open staffing businesses. In 1998, with a loan from The Personnel Department, we incorporated Galt Foundation and opened our first office in Salem, the state capital in 1999. We added the Oklahoma City branch in 2001 by acquiring the Goodwill staffing entity there. We opened our Portland office in 2005 and added an office in Eugene in 2010.

What are your workers’ disabilities and other barriers to employment?
At least a third of our candidates have a psychiatric disorder such as depression or bipolar disorder. About 30% have physical impairments, and 15% have chronic medical conditions such as epilepsy or multiple sclerosis. The remainder have cognitive disorders (e.g., head injuries, developmental disabilities) or are hearing or visually impaired. A number of our candidates also have criminal records and many are older, due to mid-to-late life onset of disabling conditions.

How many jobseekers does your organization serve annually?
In 2011, we placed about 1,800 people. Roughly two-thirds of these were in Oklahoma and the balance in Oregon. In any given year, I would estimate we touch 20% to 25% above the number of people we place. When we do an initial intake, we assess the likelihood we can employ the individual within a few weeks based on their skills and the jobs available. If so, we have them complete an application and undergo computer-based skill assessments, and we interview them in more depth.

How are participants referred to your staffing service?
We work with an extensive network of Vocational Rehabilitation agencies and training organizations. On the occasions we need to advertise, we use Craigslist.

What types of support services have you found to be most critical to your workers success?
We offer our candidates a positive, warm environment and are dedicated to getting them work. When workers are on assignment, we compliment them when they succeed, give them corrective feedback when they don’t, and encourage them to persevere. They know we’re invested in their success.

What types of placements are typical?
About 80% are clerical and 20% janitorial and maintenance. Our government customers encompass state, county and city-level departments.

Although you operate with a set-aside advantage, you compete for business with other QRFs. What marketing methods or messages have you found to be effective?
We know the top complaints HR buyers make about staffing suppliers and we address these head-on. We show prospective customers how we are different, and follow through to prove it. For example, when a job match doesn’t work or we can’t fill it, we make a “cancelled order call” to discover what went wrong or why our candidates were rejected. In some cases, it turns out that the job was misclassified. In any event, customers appreciate that we take the time to get it right, and we have better information when they give us a second chance.

What has been a memorable staffing request or solution to a customer problem?
Last summer, a local school system needed 3,500 computer stations dismantled for a construction project and then reinstalled for the beginning of the school year. The timeline was tight, with a week for the dismantling and less than three days to get them back in place. We managed the entire project, planning the workflow and supervising a corps of 150 to 200 workers to complete the work at both ends. I’m proud to say all systems were “go” as promised.

What are the biggest challenges of operating a staffing service in your markets?
Our biggest challenge in Oregon has been political. During the last ten years, the set-aside law has been continually challenged. To date, the Oregon Rehabilitation Association, a state wide membership organization comprised of nonprofits serving individuals with disabilities, has successfully defended it but we remain vigilant.

As a manager, what do you wish you had more time for?
I might have answered this question differently a few years ago. At this point, I have a very competent staff I rely on to take care of day-to-day operations and I’m able to engage in more “future think.” This year I’m devoting a lot of time to the Oregon Disabilities Collaborative which includes Galt, the Oregon Rehabilitation Association and Arc of Oregon. Last December, our collaborative bought a 23,000 sq. ft. building in Salem where we plan to co-locate and lease space to a half-dozen more nonprofits also focused on disability policy and services. We’re excited about this opportunity to be more visible, work more closely with our allies and build on each other’s strengths. We are currently remodeling the building and expect to move in around July or August.

What about the Galt Foundation makes you most proud?
A few things … first, the extent to which we’ve achieved our mission. We have 500 people working on our payroll each day, of which 80% are people with disabilities. Second, we operate as a true social enterprise, earning all of our revenue through fees for service. And last but not least, I’m very proud of our staff, which is dedicated to our cause and the individuals we place.

What are your organization’s main goals for the future?
While we are focused on continuing our success in the temporary staffing realm, we also want to find other avenues of employment for people with disabilities. A recent Oregon Employment Department survey found that about two thirds of unemployed, disabled respondents would prefer to work. Our country spends upwards of $300 billion annually supporting working-age people with disabilities who would rather be working. So there’s a lot yet to be done.

Please share a success story about one of your workers.
Susan is an example of an individual who benefited from employment with us. She is 57 and was referred to us by Vocational Rehabilitation. She was diagnosed with depression and anxiety disorder, and although she has strong computer and data entry skills, she had been unable to manage the stress of regular employment and had been unemployed for several years. We placed her on several state agency assignments over a 12-month period where her skills continuously improved and she adapted to working on a regular basis. She was then hired by a state agency but let go within the 90-day probation period because she was not a “good fit” for the agency. Susan came back to Galt Foundation and worked five different assignments over an 18-month period with only short periods between assignments. Again, her skills and her work confidence continued to improve. She was then hired by another state agency and has been successful in that job for the past two years. Susan is a typical example of how successful long-term employment outcomes require more than simply placing an individual on a job. Instead, it requires placement in multiple jobs over a long enough period of time to allow employment to become the individual’s new normal.

What advice would you offer to someone considering alternative staffing as a strategy in their community?
Go into it with a strong dose of reality. Staffing is a tough business and highly competitive. It’s simple to operate but hard to make money, and I think the premise that you can sell on mission is a false one. You have to compete with mainstream staffing companies. Do a serious business plan and plan to operate as a business. I learned from my consulting days with Goodwill that a staffing agency’s level of success correlates directly with its adoption of good internal systems. Finally, as you do succeed, make sure you have access to a line of credit to support your sales growth.

For more information, please visit Galt Foundation on the web.

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