Better Than Most is a regular feature of The Business of Giving, examining the best places to work among social good businesses and nonprofit organizations.
Denver: And this evening we’ll be heading up to 92nd Street at Manhattan and appropriately enough, the home of the 92nd Street Y. A multifaceted cultural institution and community center. It’s a special place to work. And we’ll hear from several members of the team who will give you the reasons why.
Eric: When I got here, every single thing that involved employment was on a piece of paper. There is no paper anymore. Everything, from the moment you apply for a job here until you’re on boarded here, until you sign up for your benefits; I can do any of that on my phone right now, and that wasn’t the case in the short six years ago. Things like that are innovations as well. So, we’re spreading it. We’re teaching it, and frankly, we’re holding people accountable to try things and letting them fail.
Yana: I think being the best that we can be not only as an institution but I think it goes down to the smaller level of who we are as human beings. And I think that is the value of this organization and really wants to cultivate and help us grow not only as employees but as human beings and to be the best colleagues that we could be and to provide us with the support that we could be the best people that we can be starting with the parenting center.
Lauren: I would say that what you would see here that you may not see at other places is, when you get into the elevator here, you could be with a myriad of people. You can be with a baby, you can be with a senior citizen, you can be with a basketball player; all in this confined elevator going to different destinations, and I think that that’s something that wraps up the 92nd Street Y like in a snapshot.
Serena: My favorite perks include being able to attend the events and concerts, and one of our most recent perks is that we get a stipend to participate in our many classes that we offered, and I was able to take a Spanish class, and that was really great as I got to continue my education from when I last took it in high school.
Eric: We’re in the Innovation Center but frankly we don’t hold people here accountable for all the innovation at the Y. It’s something that we are trying to get out there to every single person that works; it’s to be creative, be innovative in the way you look at your job. Don’t look at this team here to create your innovation.
Yana: The amount of talent in this building is unbelievable. Anything you could possibly think of or need help with, there’s someone who is an expert, and not only are they an expert, they’re so giving and willing to help. Even if it’s not their job, even if it’s not their responsibility, if you turn to someone for help, for advice, for an idea, they’re always so generous. To me, that is the biggest perk for working here.
Stephanie: One of the initiatives we’ve started recently is meditation Mondays for our employees which is through our 92Y leaves program which looks after the wellbeing of all our employees. It’s a simple that every day, we have a location and a time, and you can come and you can meditate as a guided meditation that takes place.
Paolo: Oftentimes when I tell people that I work at the 92nd Street Y, even people who’ve lived in New York for 20 years will ask me what they do there or how’s the gym. Some people don’t really grasp the extensive work that we do today and that we’ve done in the past and how important the organization has been to arts and culture and so many other aspects of New York City life.
Eric: “Have you seen this new thing that Facebook’s put out? It’s called Workplace. Neither of us had seen it. We took a look at it, and it’s Facebook for the workplace. It’s a close-network Facebook, and it’s free for nonprofits. So, it was kind of a, wow, this is really cool, let’s try it. We got an intranet in place here that was probably built maybe 1972. I’m exaggerating obviously but it was an old intranet. Nobody used it. We said, let’s give it a shot. That’s about 10 months probably. We now have a really vibrant communication system within the organization. Took no effort on our part. Everybody’s on Facebook here, almost, and if they’re not, they are now.
Greg: That is something that, of the interviews that I’ve sat in on, I’ve actually put away the candidate’s resume, and I’ve quickly adopted that to say, “Tell me about you.” One of the things is, if I don’t get a feeling of humanity from that person, then plays into my mind. Because I think that what is just tremendously unique about the Y is its humanity from the bottom up.
Stephanie: but one of the interesting things that I found in recruiting here is that because diversity in programming that we do, we attract such a diverse group of people. We have people in let’s say our marketing team who have a very corporate background or in our PR team who come from the corporate entities. But then we have people who are fantastically creative and are running our teaching programs. We have people who have education backgrounds, and they’re working at our education outreach program which delivers arts programming to public schools.
Eric: We open up our meetings, and this may sound a little unusual but, as Young Men’s and Young Women’s Hebrew Association, we have a rabbi on the staff. This is anything but religious. It’s not at all religious but our rabbi at all of our manager meetings, our employees meetings starts off with some words of wisdom that he shares with us on a different subject every week whatever is pertinent, whatever is appropriate, and not with religious overtones. But he’s a very learned man who has taken every one here.
Lauren: I think that in the last five to seven years, it’s really been a shift where if you go to another department, you’re like, “I want to have this idea. I want to work together.” Programs directors are more likely to work together and figure out really how to make the most efficient use of our patron’s time and energy. How can we work to make the best program for our patrons, and that’s been really refreshing and really exciting.
Paolo: Some of the core values of the organization I would say are Jewish life, community, education and learning, and I think that our programming and our classes and everything we do here really reflects that.
Greg: What I consider in my short term here, the wow of the 92nd Street Y is that on any given day at any given moment, the number of people that come through this building and the variations of people that come through the building from nannies pushing babies to seniors, it’s almost like Grand Central Station within the building. Even so, it’s a very diverse population that you see, and it always makes me stop from time to time in the lobby just to say, wow! There’s a lot happening in this building. The fact that it’s all encompassed in one building is basically a big wow for me.
Denver: I want to thank Carrie Oman, who helped organized my visit and to all those who participated, Eric Lange, Stephanie Copley, Greg Stevenson, Yana Stotland, Paolo Mastrangelo, Lauren Wexler and Serena Robbins. To listen to this again, or see pictures of the participants and the 92nd Street Y itself, just come visit http://denver-frederick.com/.
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