Maryland Day 2016

I’ve been taught to ask extra questions to get to the core of workplace issues. Sometimes I forget. Sometimes pandemics come along and remind us that clarity around policies, new procedures or just what to expect in general is critical to our team’s functioning.

This communication challenge thing is not a new issue, of course, but super-super-important in a Post-Pandemic world.

Last year we were providing a two-day supervisor-development session for a Cascade member, and the participants got focused on the biggest challenges for the supervisory team. Everybody’s list included “Problems with Communication.” With everything from a head nod to a fist pump, the team conveyed their frustration with communication in their workplace.

But, after all this agreement that a problem existed, a deeper dive revealed a more complex picture. When asked to specifically describe the communication issue that was bothersome, each supervisor had a different story to tell. For some it was connecting with certain employees on the priorities for their department, for others it was inconsistent messages from management. A few talked about how one department or shift failed to let the others know what problems or successes they were having. Another theme was how meeting content was lost from week to week. Then someone brought up emails (cue dramatic music- dom–dom-DOM) and the misunderstandings that they had experienced through email-only communication.

Turns out the “communication issue” was a bunch of things, each affecting the success of the team.

It’s tough sometimes to know exactly what irony is, but it seemed perhaps ironic that under the issue of communication, we were having trouble communicating what the communication issue was.

Does your workplace have a catch-all word for a problem that turns out to have several layers? It only takes two to miscommunicate. Add departments, shifts, language and culture. Add remote office work and different meeting schedules. Multiply by 10 or 20. Ah, “communication issues.”

It may be that these are universal and your challenges may just be a question of degree. In working with our member teams we have found some practical techniques to improve communication in all kinds of workplaces.

Here’s a few suggestions on how to identify, separate, and effectively address some of these important communication issues:

  • One-on-one communication. Teach listening and positive communication skills to all employees. These can be fun and invigorating sessions. Turns out these are skills we can use outside the workplace as well. Practice these skills in a ZOOM or GoToMeeting world.
  • Effective Meetings. Build in an accepted and positive meeting structure that includes a format for action items, ownership and time frames. Teach accountability best practices. There’s a few simple steps that can greatly improve the follow-up from team meetings.
  • Cross-department communication. Update your list of stakeholders at least quarterly and assign responsibility for each group to carry the message across shifts and between departments. Create a liaison role so someone can monitor improvement and challenges.
  • Strategy and vision. Over-communicate business initiatives and specific elements of strategy. Patrick Lencioni gives a useful overview of how to effectively communicate expected results. How’s and why’s seem to make a difference.
  • Business Communication. Teach email etiquette and other workplace best practices for improving connection and understanding.

Lastly, look for employees and supervisors who have a natural strength in getting the message across and encourage them to get involved. Great communicators love to be part of the reconnection strategy.

And when you hear “Communication is a problem around here,” dive a little deeper to find out what it is that your employees are experiencing that could improve. It is then that you can properly action plan each issue.

Your team may also want to take stock of words whose meanings have changed in the last couple of months. Here are some examples: Sanitization, Signage, Breakroom Cleaning, Shared Dishware, Meeting, Social Distancing, Screening, Audit, Isolation, Hand Washing, Contact Tracing, Workplace Travel.

We would love to hear your stories around communication challenges or successes. Please let us know what is working for you.



Time is Money

With 701 organizations participating, representing 56,224 employees across Oregon and Washington, the 2020 Regional Pay Survey is a vital tool for managers, HR professionals, and business owners. Reflecting pay data for 562 positions, the survey report provides exclusive wage and salary data for a variety of executive, exempt, and non-exempt positions.

2020 Changes

The 2020 Regional Pay Survey now has the addition of a nonprofit specific report. With 196 nonprofit organizations participating, this is a useful tool for nonprofits wanting to compare their salary and compensation data. This year will also see a nonprofit specific report of the 2020 Regional Benefits Survey, with discounts for participants in both surveys.

The 2020 version also saw an addition of 18 new positions added to the survey. If there is a position missing from our data collection that you would like to see added, feel free to send in your suggestions for consideration in our next edition. This survey also saw the restructuring of certain positions, creating a new job family, Social Services and Related Services.

Survey Highlights

With an effective date of March 1, 2020, the survey saw an average percentage increase in average pay of 3.22% from 2019 to 2020. This average is closely aligned with the projected increase percentage in pay forecasted by 117 executives in the 2019/2020 Salary Budget Survey.

Several positions saw large changes in average pay this year, including Sales/Marketing Assistant, which saw a 28.1% increase in average pay. Others with a large increase include Trade Show Coordinator (19.1%) and Chief Sales Executive/Domestic Markets (Excluding Marketing, 18.4%).

A subset of positions saw less than 1% growth in average pay, including Field Service Manager (0.6%), Warehouse Supervisor (0.4%), and Grinding Machine Operator (0.1%).

Visit SalaryTrends® to learn more about the 2020 Regional Pay Survey, or to purchase the full report.



Protective gloves, sanitizer and face mask on red background

An Old Model Finds New Relevance in a Post-Pandemic World

As consultants to workplaces across the Northwest, Cascade Employers Association has been helping workplaces adjust to change for decades. Recessions, restructurings, renovations, relocations all put a burden on employee connection and productivity. Now we are experiencing what may be the biggest disruption of our lifetime that is both testing and revealing the resilience of our teams.

A model that had proven very effective in helping teams embrace transition is the Bridges’ transition model that gives us some insight into how our people may be experiencing workplace disruption and change and what leaders can do to flatten the disruption curve.

We often push our employees to embrace the new realities and new identities that come with change. This push may neglect other important transition dynamics. The Bridges’ model encourages us to not only define New Beginnings for our teams, but also to acknowledge and process the things we are losing (the Endings) and, most important, support our employees as they navigate through the Neutral Zone.

Transition Model Illustration

During the last couple of months that have brought enormous disruption to our workplaces, our members have been sharing stories of how they are helping their employees cope and thrive in an ever-changing work world.

The process looks something like this:

  • Endings: Identify and discuss what is really ending? Decide and clarify what we have lost? Develop suggestions for a ritual or process for grieving these losses.
  • Neutral Zone: Acknowledge the anxiety and uncertainty that employees may be experiencing. The neutral zone may also bring about Creative and Resilient Responses? Look for them.
  • Beginnings: Define with clarity what the new way of doing things is. Are there Personal Mission Statements or a Temporary Rallying Cry that the team can circle around?

This development of a temporary rallying cry for our team can be both fun and rewarding. This may center around your organization’s mission, but may also be very time-targeted, as in “Let’s get through the week safely and with dignity”.

As with all models, the Bridges’ approach has some limitations. The processing and discussions that go with walking through these three stages implies linearity. And we all know that everyone processes change and transition differently. We find that other formal and concrete change models can help ground us as we work through transitions with our teams.

How is your work group coping with all the disruption? Please let us know your challenges and success stories.

You may also find some of our upcoming training of interest, currently presented live online:



Cat Adoption Team Image with Logo

With over 20 years of experience and more than 50,000 adoptions, this organization knows cats! Did you know:

  1. In the late ‘90s, county shelters in the Portland area were overrun with lost, stray, and surrendered cats. Euthanasia rates were high. Adoption numbers were low. Homeless cats didn’t have many options. On May 1, 1998, with 35 cats for adoption and a dream to save more lives, a small private shelter opened its doors. That shelter was Cat Adoption Team (CAT).
  2. By the end of its first year of operation, CAT had found homes for 219 cats. The adoption numbers and shelter population more than doubled in 1999, and during the following year, CAT celebrated its 1,000th adoption. In 2002, CAT became the first animal shelter in the Pacific Northwest to open an onsite veterinary hospital.
  3. In the mid-2000s, CAT upgraded to stainless steel kennels. Later, in 2014, they further updated this housing to give twice as much space to each cat. In 2019, a full kennel upgrade project was completed, increasing safety, improving disease control and appearance, and reducing noise in the shelter.
  4. Today, CAT is a nationally recognized, professional nonprofit. Their multiple adoption rooms, onsite hospital, private intake area, and offices fill about 16,000 square feet — all in the same building where they got their start!
  5. Working collaboratively with other animal shelters, rescue groups, and veterinarians — and with the support of cat lovers, adopters, volunteers, and donors — CAT has helped transform the Portland metro area into one of the safest in the nation for homeless cats.

Cascade is proud to feature Cat Adoption Team, now helping over 3,000 homeless cats and kittens find loving new families each year.

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