A small café in Comox is receiving a huge heap of praise for its supportive work environment and its dedication to inclusive hiring.
Rocky Mountain Café is a shining example of a healthy, supportive workplace, according to Vancouver Island Community Connections (VICC), an organization that helps adults with developmental disabilities find meaningful employment in the Comox Valley.
“The natural supports within that business are amazing; you really couldn’t ask for anything more,” said Glenn Wildes, a job developer with VICC. “They’ve done an amazing job of creating a welcoming atmosphere for both customers and employees.”
Donna Elderton, who has owned Rocky Mountain Café for 18 years, got involved with VICC last summer, when she was looking to hire a new employee to help out during peak hours.
Her baristas had too many responsibilities to manage efficiently during busy periods and so, after meeting with Wildes, she “carved” a new dishwashing position from those duties. Elderton was then able to hire two part-time employees through VICC’s Community Employment Service.
With the Community Employment Service, a VICC job coach learns the duties of the job and then trains new employees at no cost to the employer.
“The training at Rocky Mountain Café was much shorter than usual because of the great team atmosphere,” added Wildes. “Natural, internal supports are the healthiest thing for a business, and that’s exactly what they have at Rocky Mountain Café.”
“The traditional training process can be costly and time consuming,” notes Elderton. “A lot of the time you get an employee who leaves after just a month, so you have to go through the whole process again. But going through VICC has worked out so well.”
“In this industry, it’s hard to find people who are dedicated and want to stay,” she added. “Through VICC, we found two really dedicated employees, and I’m really happy with their performance.”
It’s the employees themselves, however, who are the real benefactors.
Before being hired by Rocky Mountain Café last August, Randy Bates had cycled through several jobs without any lasting success. He really wanted to find a dishwashing position, and Elderton offered him the first job at which he truly felt comfortable, a testament to her café’s collective values.
Melissa Parkes, hired last September, had a similar experience. “At other jobs, it was hard to get along with everybody and feel supported,” she says. “Here, the hours fit with my schedule and I really get along with everybody.”
As for Elderton, she’s already considering hiring a third employee through VICC.
“It’s been such a great experience,” she says. “The nature of hiring is that you often do it when you’re really busy. How do you dedicate an experienced employee to training when you’re already overwhelmed? You go through VICC and have a job coach do it for you for free.”
Rocky Mountain Café is located at 102-1705 Comox Ave.
— Vancouver Island Community