ELEM is celebrating its 40th this year. Our organization worked with thousands of people through the years, so we definitely learned about working with the best. Leah Adler, ELEM Israel’s Director of Human Resources and Volunteering, shared some of her insights about empowering the people who are our driving force.
“I joined ELEM 28 years ago, after a few years of working as a social worker with girls in distress. I joined a unique joint project with the Tel Aviv Municipality to locate at-risk teen girls from the Former USSR in Tel Aviv.
ELEM’s CEO at the time, Dr. Mike Naftali, suggested that after the completion of the project, I would become the volunteer coordinator of the first ELEM Outreach Van – the Tel Aviv Outreach Van.
We were five employees, volunteers from the board, and another small number of field volunteers.
Over the years, ELEM became the top organization in managing and working with those who volunteer with youth at risk.
Today, we work with about 1,500 volunteers a year and have worked with tens of thousands in the past decades. Unlike the employees who work for us for four years on average, many stay for many years. When working with them, we need a long-term vision that includes changing volunteer assignments accordingly.
At the same time, ELEM currently has 280 salaried employees. Most of them are professionals working in the fields of social work, psychology, education, criminology, etc. On average, they are in their 30s, come from different and diverse backgrounds, are imbued with purpose and professional motivation. They feel a connection to ELEM and social activism.
The challenges we face related to our employees’ professional needs are twofold. First are the challenges of working with youth and managing volunteers in a professional capacity. Second is their needs regarding adequate salaries, clear job definitions, and the individual needs of each employee. This is in addition to the uncertainty that hangs over the head of every NGO – funding and continuous operation of projects.
ELEM sees its personnel – volunteers and employees – as the primary driving force behind its social mission. Hence, we are attentive to the characteristics of this new generation, both employees and volunteers and make sure to provide the proper professional and social guidance to meet some of these challenges.
We make sure to get to know each employee closely and personally and personalize how we guide them during the employment period. We also stay in touch with former employees, some of whom even return to work for us in other positions.
Most of our employees conclude their employment with high satisfaction levels, a sense of belonging and being a part of a family, and a feeling that ELEM was a significant part of their professional career path. Most volunteers say that they have become different people with different points of view and a different social understanding of social problems and that volunteering has changed their lives.
In conclusion, we face complex challenges every day with at-risk young people and youth. Some of them are acute and hard to bear. Our employees and volunteers can experience severe burnout and significant emotional and mental stress alongside believing in what they do and their high level of professionalism.
ELEM provides and will continue to offer them professional, social, and emotional support so that they can continue working for us happily for a long time.”
If you want to be one of ELEM’s people click here.