Please enable JS

A Sweet Partnership: How Runamok & Working Fields Provide Supportive Employment

A SWEET PARTNERSHIP: HOW RUNAMOK & WORKING FIELDS PROVIDE SUPPORTIVE EMPLOYMENT

May 05, 2022
William is a high-value employee. His unmatched work ethic pairs well with his broad experience as a mechanic. He does work that isn’t asked of him and is thorough and reliable.

William worked for seven different Working Fields partners over five years before finding a permanent home with Runamok in January of 2022. Finding long-term employment isn’t easy: it takes the right resources, circumstances, and fit. 

Supportive staffing makes successful careers like William’s more attainable. This approach increases access to employment for more candidates and give employees the best chance of success.

Here’s how Working Fields and Runamok partnered to provide employment to William, and many more members of our community. 

WHERE IT ALL BEGAN: “WE NEEDED TO HIRE MORE”

Runamok is a premium Vermont-based maple syrup producer. Their creative approach to syrup, with flavor infusions, sparkles, honeys, and more, earned them huge demand. To meet that demand, they needed to hire more people – and fast – in time for the busy holiday season.

The recruitment team raised wages and tried to hire from a wider range of sources. At times, they were hiring four or five people a week. “You never know who you’re getting or how you’re getting them,” said Mike, Runamok’s Operations Manager. “A handful, after you get to know them, turn out not to be a good fit regardless of the source.”

PARTNERING WITH WORKING FIELDS

Runamok searched for ways to tap into additional communities of jobseekers and discovered a staffing agency that’s transforming the industry with a unique model. 

At Working Fields, we enable people to achieve self-sustainable lifestyles and build careers.  Our services – including job placements and weekly peer coaching – help individuals overcome challenges standing in the way of that goal, such as lack of transportation, substance use disorder, limited childcare, past convictions, housing shortages, COVID, and more.

Our mission-driven approach resonated with the Runamok team’s belief that an employer’s role is more than transactional. Co-owner Eric Sorkin explained, “We’re looking to do good while also doing well.” Eric realized that anyone in our community could face these barriers – including traditional candidates or current Runamok employees. By partnering with Working Fields, Runamok could bring in workers who are “backed by support and actively working on addressing their challenges.”

To build great career matches, our team learned Runamok’s ins and outs. Account managers familiarized themselves with Runamok’s jobs, as well as the qualities required to excel at each. They also toured the factory, from the serene stickering room to the main floor where syrup (and music) pumps. 

Our team got to work vetting, qualifying, and submitting jobseekers. Runamok quickly had several Working Fields associates on staff for seasonal or temp-to-perm positions. These associates are employed by Working Fields until completing their assignments and converting to permanent positions, giving both the candidate and Runamok a chance to determine whether it’s a good fit. 

THE RESULTS 

“It’s been easier than other temp agencies… We’ve had more or as much success with Working Fields.” 
Eric Sorkin, Co-Owner of Runamok Maple

Working Fields and Runamok have partnered since the summer of 2021. Our unique support model has enabled Runamok to expand its candidate pool without adding new systems, risk, or personnel management.

Working Fields associates provided crucial support during the holiday rush. Since then, two associates (including William) have become permanent employees, with more eligible in future.
 
“WORKERS COME IN WITH A SUPPORT NETWORK”
Eric attributes much of this success to the fact that Working Fields associates “come in with a support network” comprised of a dedicated account manager and peer coach. Workers meet with a team member and discuss how to achieve their goals at least weekly. 

As Operations Manager, Mike saw the impact of that support in employee outcomes, including attendance. He noted that transportation is a major barrier in rural areas, sharing, “my account manager went above and beyond to help folks get transportation, even working with folks here to get a license back or a reliable vehicle.” 

This support adds another benefit. “If it doesn’t work out, we’re not leaving someone out in the cold. They can find another placement,” said Eric. Because of the flexibility of temporary assignments, an associate can easily move to another placement with Working Fields if employment with Runamok isn’t a good fit for either party. Each person receives consistent support from the same account manager and peer coach across job assignments. 

“SHE WAS THE ONLY PERSON I HAD TO TALK TO”
Because Working Fields is a staffing agency, Runamok was able to easily tap into this supportive employment model. Mike said, “I gave my account manager behind-the-scenes info and she did amazing. She was the only person I had to talk to.” 

Account managers handle the hiring and management process on behalf of Runamok. In addition to job placements, they complete thorough screening processes, manage timesheets, handle feedback or discipline as needed, and are responsible for all documentation. All Mike had to do was show up to the interviews. 

This feedback loop between Runamok and Working Fields works well, but it isn’t always perfect, Eric notes. As associates move through temporary positions, information will sometimes slip through the cracks about changing availability. Working Fields has since addressed this by improving our peer coach communications and assigning a permanent account manager to Runamok. 

"WE STAND BEHIND PEOPLE LIKE WILLIAM”
Partnering with Working Fields has enabled Runamok to expand its recruitment and tap into new communities. 

William’s story exemplifies this: he had been to jail a few times and was in recovery from substance use disorder. But he was also proactively working to move his life forward with a support team around him. Mike and Eric decided to give him a chance. William was excited about the job, seeing it as an opportunity to get his foot in the door at a great company. 

Now, Mike says, “William is one of our hardest workers… we allowed him to grow on his own.” William can often be found outside shoveling snow or in a back corner mopping up without being asked. He’s the kind of worker who gets a task done before you thought to ask.

The Working Fields support model enabled William to get and keep a job at Runamok, eventually earning a permanent position as a direct hire. It also helped Runamok employ more candidates in our community, including those who face similar challenges. 

Runamok is committed to that community support. When another associate made a mistake that landed him in jail, Runamok stood by him, reached out to his defense team, and kept his job on hold. 

Their existing staff have embraced this model wholeheartedly. The experiences of Working Fields associates are not unique. Many Runamok employees share similar personal or family stories, and they’re glad to see their company engaging with the community so effectively. 

Nearly a year into our partnership, Working Fields and Runamok are proud to have brought supportive employment to this corner of Fairfax, Vermont, and we’re excited to keep developing this model together.