If you're one of the 3,600 employees Seven Hills Foundation has spread across 300 locations in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, it's a tight path to become a member of the 12-person senior management team that runs the health and human services nonprofit.
But David Jordan, president and CEO since 1995, has focused on widening that path to anyone in the company, including the entry-level direct-support professionals.
"I prefer to hire from within," Jordan said in an interview at his Hope Street headquarters. "The hope is people can grow with the organization."
For employees, that means tuition reimbursements for pursuing bachelor's, master's or doctoral degrees in psychology, nursing or other related health and human services field.
Seven Hills also has a "corporate college" in Worcester, with classrooms spread out across its facilities, where employees can take classes in first aid, behavioral strategy and other subjects related to treating, counseling, teaching and assisting adults and children with mental and physical disabilities, drug addiction and other conditions.
The foundation also has 300 online courses workers can access at its "e-academy."
Funding that kind of professional development certainly has its costs, Jordan said, but he views it as a benefit to both employees and the nonprofit.
"There's a selfish interest as well," he said. "It's going to be a benefit to them in the future, and we love that. And it will only enhance their skill set they can then deliver to our patients and clients."
And for a chosen cohort of employees, there is the Emerging Leaders program, an 18-month training regimen that grooms them for senior leadership positions. The program culminates with a one-week trip to Europe, where the trainees visit other human service organizations to learn about different perspectives on leadership.
Any employee who has worked his or her way to a step above entry level is eligible to apply for the program, which began four years ago and has so far graduated four small groups of employees.
Jordan launched the program when he realized many of his senior vice presidents and their assistants were members of the baby boom generation and likely to retire over the next seven to 10 years.
"That's a huge bubble of retirement," he said. "The question is: What happens after that?"
Jordan said the program creates upward mobility for employees, helps the company plan leadership transitions carefully and creates a consistent culture of values and expectations across a wide range of locations.
A key factor in choosing future leaders for Jordan is making sure they reflect his workforce, 70 percent of whom are women. As a result, women make up most of his management team, he said.
The Davis Cos, Marlborough.
One of the staffing firm's training programs, Davis University, utilizes in-house subject-matter experts, who teach everything from time management, how to organize a desk, handling sales objections, workers' compensation, legal compliance and interviewing advice.