An Interview with Davina Leezer and Raul Saldivar from Mosaic
By Lynette Stuthman and Stuart Zimmerman, Creighton University MBA students
Mosaic is a faith-based organization affiliated with the Lutheran church. Mosaic was formed July 1, 2003, by the consolidation of two Nebraska-born Lutheran ministries dedicated to the needs of people with disabilities. Beth-phage began in 1913 in Axtell, Neb., and Martin Luther Homes began in 1925 in Sterling, Neb. In the 1900-1970's, they were funded through donations. Beginning in the 1970's, Medicaid provided funding. They currently serve 14 states and have affiliate programs in Great Britain, Romania, Tanzania, Latvia and the Dominican Republic. Their mission is to partner with the person or family to provide individualized quality service. Their vision is to be the leader in quality services. In 2006, they where the first service provider of this kind to receive a two-year network accreditation from the Council on Quality and Leadership (CQL) Basic Assurances. They received this accreditation again in 2008 and remain the only service provider with this distinction. This accreditation highlights Mosaic's commitment to quality.
In this interview we learn more about Mosaic and its representatives.
Raul Saldivar was raised in Axtell, Nebraska and began working for Bethphage from the age of13. He worked as support staff, coordinator, and regional operations positions, often working in two or more jobs at the company due to its small size. When Raul began with the company, there was 450 staff serving 300 people with a budget of about $3 million. Currently, there is approximately 5,000 staff, serving 3,800 people, with a budget of about $200 million. He knows these jobs well and has had exposure to compliance and legal aspects, spending 20 years in Human Resource Management, three of which as the Chief Integrity Officer. He holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Nebraska at Kearney, focusing on special education.
Raul stresses that compliance was the minimum and at the bottom of a strong ethical culture. There are situations where regulations and compliance can be subject to interpretation, and many states have their own rules for services that can be billed. In these situations, management needs to work more closely with finance. There have also been instances where Mosaic has called the regulatory agency directly to find out if an interpretation is accurate.
There is a focus on the Mission of the organization, which is to partner with the person, fiscal responsibility, and focusing on the quality and service.
What do you like most about your work? Least?
I enjoy my job because it gives me the opportunity to live out my values. I enjoy supporting those with disabilities who do not have a voice. Working at Mosaic allows me to have a clear conscience and make the right decisions, contrasting to companies that are sacrifice values. Companies can make a number of short-term decisions that were not the right decisions. These companies crumble during financial crisis.
I also enjoy the part of my job that allows me to ensure that the organization is ethical. This involving coaching managers.
The least enjoyable aspects of my job are making tough decisions that affect an employee's career and conducting tough investigations.
Have you always done business in the Omaha area?
Yes, in the Midwest. The Omaha business community is very ethical in their behavior and decision-making. There are strong ties to faith, doing the right thing, and promoting positive relationships. The business community is like a family; collaborating and confronting many of the same issues. One benefit is that it is away from the glitz and glamour of the coasts; there is a difference in the way Omaha works.
What does the phrase “Ethics in Business” mean to you?
Ethics in business means working effectively with employees and customers, showing respect, establishing a positive community presence, and focusing on service and support quality. Generally do good work, in the right way, which is best for the community.
Please describe an ethical situation (business related) you faced that was relatively easy to handle.
Several situations that are relatively easy to handle are when a mistake is discovered in billing which results in a credit back to an agency. It is important to Mosaic to pay back money when an over billing has occurred. They feel a responsibility to the taxpayer and are interested in working
with state agencies on these situations because it is the right thing to do. This practice of issuing credits back is uncommon for others in the industry. This is highlighted by an example. Mosaic received a call from a state agency because the agency was unsure what to do with a credit; they had never had that situation happen before. There is also a business case to do the right thing; it establishes a positive reputation for Mosaic.
Describe an ethical situation in business you have faced that was hard to handle.
In preparation for a quality of service audit, a leader directed support staff to falsify time sheets in order to make the results of the audit look better. This situation was reported internally for investigation. The first task was to gather facts about the situation. This was done by conducting interviews of those involved in a way that doesn't harm the reputation of the leader in case the claim turned out to be false. As a side note, Mosaic has spent time on training staff to conduct interviews in this manner as well as focusing on listening skills. The findings confirmed the allegation, which lead to changes in leadership. This decision was not an easy one to make.
The concern was not with the seriousness of the situation, but that under pressure, the individual felt pressured into making unethical decisions. The decisions made conflicted with the mission and values of Mosaic. The person was not a bad person, just made decisions that were unethical, making it hard to trust the person in a leadership role. Everyone is expected to carry out the mission and values of Mosaic whether they are in a leadership or support role.
How does it feel talking with us about the ethical quandaries you have faced?
It feels OK to talk about them. It is important to be optimistic and learn from them. Much work has gone into establishing an ethics program, and it gives employees an opportunity to learn and grow.
How does your company address/train business ethics with your employees?
Mosaic has an integrity program called "Integrity at Mosaic" or "I AM." The program is part of a core set of training sessions that are required of every employee within 90daysofhire. The2hoursession seeks to teach employees about the code of conduct and how to make ethical decisions at work. The acronym "I AM" reinforces that each employee has a personal responsibility to act with integrity. At completion of the training, there is a sign off sheet and evaluations. During training, individuals also learn about Mosaic's confidential reporting program and how to use it. Calls to the confidential reporting line are included in a report to the Board of Directors for review 3 times per year.
Mosaic also conducts exit interviews with all employees. Concerns that are expressed, operations violations, illegal and unethical reports are all investigated.
Have you had a mentor? If so, who and why?
Yes, David Jacox was a great mentor. I learned the most from the way David worked with people. David would establish a vision and allow those working with him the freedom to find out how to get there. He was supportive of ideas and open to communication.
Do you see any connections between how you were raised and how you handle ethical situations at work?
Yes! I was raised as a Catholic, going to church every Sunday. I learned that faith is powerful, to always do the right thing, and that gifts and talents should be used to support others. My mother taught, "Life is a gift— give to others."
What are the biggest ethical challenges that you feel younger businesses professionals face today? Any suggestions for dealing with them?
The biggest challenge facing younger business professionals is that to move up the ladder quickly, people may need to take shortcuts and the system reinforces this; it encourages behavior that may be unethical. Young professionals may compromise their values at a time when they should make tough decisions and try to change the system. For example, young professionals may see a need to lie on their resumes to get a job and Raul has seen this (and it is worse in tough economic times).
Davina Leezer added that recent graduates may need to work for corporations with values that do not match their own. The best advice is to find a company that has values similar to your own; realizing that this may be for less money.
Your organization has really done some great things for the disabled community. How do you tell your story to the community and potential donors?
Mosaic has begun a network of volunteer advocates across the nation called Mosaic Allied Voices. Mosaic also has an advocacy program aimed at policy makers to give a voice to the disabled, raising awareness about disability issues and shaping public policy. Donors receive letters and newsletters that each describe the story of an individual in service and how Mosaic, and funds provided by donors, has changed their life. They also receive a quarterly magazine, Promise, which highlights recent events and donor opportunities. The organization’s website, www.mosaicinfo.org, is a great resource for the public to find information on Mosaic’s history, the good things that are happening at Mosaic around the globe, and how a person can become involved with their mission. Mosaic also hosts a number of special events for fundraising and friend raising in the communities where they provide services.
This is an amazing company with a great story to tell. Talking with Raul Saldivar and Davina Leezer was nothing short of inspiring. There is much to learn from their ethics and integrity program, their culture, and from the way they do business. Talking with Mosaic employees, it is easy to get a sense that the employees of Mosaic truly love the jobs they do and find real meaning in their work. They work not just to become rich, famous, and successful; but because they feel that they are making a real difference in the world.
© 2017, Kracher & the Business Ethics Alliance