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There And Back Again

Like a favourite pair of jeans or a favourite meal at a local restaurant, when you find something you love, you keep going back to it. In the last two decades, Layne Bieber has worked for Communitas Supportive Care Society three times in a variety of roles. Communitas is a place that Layne loves and each time she’s come back, it’s been an opportunity for her to explore her values, expand her skills, and experience God’s leading.

Layne’s first experience with the organization was in reception. It was an opportunity to interact with a variety of people, including people with diverse abilities, staff, and families.

I was pleasantly surprised by what I learned about inclusion and the importance of inclusive communities. – Layne, HR manager

After two years, Layne left Communitas to spend two years with Youth With A Mission in Australia. When she returned and was looking for work, her thoughts kept coming back to Communitas. So she brought a unique request to God.

“I said to God, ‘if You want me to work at Communitas, then have someone from Human Resources contact me in the next week,” she recalls.

Within a week, Layne received an email from Justina Penner, who was the Chief Human Resources Officer at the time, letting Layne know that a maternity leave position was coming available. Layne applied and was accepted. That maternity leave turned into her second season with the organization.

“I became the HR assistant and it was a really great experience,” Layne says.

Layne with her mentor, Justina Penner

She also came to appreciate the importance of strong mentorship. Layne says that Justina taught her a lot about trust and the power of perspective.

“When I came to her with a question, she would listen, then ask me what I thought,” Layne remembers. “She respected my opinion, offered different perspectives, and then empowered me to make decisions. She often said ‘I trust you’ and that was really powerful.”

Justina remembers how seriously Layne took her first role in reception, how she respectfully engaged with everyone who came to Communitas. Hiring her for an HR position was an easy decision.

“Layne lived the mission and values of Communitas and so she understood what we were looking for in our employees,” Justina says. “She cared about the individuals we support and she also cares about Communitas employees.”

Layne took on more responsibilities, screening applicants, setting up interviews, and implementing online postings. She also took on tasks in the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) area, creating wellness initiatives, interacting with managers as well as the people served through the organization. When Justina took a sabbatical, Layne had the opportunity to conduct interviews, further honing her skills.

“My ‘spidey-senses’ were sharpened,” she says with a smile. “You learn to read people, when to prod, when to ask different questions. I always made it a goal to have an interviewee leave feeling positive, even if we didn’t hire that person.”

But after 11 years, Layne felt it was time to try something new. She followed her passion for fashion and enrolled at Blanche MacDonald to study fashion merchandising. She then joined heyfolks, a local lifestyle brand for children and adults. In the first two years that she was there, the company grew quickly. She helped design products, worked in the warehouse, shipping, customer service, and more.

“This was where I learned how to lead a team,” Layne says. “I took Justina’s ‘I trust you’ and applied it here. I realized that the philosophy of servant leadership could be applied anywhere.”

Layne’s work outside of Communitas was an opportunity to grow and bring new experience to her role as HR manager

For the next seven years she would work with the company, learning a lot about the industry and about herself. She has come to realize that she is an encourager at heart and wanted work that would really enable her to live into that gifting. She felt she was ready for the next career challenge when she saw a posting for Recruitment Manager at Communitas.

“It was essentially my old job but now I would be able to bring 7 years of experience as a manager, with experience in hiring, in automation of systems, and more,” she says. “I was so happy to be able to come back. It feels like home.”

Justina says that while they understood Layne’s desire to follow her passion, they were sorry to see her go and even happier that she’s returned.

“Layne continues to embrace Communitas values and has brought her varied experiences to her new position,” Justina says.

Layne’s experience with Communitas confirms her belief that the organization is a place where staff can grow and contribute. She also identifies strongly with Communitas’ mission, vision, and values.

“The values of inclusion and abundant life are so important to me,” she says “I see it here every day. That’s what makes Communitas stand out. We’re all looking for meaning and want to change the world. I think changing your immediate world is just as important. We’re always impacting lives here, it’s a wonderful, encouraging place to be.”

photo at top: Layne Bieber (centre) with the HR team: Sonia Minhas, Katherine Varney, Naomi Lomavatu, and Lily Yakmission (Communitas photo: Vicky Manderson)


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