Tell us your family caregiver origin story. What sparked/prompted Torchlight's efforts to support family caregivers?
It all started for as a passion project for me; I never imagined doing this work for a living. I consider myself a four-chapter family caregiver:
- At a very early age, I was an assistant caregiver for my aunt who was on the autism spectrum.
- Then, observing my mom’s work, I eventually became an advocate for individuals and families dealing with the challenges of special needs.
- As an adult, I helped care for my father.
- And finally, as the founder of Torchlight, I've focused my efforts on capitalizing on the benefits of technology to democratize caregiving support.
The early and continuing opportunities to provide care personally as well as professionally helped me appreciate the need to improve support. The question was not if it would be valuable but how caregiver support could be scaled to help as many people as possible. The answer became clear: to enlist technology and artificial intelligence (AI) to bring the best expertise to the masses in a highly personalized way.
Torchlight started small with limited funding. We slowly built our business as opportunities allowed, starting with children and eventually growing to support caregivers across the age continuum.
What prompts organizations to reach out for Torchlight's services? Who are the early adopters?
Our success required an emotional connection between employers and influencers, very often with their own lived experience and stories. Fortunately, we didn’t have to sell too much because there were like-minded champions in major organizations ready to help build the foundation for our success. People began to take us and our efforts seriously as some big-name brands joined our cause.
How do you support your own employees with their family caregiving? How are you continuing to create a culture of care?
With respect to employees, almost everyone that works for Torchlight is passionate about our work as they have “healthy scar tissue” regarding their own caregiving experiences. Their stories have helped us create a high-respect culture that acknowledges, accepts, and offers to help those in need. We have policies and practices in place as well, including significant flexibility, to support these efforts, but the culture kind of came to fruition organically. We also very much have a learning environment where mistakes are encouraged for growth. We like to say, “As long as we work together to get it right, we don’t always have to be right.”
We recognize that caregivers are skilled at doing so much in a very limited time. We try to build on that resilience within our employee population by offering many development opportunities and operational practices. For example, we begin all leadership meetings with everyone identifying themselves as red, yellow, or green. The goal is not to “correct you to green,” but to recognize how a person is showing up and supporting our organization through their individual efforts and giving people the space they need when they need it.
With respect to leadership, Torchlight participates in a “staffing check” to ensure that all employees are doing well and are supported appropriately with respect to whatever challenges they are facing. Additionally, we began the “Torchlight Cafe” in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. Every Monday morning any employee can virtually drop into the cafe to learn about new things and ask questions. It began as a trial, but it stuck as a way to provide a space for employees, including members of our leadership team, to share and recognize that they are not alone. We also understand the importance of knowing each and every employee on an individual basis including how best to support them in the most stressful and difficult of times.
Lastly, regulatory requirements have driven our efforts to develop contingency plans for almost all internal processes. This is one of the key ways we're able to work in a smarter, flexible way and operationalize caregiving and work effectively. This allows work to continue seamlessly - even when a team member may be out for a caregiving challenge.
We have seen the results of our internal culture through dashboard indicators of sales, marketing, engineering, and client’s success - unifying efforts in support of our larger strategic goals. One of our main focuses now is to continue to make strategic improvements and add high-value features to our product that will benefit both the caregivers using the platform as well as the HR leaders, who have invested in our tools for their workforces. We are excited over these upcoming launches. It continues to be a humbling experience for me to see the persistent passion, enthusiasm, and energy that employees are bringing to the work - not missing a beat, even through the pandemic.
Caregiving.com partnered with the Difference Collaborative to identify organizations that are proactively working to both support their own employees with family caregiving and to help organizations support their employees so they can care, work, and thrive. To learn more about family caregiving and employers, also check out these podcasts, articles, and webinars from the Difference Collaborative.
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