Nearly a decade ago, when Alicia Gawedzki-Saade was studying fashion merchandising at Bay State College in Boston, she didn’t realize that her receptionist position at The Willows at Worcester would lead her to where she is today: working as the business office director for SALMON Health and Retirement.
While she ensures efficient operations, Alicia also provides human resources support to regional SALMON communities—while making sure to have some fun at the same time.
“One of my favorite times so far has been during one of SALMON’s annual Turkey Bowl competitions,” she says. “We formed a parade with floats, and we marched around the building at The Willows at Worcester. The previous year, my team won the competition, so we had a big staff celebration and received the coveted Tom the Turkey Trophy. This time, we were really trying to step it up. It was a lot of fun!”
On the Thursday before Thanksgiving every year, SALMON employees receive a 20-pound turkey. Each campus also spends time decorating for the holiday, creating things like “thankful walls” where people can publicly share positive feelings and foster joy. Alicia says the Turkey Bowl is great not only for company morale, but also for Residents. “They love it! There are balloons and music, and the local schools have been part of it as well.”
Alicia does whatever she can to make sure employees enjoy their time at work—and she lets them know that they’re valued members of the SALMON family.
“I love to instill a sense of fun in what we do,” she says. “Everyone is so kind and friendly.”
One perfect example is her dedication to the SALMON Bucks program. Through this program, employees earn points based on longevity, attendance, and recognition from managers. They can use their SALMON Bucks to purchase SALMON wearables and other incentives, such as tickets to Fenway Park or Polar Park events.
She’s also been involved with planning company events, such as the SALMON Recognition Dinner, a 30-plus-year tradition.
“Alicia is the glue to our human resources department,” says Scott Laakso, chief people officer at SALMON. “I can count on her with any project I give her and know it will be done timely and accurately. The entire team relies on her for support in their HR roles, and she is able to maintain her role while providing assistance to others in the department. She has continued to grow, and she is a huge asset to the department and to SALMON.”
Amid the fun and team building, Alicia says there’s also lots of time for professional development.
“SALMON values people growing,” she says. “The company is never afraid to open doors for you. They always say, ‘If you train someone, don’t be afraid that they’ll leave. Be afraid that you let them stay and you never trained them.’”
For her, one example of growth has been in public speaking. Although she’s never considered herself a strong public speaker, SALMON has given her opportunities to speak at local schools and with students, broadening her skillset and making her feel more comfortable addressing audiences. “It brought me out of my shell so I can do new things within my career,” she explains. “They’re not afraid to push people forward.”
Alicia is also continuing to flourish by earning a bachelor’s degree in business administration at Worcester State University with support from SALMON’s tuition reimbursement program.
Employees in good standing who obtain manager approval can receive $2,000 annually toward nursing-related degree programs, or $500 annually toward other degree programs relevant to their role at SALMON.
She says these instances of “people investments” happen at all levels and within every department, from care to culinary arts. “Someone might come in as a dishwasher, but they get into prep cooking, become a sous chef, and then decide to be an executive chef,” she explains.
But what she loves most about SALMON is the people, and the way the entire team works together to support Residents and their communities.
“There’s no such thing here as, ‘That’s not my job,’ ” she says. “Everyone cares. I work with so many teams, and they all pick up the phone when I need them. Everyone I work with teaches me something new and influences me to be better every day.”
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