Greater Omaha WorkLab (GrOW)

Accelerating Employer Investment in Frontline Workers

Improve Employee Wellbeing

It’s nearly impossible for employees to leave their life at the door when they enter into the workplace. Every day struggles, such as finances, relationships, health, and/or mental health can follow them to work and make their day difficult. GrOW (Greater Omaha Worklab) helps change that with on-site Community Navigators.

We support your employees in life, so they can meet their potential at work.

Find out how to get Community Navigators at your company.

Miller Electric
Grow Navigator
instructor teaching student

These Companies Help Their Employees Bring Their Best Selves to Work

Member of the Worklife Partnership

Greater Omaha WorkLab (GrOW) is an operating member in Worklife Partnership, a national nonprofit network that brings together businesses and community resources to enact new ideas and spread solutions with the power to improve the lives of America’s frontline workers.

Worklife Partnership was started by four founding-member organizations with a common goal: to provide frontline workers with access to post-hire support addressing barriers to sustained employment.

Our vision is to help employers across the U.S. collaborate with their local communities to invest in their workforces, resulting in better jobs and inclusive economic growth.

At the core of our work is the Sustainable Workforce Model, an employer-partnered approach to supporting frontline talent. We partner with community-based organizations across the country to launch programs that we accelerate employer investment in innovative talent strategies that improve retention, attendance, engagement and productivity.


The Sustainable Workforce Model places specially trained navigators in the workplace to provide personalized, immediate assistance when workers need it most. Navigators help workers address barriers impacting stable employment such as childcare, transportation, housing, health and financial stability.

WorkLab member sites partner with employers using a fee-for-service structure. The Model’s services become part of an employer’s benefits package. By helping workers address a range of life issues and challenges, The Sustainable Workforce Model minimizes work disruptions, decreases absenteeism, improves workers’ financial stability and ultimately increases employee retention and engagement.

Navigators offer confidential assistance, connect employees with services and community resources, assist with customized planning for work and life stability and provide career and financial coaching.

In addition, we work with employers to build supportive workplace cultures through tailored leadership, management and frontline employee trainings.

Nationally, the network of Worklab members supports more than 60,000 employees represented at 70 different businesses across a host of industries.

Employers whose employees who have access to our Sustainable Workforce Model realize a 90% retention rate across our network, saving millions of dollars in turnover expense.


What does Greater Omaha Worklab (GrOW) do?

We help vulnerable employees stay and thrive in the workplace through on-site personal coaching and resource navigation. GrOW provides one-on-one support services to employees of member companies with the goal of ensuring that employees have what they need to come to work and to focus on being successful in the workplace and their personal lives.

What is the value in your model?

The Sustainable Workforce Model is based on providing value to everyone we work with.

  • Employer members receive value by having a trusted resource working directly with their employees, who are impartial and completely confidential, to help eliminate obstacles that cause people to miss work or keep them from doing their best work.
  • Employees receive value by having access to a professional who knows the local resources and can quickly align those resources to help them find solutions to life challenges and can help them continue to move forward in their careers.
  • Local non-profits receive value because the GrOW Navigators serves as a broker to efficiently move clients to appropriate services at non-profits.
What types of organizations can use a GrOW Navigator?

The typical profile of an organization that will find value in workforce coaching has some key characteristics: They have a frontline or middle-skill workforce; they value their employees and care about their long-term success; and they are seeing their frontline workforce or middle-skill struggle in various ways. This may manifest itself in turnover, attendance issues, low performance, or subtle signs of disengagement and lack of focus that prevent workers from being their best at work. Many employers position these services among their suite of benefit offerings for their employees. While accessible to all employees, community resource navigation is particularly geared toward and utilized by lower wage employees. Some employers view this service as a way to provide a more inclusive benefit package that has offerings attractive to all levels of employees.

My company has an EAP program. What is the difference?

These services complement EAP programs. EAP programs are typically focused on counseling services to address mental and emotional issues. The services are typically short-term in nature with a limit on the number of sessions. While some EAP sessions may be in person, many conduct their counseling sessions remotely. By contrast, our GrOW Navigators are on-site and available for as long as an employee needs or desires assistance. GrOW Navigators are not only helping resolve immediate needs and crises, but also working with employees on longer term stability and growth objectives. To the extent that an employee needs counseling, our GrOW Navigators are trained to recognize such situations and facilitate the connection to your EAP program. It has been our experience that the utilization of a company’s EAP service actually increases because we are facilitating these connections where employees might not have reached out on their own.  Coaching and counseling are not either/or; both have value and can be used in a complementary manner.

We work with a few specific employers and customize services to meet the needs of their employees, in contrast to an EAP which may be contracted by many employers, and not as high-touch and personalized. A GrOW Navigator keeps contact with an employee as he or she works through an issue.

What credentials do GrOW navigators have?

Core competencies we look for in our GrOW Navigators are: customer service, relationship management, communication, facilitation of individual/group learning, adaptability, problem solving, goal setting, data collection and analysis, and program development. A working knowledge of human resources and employment practices is essential. In addition, we expect our coaches to know or have the aptitude to learn basic money management and budgeting, and they need familiarity with community resources and ability to coordinate services among community resources. Having a degree in Social Work or an International Coaching Federation (ICF) certification is preferred but not required. Our GrOW Navigators work with other Navigators within our organization and across the Worklab Innovation National Network to leverage unique strengths and further collective professional growth.

How can we market these services to our employees without compromising their dignity?

We recommend that these services be positioned as an investment you are making to develop your employees. We have found that the word “navigator” does not carry the same stigma as counselor, caseworker or social worker. It is more about guiding people toward resources to help them find solutions to challenges, and “developing” people rather than “fixing” people. It should not be positioned or viewed as a service that employees utilize only when they have “problems.” While many employees will in fact use the service to help with particular problems, especially at the beginning of the relationship, others in the organization may seek out the GrOW Navigator to work proactively on long term goals. Because the GrOW Navigator is a third party, and because of the confidentiality commitment, employees are less likely to feel that their dignity is being compromised or that their reputation in the company is at risk as a result of their personal challenges.

How is trust handled between GrOW Navigators and Management or HR?

We share a service rollout process so that all understand each other’s roles individually and where they intercept collectively, and to set expectations.  It is important that the GrOW Navigator is just as intentional with developing a relationship with management and HR as they are with the employees they serve. We view management and HR as partners in supporting the employees, with a mutual understanding that confidentiality must be maintained. The Director of Workforce Services manages the overall employer relationships and checks in with HR and management via regular meetings or phone calls to share utilization statistics and outcomes, as well as to address any concerns that may arise.

How do employees gain total confidence about confidentiality?

During the relationship building process, the GrOW Navigator explains to the employee that their conversations are held in confidence unless the person gives permission to share information. At the same time, the GrOW Navigator also discloses that if there is a concern of the person harming themselves or others, this may be a situation where the coach needs to inform someone. Also, no specifics are shared with the employer – whether about the type of barrier, type of referral, or even whether a specific employee has used the services.

The GrOW Navigator also reviews a “client/navigator agreement” with the client during their initial intake which reviews the expectations and responsibility of both parties, including confidentiality of services unless a client signs a release of information.

How long will an employee be served?

There is no time limit for services, we will serve them for as long as it takes to get them back on track, as long as the employee remains employed by any of our member companies.

Should everyone go through the program?

We recommend that the program be open to all employees. While lower wage workers will be most likely to engage, employees at any level could experience similar issues. We work with the employer to promote the program through various channels visible to all employees: new hire orientation, emails, website, bulletin boards, etc. While we recommend that services be voluntary, we also encourage employers to directly refer employees in “high risk” situations such as absences, attendance warnings, behavior issues, etc. However, the employee is ultimately the decision maker as to whether they use the services offered.

How can a Supervisor work with a GrOW Navigator?

If a manager determines that employee performance is impacted by circumstances that fall outside of the work itself, the manager may want to refer the employee to the GROW Navigator. Frontline managers frequently tell us that they don’t have the time, the skills, or the resources to adequately support an employee dealing with tough personal issues. In addition, employees report reluctance to share with their manager the true challenges they are experiencing, out of embarrassment or fear of impact to their job status. The GrOW Navigator offers a safe place to share what is going on, and the professional expertise and resources to help the employee navigate the situation. Managers and GrOW Navigators can work together to determine trigger points that may result in an automatic touchpoint with the coach – for example, if an employee is placed on warning for behavior. GrOW Navigators may also be able to check in with managers to see if they are noticing performance improvements – if a release of information form has been signed that gives the navigator the right to reveal the client is working with them.

What is the process for having a GrOW Navigator at my company?

We work closely with you or your HR staff to determine the most effective way to structure the service at your company and how to roll it out to your employees. You may prefer that the coach be on-site and available to employees at designated times on a regular basis, or you may prefer that the coach come on-site on an as needed basis. We can accommodate your preferences and a GrOW Navigator will only be a phone call away from you, your supervisors, your HR staff and your other employees.

Employees can self-refer or they can be referred by their supervisor if needed. The GrOW Navigator is available to meet employees at your work site, or at off-site meeting locations if necessary. The GrOW Navigator will work with the employee to first address immediate concerns, and then helps to develop a plan to prevent that concern from being an obstacle to success in the future.


A Plan for Student Loans

Stephen* was about to graduate with over $90,000 in student debt. He knew his grace period for payment would be over shortly, and he would have to find a way to start repaying the debt. His Navigator began by assessing his loan types and whether he could qualify for an income-based repayment plan.

Stable Childcare for a Single Mom

Anna* was a single mom working full time. Her three young children were cared for by a patchwork of family members, and while she was grateful for their help, this arrangement was not always reliable.

Learning to Communicate

When Danielle* started professional development coaching through her Navigator, she was struggling with problems with communication, expectations and other interpersonal issues. The Upskill Coach helped Danielle analyze the situation, view it from more perspectives and ask the right questions.

Feeling Human Again

A family of six was living in a motel room. Exhausted with their situation, Diane* decided to seek help from a Navigator.


Contact Chad Mares, director, Workforce Services | (402) 676–0815