Behind the Scenes with the Grow Well Model: An Interview with Caroline Croft-Estay


Caroline Croft Estay, Vertical Harvest Co-Founder and Director of Diversity and Inclusion, developed and continually evolves the company’s groundbreaking employment model, Grow Well. The blog team sat down with Caroline to learn more about Grow Well and how it’s made a difference in employee satisfaction and retention at Vertical Harvest. Let’s Dive In:

  1. Blog Team: What is the Grow Well Model?
    Caroline: “The Grow Well Model is Vertical Harvest’s customized employment model. Crafted from human resources best practices, lessons learned, and a touch of ingenuity, this model seeks to educate and empower people of all abilities in the workplace and in their community, as well as foster and facilitate a culture of equity and inclusion. The Grow Well Model has three areas of focus : Professional Development (Work Well), Personal Discovery (Be Well), Community Impact (Do Well). These  components unite to form a supportive base that encourages self-discovery, fosters community connections and allows individuals to define an upwardly mobile career path through personal and professional goals.”
  2. Blog Team: How does the Grow Well Model differ from other customized employee training models and career path programs?
    Caroline: “The GWM is more than just growing one’s professional future. Our employment model supports each employee’s personal growth through a variety of programs integrated into the work day as well as access to more self inquiry study on one’s own time. We offer a variety of resources that are always accessible to our employees so they can reach their potential as an individual ultimately adding to the company as a whole. We have quarterly and yearly advocacy initiatives that we engage in together and on our own. This allows for a greater impact. It truly does take a village to empower each one of us to find the passion projects that we can support.”
  3. Blog Team: How has the Grow Well Model helped employee retention?
    Caroline: “Jackson Hole is a ski town. It is a very transient community with many second homeowners and young adults here to ski, climb, fish, and party. Most businesses have a very difficult time retaining good help. That has not been an issue at our greenhouse. In our 5 years of operation we have retained 99% of our employees with different abilities. We have an overall rate of 95% satisfaction of all employees in our company. We strongly believe this has to do with our inclusive culture and the role modeling that is shared among people with and without disabilities.”
  4. Blog Team: How have your differently abled employees helped define your culture?
    “Many of us have found that there is a lot less ego and ‘watercooler talk’ at our place of work. What you see is what you get. Not only do we weave our Vertical Harvest tenets into every day (i.e transparency, connection, integrity), people with different abilities just tend to “shoot it straight.” Again, what you see is what you get. In addition, the consistent timeliness and loyalty to their daily schedule has ‘raised the bar’ for all of our employees. It is not often that any of us are late.”
  5. Blog Team: How have your employees personally benefited from this inclusive employment environment?
    Caroline: “We have seen tremendous improvements across the company as far as quality of life.  Over 100 pounds in weight loss, new relationships, and even an engagement. New hobbies and interests have developed, and we’ve seen a lot more connections to the community across the board. Two years ago one of our employees with a different ability ran for the hospital board and received over 600 votes. This is something he said he was empowered to do from working at Vertical Harvest.”