Engaging employees through in-house programs

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Being recognized as one of Canada’s Top 100 Employers doesn’t happen overnight. At Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA) it’s been a process of continuous improvement—of reassessing and refining the employee experience that we provide for the 19,000 staff working at over 270 locations across British Columbia.

PHSA, the first organization of its kind in Canada, is responsible for specialized, province-wide health care services in BC. Its agencies—including BC Cancer Agency, BC Children’s Hospital, BC Mental Health & Substance Use Services, and BC Women’s Hospital and Health Centre—each bring a unique group of employees to PHSA’s mosaic of cultures that span generations and demographics.

As PHSA develops programs to meet the needs of its people, the organization has learned that it’s not only costly programs that have a deep impact. Indeed, it is often about low-cost innovative, creative ways to engage employees, to give them a voice, and to ensure they have the tools to excel both personally and professionally.

Whether an employee is at the start of their career, or in a leadership role, the goal at PHSA is to create programs to help people succeed professionally. There is a robust catalogue of in-house programs and courses to ensure its teams are equipped for growth.

LearningHub is a cost-effective learning system housing over 840 training courses, most available at no cost. Over 12,000 learners are registered for courses such as project management, depression in the workplace, and chemotherapy certification for pharmacists. LearningHub allows PHSA to adapt to changing educational needs, and the eLearning specialist trains departments to create their own courses. The online platform is available 24/7 and ensures teams across the entire province—including rural and remote areas—can participate and have the same experience as their colleagues in urban areas.

For young employees (over 13 per cent of PHSA’s workforce), there are employee-led training programs designed to give the opportunity to consolidate skills and practice working as a member of an interdisciplinary team. For example, the Nursing Resource Team (NRT) at BC Children’s Hospital, is an innovative approach that provides foundational education in the different pediatric subspecialties. This ensures not only that patient care and safety remain at the forefront; it also helps to develop a young nurse and identify career passions and pathways for the future.

For seasoned employees, including frontline staff and leaders of all levels, PHSA has a number of in-house programs promoting a culture of continuous learning. • Employee-led coaching programs are offered in three tiers, each designed to meet the needs of the individual staff member and prepare them for the next tier. Working with peers, participants put theory into practice and develop connections with colleagues across other departments.

• Leadership LINX is a province-wide collaboration is designed to specifically target the challenges health care leaders face in BC. The program, which launched in January 2013, is for all levels of leadership, from emerging leaders to senior leaders.

In an effort to engage and equip our workforce as change-makers, PHSA developed a program, “imPROVE,” based on Lean principles. The program empowers employees to redesign their own work processes to identify and reduce waste, and improve patient safety, quality, and outcomes. imPROVE is not about quick-fixes; it is about long-term change. Over 2,100 employees have gone through training or participated in a “Lean” event, and have contributed invaluable expertise, knowledge, and innovative suggestions on how to improve the organization.

PHSA wants its employees to succeed at work, but also wants to ensure employees live fulfilling, healthy lives outside of work. As such, in addition to our extended benefit plans, PHSA offers many programs to help employees attain, maintain and enjoy a healthy physical, mental, and financial life.

On-site, subsidized fitness programs at many locations include yoga, Pilates, and Nordic Pole Walking, and the organization has negotiated deep discounts at local fitness centres across BC. PHSA organizes pocket markets, health fairs, and stretch aid attendant training. Courses such as Financial Literacy for Health Care Workers provide a safe, non-sales environment led by financial experts to help attendees understand their finances.

These events take place during lunch and are brought right to the employees. A robust website is accessible to staff from any computer at http://phsa.ca/healthpromotion

Addressing the needs of PHSA employees outside of work is important, as is allowing them to bring their personal values into the workplace. One example is PHSA’s award-winning Green+Leaders program, our employee-led “green team”. Launched in 2009, it is now active in over 110 PHSA departments and has been implemented across the other Lower Mainland health authorities. The program is based on behavior-change campaigns that occur through one-to-one peer conversation. More information can be found at http://phsa.ca/green

In order to develop, launch, and further all of these programs, effective and meaningful communication strategies are critical. PHSA uses digital tools for province-wide reach, and facilitate town hall meetings and departmental staff meeting at a local level. This helps ensure alignment amongst our 19,000+ employees, and provides the platform for robust, two-way communication.

The organization’s intranet, POD (PHSA On Demand), is an all-encompassing platform for relevant communication, tools, and feedback. The e-newsletter, PHSANews, is a collection of stories from across PHSA that communicates important information, events, and achievements. It is created entirely of stories submitted by employees at all levels of the organization.

Relevant development opportunities, employee well-being, and timely, two-way communications is how we empower our people to succeed, and to play a meaningful part in steering PHSA into the future.