Building Mount Sinai’s best medicine from the inside out

Mount Sinai Hospital is committed to being the best place to work, learn and grow. Like many organizations, it is finding the right strategy to deal with a changing workforce – baby boomers approaching their 60s with dreams of retiring; competition for talent in an environment where employee loyalty has eroded after decades of downsizing, cutbacks and layoffs; and the belief that having multiple careers is the norm.

Any successful organization must have a stable, engaged and healthy workforce. In 2003, Mount Sinai established the Organizational Development and Strategic Projects (ODSP) portfolio to address issues such as recruitment and retention, performance management, lifelong learning, health and wellness, and career development.

“We are committed to creating a culture that supports a healthy, safe and diverse workplace offering opportunities to grow and learn,” said Debbie Fischer, Senior Vice-President, Organizational Development and Strategic Projects.

Last year’s staff satisfaction survey provided a snapshot of where the hospital is in terms of satisfying the needs of its workforce and captured ideas for improving the working environment. Overall, Mount Sinai received an above average positive score, as compared to other Toronto teaching hospitals, for being a recommended hospital for employment and a positive place to work. The survey also identified the following areas for improvement: rewards and incentives, advancement opportunities, fair and regular feedback on performance, more communication about corporate plans, and increased opportunities to learn and express opinions.

“We moved quickly to address these areas for improvement by developing a strategy of transparency, inclusion and respect,” said Fischer. “The focus centred on initiatives promoting work-life balance, lifelong learning, safe and diverse environment, and a team culture rewarding staff for results and performance.”

Over the past year, the hospital has begun to implement an integrated wellness strategy. “The Wellness @ Work program integrates a combination of health and safety initiatives from diet and lifestyle to managing stress and absenteeism, all in support of achieving a healthy work-life balance,” said Dr. Cory Ross, Manager of Organizational Health and Wellness. “It focuses on the eight pillars of health promotion, attendance management, disability and disease management, health services and prevention, life-balance programs, training and education, policies/programs and benefits, and culture and environment.”

Another highlight is Mount Sinai’s commitment to fostering a safe working environment by incorporating organizational safety as a quadrant in its balanced scorecard. All corporate and department planning now must address safety issues as part of the annual scorecard development. In response to this commitment, the Occupational Health and Risk Management teams have launched a number of new training initiatives around office ergonomics, musculoskeletal disorders and emergency codes.

“These initiatives, along with many others all reflect the organization’s values of excellence, service, teamwork, partnership, respect and diversity, and leadership,” said Trent Dark, Director of Organizational Development. “And, they are aligned with the Hospital’s Balanced Scorecard dimensions of patient- and family-centred care, organizational safety, learning and innovation, and organizational efficiency and growth.”

Change will not happen overnight. A year in to this multi-year program to shift and remould Mount Sinai’s corporate culture, has yielded some hits and some false starts. However, the hospital is receiving positive feedback and continues to work very hard to overcome any barriers to change by partnering with staff to develop trust and mutual objectives. And all those objectives focus on strengthening Mount Sinai Hospital from the inside out.

From holding open forums with the President and CEO to establishing staff advisory committees to overseeing the stable of programs and services available, they are committed to understanding and meeting staff needs by supporting a healthy, safe and successful work-life environment, together.

In less than two years, Mount Sinai Hospital has been recognized as a leader in workplace health and safety with the 2005 Ontario Hospital Association (OHA) Healthy Hospital Innovators Award.

As a recipient of this award, Mount Sinai also receives Level One recognition from the National Quality Institute’s Healthy Workplace Progressive Excellence Program. This is the first-step in a four-step process towards receiving Canada’s most prestigious award for the development and sustainability of a healthy workplace.

Sustaining a healthy and safe workplace is an ongoing process that involves constant attention and focus. Mount Sinai has a continuous feedback loop to ensure that their programs and services reflect the needs of staff on an ongoing basis.