Quality of work life is key to West Park’s new human resources strategy

The future is difficult to anticipate, especially in the world of health-care human resources. But West Park Healthcare Centre is charging ahead with much of its effort directed squarely at quality of work life.

Quality of work life for staff is a primary focus at West Park, a west Toronto hospital offering specialized rehabilitation, complex continuing and long-term care. This focus helps ensure better patient care and services, and is vital to attracting and retaining employees.

When West Park decided to develop its Human Resource Strategy for 2009-2012, it took into account the significant changes underway in the health-care system and the health human resources challenges of the past few years. Along with increasing demands for health services, these changes and challenges have impacted staff, physicians, volunteers and those who need care.

West Park used many methods to develop its HR strategy, including an extensive literature review, presentations by thought leaders on trends in health-care human resources, and focus groups with employees, medical staff and volunteers. In addition, West Park used an employee feedback survey in spring 2008 to inform its strategic planning. The survey examined 22 quality of work life indicators and included an assessment of health and wellness and workplace behaviours.

Participation rates for the survey were high and the overall results were very positive and constructive, factors which validate the future direction of the HR strategy. Through this process, HR strategic priorities were confirmed and included: “attract and develop top talent;” “promote high functioning collaborative teams;” “cultivate and nurture a trustful, values-driven work environment” and “create a healthier workplace.”

“While the employee feedback survey results were indicative of several areas of strength, we were also reminded of several opportunities for improvement,” says Anne-Marie Malek, President and CEO of West Park Healthcare Centre. “Staff engagement is vital to continuous improvement and to quality of work life. It is at the team level that we can really begin to explore and discover quality of work life improvements. Working together to establish and maintain these goals offers endless opportunities.”

Recognizing that this was an opportunity to demonstrate West Park’s commitment to action, the Centre ensured reports were broken down by department/clinical program so that most teams could receive results specific to their area. As a provider of specialized rehabilitation and complex continuing care services, the decision to have smaller group level reports reflected the various specialties and different team dynamics that make up West Park. Some of the most important relationships are those experienced within the immediate work team including managers and colleagues.

Starting in September 2008, senior managers led presentations to staff on the organization’s survey results. Following that, West Park hired in an external consultant to assist the Centre in engaging staff to develop solutions, developing action plans and measurement strategies.

West Park is in the early stages of deploying its strategy to identify and implement ‘Quality of Work Life Improvement Initiatives’ that are specifically targeted to the team level. The next steps will be to meet with each team and explore what quality of work life means to them and to establish opportunities that exist to improve quality of work life and means of measuring these. This process is about empowering staff to be part of the solution and engaging each team in identifying areas they feel could be improved.

The Human Resource strategy lays the foundation for various initiatives being identified across the Centre. Having input from staff and maintaining an open dialogue to identify opportunities for improvement is welcomed by staff. “Employees of West Park are very excited about the initiatives that the Centre has taken to improve the quality of work life,” one employee recently expressed.  “It is very evident that the Centre is taking the results of the employee survey very seriously and that change for the positive will be the end result.”