Awards recognize quality, health

What Amex, 2 Ontario hospitals and IAPA did to garner attention from NQI

Employees at American Express Canada have a wide variety of options when it comes to supporting a healthy lifestyle — telework and flexible work options, an on-site fitness centre and wellness centre, healthy food choices in the cafeteria, health education programs and back-up child care.

But for the Markham, Ont.-based company, which has 4,000 employees, there’s more to a healthy workplace than traditional health services, said David Barnes, vice-president of communications at Amex Canada.

There is a focus on employee development, a range of rewards and recognition programs to award staff and senior executives who pay attention to employee surveys.

“That all adds up to a healthy environment in which to work,” said Barnes.

That healthy environment is one of the reasons Amex Canada won the order of excellence in quality and healthy workplace from the National Quality Institute (NQI) in Toronto, which works with organizations to manage self-assessments, review business processes and develop improvement programs. The award is the highest one given out by NQI and recognizes world-class excellence in quality, customer service and a healthy workplace.

“We’re all about how can organizations improve results and then recognizing them for achieving results,” said Allan Ebedes, president of NQI.

The awards have been presented annually for 24 years, and this year 21 organizations were honoured.

Amex Canada, which won the order of excellence in quality in 1998 and in healthy workplace in 2001, is the first to win the combined quality and healthy workplace award.

Barnes credits employee and leadership development for Amex’s success. The company focuses on continuous development and learning, with high-potential employees identified for management programs.

“The whole structure around performance management is geared toward developing positive leaders,” he said.

Once employees are in leadership positions, they’re continually evaluated on how they manage employees.

“It’s very hard for people to be successful here by being very driven on achieving their goals but doing it at the expense of the people they work with or whom they work for,” said Barnes. “It’s as much about the leadership style as it is about the leadership outcomes.”

And that leadership spills over into employee engagement.

“Everybody is just absolutely passionate about what they do,” said Ebedes, who visited Amex as part of the evaluation for the award.

With several NQI awards already in hand, the order of excellence proves Amex has continued to remain a quality organization and continued to improve, said Ebedes.

“Excellence is a journey, not a destination. They’re not doing it to win awards, they’re doing it because they want to run a great organization,” he said.

Toronto East General Hospital started following the NQI framework more than five years ago when it decided to move beyond the mandatory accreditation for hospitals, said Wolf Klassen, vice-president of program support at the hospital. This year it won the gold award for organizational quality and healthy workplace.

The framework’s focus on documenting improvements and showing how an organization addresses employees’ concerns is one of the things Klassen said he appreciates about the program.

“They’re interested in the improvements over time, not just that you’re doing a staff satisfaction survey,” he said. “It’s one thing to do the programs, it’s another to have the metrics to be able to show to NQI the actual improvement that we’ve seen.”

Since 2004-05, employee commitment among the hospital’s 2,400 employees has improved from 50 per cent to 69.6 per cent in 2007-08, said Klassen. That’s about 15 points above the average for health care, which historically scores lower than the private sector, he said.

In the initial surveys, staff asked the hospital to enhance wellness offerings. The hospital put in a gym and over the years has added spinning classes, yoga, hula dancing, photography classes and therapeutic touch.

In the past two years, employees have also become more secure at work, with the proportion of employees who reported feeling good about their personal security at work increasing from 70.8 per cent to 81.3 per cent.

This is largely due to the hospital’s new workplace violence prevention program, which began after the CEO found out there were 1,100 “code white” situations — a violent incident involving staff, patients or visitors — in one year.

The policy, which the hospital started two years ago in partnership with the Ontario Nurses’ Association, includes signage around the hospital about appropriate behaviours and an education program for all staff.

At Trillium Health Centre, which has two hospitals in Mississauga, Ont., and 4,300 staff, showing the link between healthy workplaces and patient outcomes has been the most valuable aspect of the NQI framework, said Caroline Brereton, vice-president of people, corporate and clinical support services at the health centre. The health centre won the gold award for organizational quality and healthy workplace this year.

“NQI is very focused on investing and doing new things and changing the way we work with our people to achieve better outcomes. The link is very clearly there between the work you do on the people side and the outcomes you expect to see from patients,” she said. “It prevents healthy work environments from becoming just the flavour of the day.”

Too often, if that link hasn’t been shown, healthy workplace initiatives are cut when organizations are looking to save money, she said.

As an organization that sells health and safety products to other businesses, the Industrial Accident Prevention Association (IAPA) in Mississauga has to set a good example when it comes to healthy workplaces, said Colin Appleby, vice-president of corporate services.

“When it comes to healthy workplaces, we are Canada’s leading health and safety organization and we’ve got to walk the talk,” he said. “We believe a healthy workplace is critical to the success of any organization.”

IAPA has been working to continually improve its healthy workplace and quality practices for more than a decade and this year it won the NQI healthy workplace gold award and the quality gold award.

To improve employees’ health at work, the association built ergonomic work stations for all employees at its new headquarters and each employee received an ergonomic assessment. There is also an on-site fitness centre, lunch-and-learn sessions on fitness, nutrition and mental health and an employee assistance program.

As part of its quality improvement process, IAPA surveys customers to see how well the company meets their needs. Customer satisfaction has increased from 70 per cent in 2000 to 87 per cent in 2008.

One reason for that improvement is the surveys discovered a couple of years ago the response time for customer service was too slow. To hasten the response, IAPA brought together all the call-centre representatives from across the country.

“So when somebody did call IAPA, they got a live person on the phone,” said Appleby.

Canada awards for excellence

And the winners are…

Order of excellence award

• American Express, Markham, Ont. — Quality & Healthy Workplace

• Buffett & Company Worksite Wellness, Whitby, Ont. — Small organizations: Healthy Workplace

• R.H. King Academy, Toronto — Education

• Vincent Massey Public School, Ottawa — Education

Organizational quality and healthy workplace award

• Toronto East General Hospital, Toronto — Gold

• Trillium Health Centre, Mississauga, Ont. — Gold

• Saint Elizabeth Health Care, Markham, Ont. — Bronze

Quality award

• City of Kamloops, Kamloops, B.C. — Gold

• IAPA (Industrial Accident Prevention Association), Mississauga, Ont. — Gold

• Hill & Knowlton Canada, Toronto — Gold

• Alberta Gaming & Liquor Commission — Technical Services Branch, St. Albert, Alta. — Silver

• Alberta Municipal Affairs — Municipal Dispute Resolution Initiative, Edmonton — Silver

• Alberta Seniors & Community Supports — Excellence in the Lives of Persons with Developmental Disabilities, Edmonton — Silver

• Manulife Financial — Individual Wealth Management Operations, Waterloo, Ont. — Silver

• Ministry of Natural Resources — Southern Region, Peterborough, Ont. — Silver

• Forest and Range Evaluation Program — BC Ministry of Forests and Range, BC Ministry of Environment, Victoria — Silver

• Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development — Agricultural Education & Training Branch, Edmonton — Bronze

• Alberta Alcohol and Drug Abuse Commission — Edmonton Youth Residential & Detoxification Treatment Programs, Edmonton — Bronze

• Alberta Seniors & Community Supports — Graduated Supports Occupational Health & Safety Program, Calgary — Bronze

Healthy workplace award

• IAPA, Mississauga, Ont. — Gold

• New Brunswick Power (NB Power), Fredericton — Silver

Customer service award for small business

• Print Audit, Calgary — Gold

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