Preparing for the Future with Scenarios

Our lives, personal and professional, have been disrupted in a way that many of us may have never imagined. As schools and businesses close, people find themselves isolated from colleagues, friends and family, and sometimes facing this challenge alone. Everything that we took for granted seems to be upside down and inside out. And there is no definitive end in sight.

How do we plan for a future with so many unknowns? Even though your boards and leaders may be seeking concrete solutions, it’s simply not possible; no one has a crystal ball. None of us can accurately foresee how the next months will unfold, and quite frankly, that is not our work right now. As futurist Amy Webb so pointedly observed, our “goal right now isn’t prediction. It’s preparation for what comes next.”

One thing we can do right now is to actively contribute to what comes next. That means collaborating to find new ways of working and new ways of connecting. To support your planning, we offer an exercise from our Designing Collaborative Workplaces program. It can help you and your colleagues identify and see possible futures, so that you can pull out plausible scenarios, categorize them, and help your team stretch their thinking to develop strategies and adapt to a new way of working.

With so many unknowns, what people need to see from their leaders right now, is that they have a good command of the here and now — even as it changes hourly— as well as the capacity to think about the medium and longer terms. The Shaping Possible Futures exercise below, is a low-tech way to help your teams think ahead, to carefully explore alternative scenarios, so that you can prepare for what might be coming next.

HR’s Role in Developing Innovative Organizations

Being an innovative organization is far more than developing innovative products. It includes developing services, processes, business model innovation and even societal and policy innovations. Most innovation discoveries occur through convening diverse employees, teams, departments and organizations that combine perspectives, resulting in new ways of thinking and operating. Organizations need HR to drive innovation through the creation of leadership capacities, diverse team and organizational methodologies that allow innovation to flourish.

Here are five areas of focus for HR’s role in developing innovative organizations.

1. Building Leaders of Innovation
HR drives innovation by building ‘leaders of innovation’. Leaders of innovation do not necessarily generate the innovative ideas themselves. Instead, they recognize innovation when they see it and work with diverse groups to gain insight and discover innovative solutions to complex issues.  HR needs to hire individuals who are inherently capable of being leaders of innovation, promote them and develop that capability. They also need to build succession plans to ensure that future leaders can be leaders of innovation.

2. Ensuring Diverse Teams Can Work Together on Innovation
Innovative insights and discoveries emerge from diverse groups of employees, teams, departments, external customers and even diverse organizations that share their perspectives and combine them in unforeseen ways. Typically, organizations that have “silos” struggle to generate innovative outcomes. HR has a fundamental role to maximize inclusion, cross-functionality and the elimination of silos. For example, HR must ensure diverse teams convene and work together on innovation in order to drive innovation throughout the organization. HR should also extend the role of its HR business partners to ensure their internal clients receive and hand-off work to other departments effectively so that silos are reduced.

3. Focusing on User Experience and Iteration
Most issues that require innovative insights are characterized by ambiguity and uncertainty and often have little precedent. As a result, best practices and research are not very helpful for these issues.  An alternate method that has a higher probability to reveal insights into an issue and thereby yield much better innovative solutions is to analyze user experience. HR needs to champion user experience as an equally valid source of insights as best practices and research. However, insights gained from user experience can be imprecise and provide conflicting evidence. That’s why an innovation team will need to be effective at iteration. Iteration is the process of generating partial solutions that an innovation team can test on early adopt users to see if it generates any positive movement to resolve the issue. They then isolate the element in the partial solution that seems to work and expand and deepen it to produce another slightly better solution to test on users again. HR needs to promote iteration as a way to rapidly generate innovative solutions to complex, ambiguous and uncertain problems. They also need to debunk the myth that perfect solutions are possible and normalize partial and imprecise solutions designed to advance the discovery process.

4. Leveraging Change Management Practices to Implement Innovative Ideas
Innovation needs an implementation track record so that people will believe their efforts are meaningful and not a waste of time. Implementing new ideas also reinforces a culture conducive to innovation, which will help sustain the focus on innovation. HR should reframe its role in innovation as a ‘prequel to change’. Many HR leaders already focus on change management. By adding a focus on developing innovative organizations, HR extends its role earlier in the process to generating insights, ideation and iteration. HR should also ensure that leaders of innovation apply change management best practices so that employees and teams effectively and rapidly adopt innovative solutions that become the new business as usual.

5. Developing Organizational Practices That Drive Innovation
HR needs to develop practices and programs that drive innovation and do not make innovation harder to do. For example, HR needs to develop practices to help leaders to become leaders of innovation and programs to reward and reinforce diverse team collaboration.  HR should also review its current practices and programs to ensure they are not inadvertently making innovation more difficult. For example, HR should investigate if their job descriptions inadvertently create rigid job definitions that prohibit employees from working on diverse teams. They should also look at other parts of the organization and champion the removal or modification of various organizational practices that inadvertently make innovation more difficult. For example, if finance has a budgeting process that only allows innovative ideas to be implemented at the beginning of a budget cycle, then that will limit the willingness of employees to generate innovative solutions within the year. If parts of the organization require four or five signatures for approvals to proceed with innovative initiatives, then HR can champion the removal of those barriers because they slow down the implementation of ideas.

Overall, HR has a fundamental role in developing innovative organizations. HR should build leaders of innovation, create an openness to diverse thought, emphasize user experience and ensure that innovative ideas are implemented effectively. HR also needs to lead the way to remove or modify the organizational practices that are barriers to innovation and that make innovation more difficult.

 

About the Author

David Weiss
Dr. David S. Weiss, ICD.D is President and CEO of a firm specializing in innovation, leadership, and HR consulting for many Fortune 500, social enterprise and public-sector organizations. David has provided consulting on more than 1000 business and organizational projects, delivered over 200 conference presentations and he has written over 50 journal and trade articles. He is the author or co-author of seven books including Innovative Intelligence (Wiley) which was reported by CBC News as a “top 5 business book” in the year it was published. David has conducted executive sessions in Canada, USA, China, Russia, Israel, Uganda, South Africa, Malaysia, Chile, Hungary, France and England. David currently teaches at three university executive development programs, including Queen’s University, Schulich, and St. Mary’s University. David’s doctorate is from the University of Toronto and he has three Master’s degrees.

Dementia Care Innovation in the Region of Peel

The first article in this series focuses on the Region of Peel’s bold decision to pilot and implement a ground breaking approach for dealing with people living with dementia. This model of care has proven effective at dramatically enhancing residents’ quality of life and wellbeing, their family’s satisfaction and involvement, as well as employee engagement, fulfillment and retention, all while reducing the number of incidents, and creating more positive relationships all around.

Key information for this piece comes from an interview with Mary Connell, Project Manager for the Butterfly Initiative Implementation at the Region of Peel.

In the series, we will look at the methodology used by these innovative organizations leveraging the 4D Process – Define, Discover, Design and Do, created by IRC’s Brenda Barker Scott. But first, a look at why today’s organizations are transforming service delivery, and the increasing role that Emotional Intelligence (EQ) and Spiritual Intelligence (SQ) play in design and implementation.

Download PDF: Dementia Care Innovation in the Region of Peel

The Rising Importance of a National Brand for Organizations – Part 2

In 2004, my colleague Amal Henein and I, undertook a pan-Canadian research project seeking answers to the following questions:

  • How is Canadian Leadership different from that of other countries?
  • How effective is the Canadian Leadership brand and how can we expand our capacity to lead?
  • How can we ensure Canada has an abundant supply of capable leaders?
  • How can we strengthen our leadership presence and impact, particularly in the international arena?

To discover a wide variety of perspectives and paint a complete picture, we set out to interview two key groups likely to have expertise on these topics:

  • Successful leaders in all sectors of the economy and regions of the country (295 interviewees)
  • Leadership development professionals in variety of settings and sectors (66 interviewees).

Throughout the research, we ensured regional, linguistic and diverse representation: gender, age, ethnic background, people with disabilities etc. The research resulted in Made in Canada Leadership,[1] published in 2007 in both official languages.[2]

Download PDF: The Rising Importance of a National Brand for Organizations – Part 2: Brand Canada

Haven’t read Part 1 yet? Part 1: Branding Context & Impact

 


[1] Henein, A. & Morissette, F. (2007). Made in Canada Leadership, Wiley Canada.

[2] The French version is entitled: Leadership, Sagesse, Pratique, Développement, Éditions de l’Université de Sherbrooke.

The Rising Importance of a National Brand for Organizations – Part 1

We are all familiar with corporate brands, focused on either products, services or the overall organization. Solid brands impact recognition, enhance reputation, promote loyalty, influence behaviour and foster engagement.

For instance, since the start of its Olympic partnership in 2013, Canadian Tire has met with great success with its ‘We all play for Canada’ platform[1] “with heavy emphasis on the idea of inclusivity, play, and the importance of communities rallying together: values-based messaging about something that matters to us as a country.”[2] Check out this moving video [3] about combining play and inclusion.

Brands are shaped by a complex set of interdependent factors such as values, vision, mission, strategy, culture, traditions, performance and aspirations. They evolve over time and fluctuate according to external factors like competitive pressures, and internal factors like crisis management: for instance, recalls in the pharmaceutical or auto industry can harm or restore a brand’s image, depending on how they are handled. In the spring of 2018, Facebook data harvesting and sharing scandal[4], resulted in a brand confidence breakdown, which prompted a worldwide conversation on strengthening privacy protection to safeguard democracy.[5]

Countries also have brands. In the book Diplomacy in a Globalizing World: Theories and Practices, authors define nation branding as “the application of corporate marketing concepts and techniques to countries, in the interest of enhancing their reputation in international relations.”[6]

National brands are crafted by design, or happen by accident:

  • When deliberate, they seek to build and promote a country’s identity, manage its reputation, and increase its influence. When brand and actions align, national identity becomes sharper, and trust increases in both the country and its brand. However, when a country’s behaviour clashes with its brand, dissonance sets in, eroding trust and credibility.
  • Meanwhile, accidental brands, not consciously driven by their country of origin, float around, lacking clarity and consistency, and are prone to tampering and takeovers.

Download PDF: The Rising Importance of a National Brand for Organizations – Part 1: Branding Context and Impact

Read Part 2

 


[1] Canadian Tire Corporation, Limited. (2018, Feb 01). Canadian Tire Reminds Canadians that We All Play for Canada. Retrieved July 24, 2018, from https://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/canadian-tire-reminds-canadians-that-we-all-play-for-canada-672124153.html.

[2] Dallaire, J. (2018, January 23). Canadian Tire forges ahead with ‘We all play for Canada’. Strategy Magazine. Retrieved July 24, 2018, from http://strategyonline.ca/2018/01/23/canadian-tire-forges-ahead-with-we-all-play-for-canada/.

[3] Canadian Tire “Wheels”:60. Retrieved April 25, 2018, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pFuwUiHo-WI

[4] Understanding Facebook’s data crisis: 5 essential reads. (2018, April 5). Retrieved July 24, 2018, from https://theconversation.com/understanding-facebooks-data-crisis-5-essential-reads-94066.

[5] Facebook is killing democracy with its personality profiling data. (2018, March 21). Retrieved July 24, 2018, from https://theconversation.com/facebook-is-killing-democracy-with-its-personality-profiling-data-93611

[6] Pamment, James (2013). New Public Diplomacy in the 21st Century A comparative study of policy and practice. New York: Routledge. p. 35-36.

Emotional Intelligence: How Leaders Can Use it to Their Advantage

Ever catch yourself thinking, “Why did I just say that?” or “I didn’t handle that discussion as well as I could have.”

We are all human and can make poor decisions in the heat of the moment. Afterwards, we are often left wondering how managing our emotions could have made a difference in the situation. But for leaders, reacting emotionally can have a negative impact that ripples through the organization. We can all become more effective by understanding emotional intelligence and learning how to strengthen our own emotional intelligence. This skill is particularly important for those in managerial and leadership roles.

What is Emotional Intelligence?

Emotional intelligence is also referred to as EI or emotional quotient (EQ). EI is a set of emotional and social skills that collectively establish how well we perceive and express ourselves, develop and maintain relationships, cope with challenges, and use emotional information in an effective and meaningful way. (2012, Multi-Health Systems Inc.) EI is not the same as IQ, cognitive ability, aptitude, or personality.

More and more we are witnessing how emotional intelligence truly defines successful leaders, rather than their technical skills or IQ. Think about how often leaders need to use their EI at the organizational, team, and individual levels. Consider these examples:

  • Leaders of international brands who make public apologies for mistakes and how they got right out in front of the issue to admit their shortcomings;
  • Boards of Directors and teams who have had to lead their groups through challenging situations where the ambiguity and tension runs high;
  • Managers and leaders who have what it really takes to listen to someone, while managing their impulse control so that trust can be built.

In such situations, it is the emotional strength of leaders that can make – or break – the difference. The good news is that EI can be developed. Leaders can change their emotional intelligence to become more effective personally, professionally and socially.

Strengthening Your EI

Many leaders have grown in their emotional intelligence because they have made a purposeful effort to accomplish that growth.  A typical path is to participate in an EI leadership assessment, debrief the results with a certified EI practitioner, and then make an action plan to develop specific skills or behaviors.

While there are many emotional intelligence models and tests available, one of the most researched and statistically validated models is EQ-I 2.0 (from Multi-Health Systems Inc.). Let’s take a brief look at the five scales of EI followed by examples of EI in action:

  1. Self-Perception refers to the “inner-self” and is designed to assess feelings of inner strength and confidence, persistence in the pursuit of personally relevant and meaningful goals while understanding what, when, why and how different emotions impact thoughts and actions (The emotional intelligences associated with this are: Self-regard, Self-actualization, Emotional Self-Awareness);
  2. Self-Expression is an extension of Self-Perception and addresses the outward expression or the action component of one’s internal perception. Self-expression assesses one’s readiness to be self-directed and openly expressive of thoughts and feelings, while communicating these feelings in a constructive and socially acceptable way (The emotional intelligences associated with this are: Emotional Expression, Assertiveness, Independence);
  3. Interpersonal refers to the ability to develop and maintain relationships based on trust and compassion, articulate an understanding of another’s perspective and act responsibly while showing concern for others, their team or their greater community/organization (The emotional intelligences associated with this are: Interpersonal Relationships, Empathy, Social Responsibility);
  4. Decision Making refers to the way in which one uses emotional information and how well one understands the impact emotions have on decision making, including the ability to resist or delay impulses and remain objective so to avoid rash behaviors and ineffective problem solving (The emotional intelligences associated with this are: Problem Solving, Reality Testing, Impulse Control);
  5. Stress Management refers to how well one can cope with the emotions associated with change and unfamiliar and unpredictable circumstances while remaining hopeful about the future and resilient in the face of setback and obstacles (The emotional intelligences associated with this are: Flexibility, Stress Tolerance, Optimism).

EI in Action – How Raising EI Self-awareness Helps Leaders

Here are a few examples of how business leaders raised their self-awareness with an EI leadership assessment and, as a result, are improving in their leadership effectiveness:

  1. “Greta” caught herself immediately saying no to a new business line that her business partners suggested. Upon reflection, she realized that she often said no to new things, because new ideas challenge her and change her routine. Because her impulse control was low, she would react quickly and appear impatient in decision making. Now with her new awareness of low impulse control, she can better manage her emotional response to new business ideas that come forward from her business partners.  Rather than immediately declining the ideas, she listens and asks questions before offering her opinion.
  1. Working with a team of leaders in Canada, I observed the team having some candid conversations with each other regarding their Group EI Team Profile.  The team’s EI strengths in empathy and social responsibility are two reasons why they are so effective in delivering on their mission; however their collective EI weakness (decision-making when emotions are involved) interfered with their effectiveness and purpose as a team. It was very useful for them to see their top EI strengths and top EI weaknesses as a group, and to talk about how difficult it can be to approach emotionally charged situations with a more logical and factual mindset. Their collective willingness to explore the group EI and to take action is why this team increased their effectiveness.
  1. “Dillon”, a business leader I was coaching, has a high level of assertiveness and self-actualization, and is open to thinking about how he uses emotional information to make decisions. He said, “I like how you don’t solve my problems for me. You ask tough questions without giving me your opinion.” Even without participating in an EI assessment, leaders can raise their awareness of how they use their emotions in decision-making through the process of working with a business coach.

The “inner” work of improving your emotional intelligence isn’t for the faint of heart.  Choosing to improve your EI is about changing one’s behavior – and changing behavior is hard work. It takes time, energy and a commitment to becoming more emotionally effective overall. The EQ-I 2.0 leadership assessment, for example, compares a leader’s result with the scores of the top leaders in the sample across North America. This provides leaders with the unique opportunity to compare results to those exceptional leaders who demonstrate high EI.  If one wants to be on par with top leaders, then this can be one way to do that by giving them something to aim for and compare to; however, it can also be a humbling and surprising experience for leaders who may have expected to already be on par with the high performers – yet, taking time to self-reflect on the results proves to be invaluable to leaders. Many leaders would say that focusing on becoming more emotionally effective is one of the most rewarding journeys.

When was the last time you reflected on how emotionally effective you are?

 

About the Author

Linda Allen-Hardisty

Linda Allen-Hardisty is an ICF-certified executive coach, organizational development professional, and a chair at The Executive Committee (TEC) Canada. She’s built a reputation as a vibrant, contemporary voice in the business world by blending her grounding in organizational effectiveness with a practical approach to solving problems. She has extensive experience in executive development, organizational change and culture, team effectiveness, organizational design and strategy, and emotional intelligence (certified practitioner EQ-I 2.0 and EQ360). With a M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Regina and a certificate in Organizational Development from Queen’s IRC, Linda’s corporate leadership experience includes the role of Director of Organizational Development in a company listed on the Hewitt Top 50 Employers in Canada, and becoming the first Manager of Strategy and Performance for a municipal government undertaking cultural transformation.

Linda is a facilitator for the Queen’s IRC Building Trust in the Workplace program.

Creating a Collaborative Workplace: Amplifying Teamwork in Your Organization

Let’s begin with a question. Are you experiencing barriers to working collaboratively, even though you know collaboration is necessary? If you answered yes, this article is for you.

We all know that contemporary work requires collaboration. In our fast-paced, knowledge-intensive workplaces, success requires people to integrate and leverage their efforts. However, knowing that collaboration is essential and being able to foster collaboration, are two different things. Indeed, collaborative failures are commonplace.

As an academic and practitioner, the question I hold is: how can we design organizations to foster necessary collaborative work? Two core assumptions are inherent in my question. The first is that organizations must understand their collaborative work needs. In other words, to support purposeful collaboration, leaders must first step back and reflect on the basic question: what work will benefit from a collaborative effort? While seemingly simple, this question requires leaders to rethink the very nature of how work is framed, assigned and distributed. A second core assumption is that collaborative work cannot simply be overlaid on top of traditional contexts. Rather, collaborative efforts require a system of norms, relationships, processes, technologies, spaces, and structures that are quite different from the ways organizations have worked in the past.

Below, I share the learnings I am acquiring through my research and practice around how collaboration is changing, and the ecosystem of supports that enable it.

Download PDF: Creating a Collaborative Workplace: Amplifying Teamwork in Your Organization

How Alberta is Eradicating Homelessness through Systems Thinking and Transformation

Context

Currently, organizations, industries, sectors, and communities of all types are seeking to modernize their systems to enhance performance, improve service delivery, and ensure sustainability. This means extensive transformation: paradigm shifts, radical redesigns, strategic resets and culture re-alignment are the order of the day. Evolutionary change is neither potent, nor quick enough; revolutionary, dramatic change is called for.

Meanwhile, society in general is trying to solve large scale, chronic problems such as family violence, poverty, environmental degradation and homelessness. To quote Charles Dickens: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times… it was the spring of hope… the winter of despair…. We had everything before us, we had nothing before us…” (1)

Navigating the rushing waters of transformation requires a bold vision and strong systems thinking, as well as widespread change leadership, not to mention a big dose of courage and transformation resilience.

Alberta takes a stand

Homelessness is often viewed as a daunting, if not a wicked problem. (2) Yet, Alberta has shown the way to solutions that deliver results. In contrast with other Canadian jurisdictions who favour municipal approaches, Alberta broke new ground in 2009 by defining an ambitious vision for the entire province: Ending homelessness in 10 years, instead of simply ‘managing’ or ‘reducing’ it. To achieve this audacious goal, Alberta had to dramatically alter the way it thought and acted about homelessness. Here’s how it began:

In 2007, then Premier Ed Stelmach set out to capture the state of homelessness, as the problem was escalating. What factors were contributing to its rapid growth?

Download PDF: How Alberta is Eradicating Homelessness through Systems Thinking and Transformation

Queen’s University IRC 2015 Workplace in Motion Summit Proceedings

The world of work is changing, and the most successful organizations and practitioners are those that understand how these changes impact the way they do business. To help them do so, and to foster further dialogue, Queen’s IRC hosted the Workplace in Motion Summit in Toronto on April 16th, 2015. Over 100 human resource, labour relations, and organizational development professionals from across Canada attended the Summit. Chaired by IRC facilitator Brenda Barker Scott, the Summit provided a forum to stimulate new ideas and new perspectives on the dynamic new world of work.

The Summit focused on a variety of questions of interest to today’s human resource, labour relations, and organizational development professionals. More specifically, it helped participants:

  • Identify issues and best practices related to current trends and practices in human resource manage­ment, labour relations, and organizational development.
  • Explore how rapidly emerging technologies are shaping and re-shaping modern workplaces and the way we work.
  • Investigate the impact of changing demographics on contemporary organizations.

This was all done with the intent of identifying how they can better lead change and promote excellence within and beyond their organizations and professional networks.

Over the course of the Summit, several themes emerged that were particularly critical to today’s human resource, labour relations, and organizational development professionals. These included the need to:

  • Manage change and transformation in order to advance organizational and professional interests with as little disruption as possible.
  • Create the physical space, infrastructure, technologies, and systems necessary to support a collaborative, open, and innovative workplace and work culture.
  • Engage, retain, and motivate the new generation of employees and to bridge inter-generational gaps in the workplace.
  • Think outside the box in order to appropriately encourage risk-taking and innovation.

This report elaborates on the most important questions, issues, and themes identified by Summit participants going forward.

Download Summit Proceedings

The Critical Role of Orientation for New Employees to Your Organization’s Culture

First impressions count.  However in the workplace, organizations often fail to realize that this truism is a two way street.  As much as we form first impressions about the people we interview, hire and welcome into our organizations, the employee is on a parallel journey.  How did we interview them?  How did we invite them to join our organization and how did we welcome them when they arrived?

Traditionally, “orientation” is seen as a static event, one in which we provide an employee with a list of expectations and requirements, a package of information on their benefits, and perhaps some formal welcome session or introduction to the organization’s policies and procedures.

There is much research to suggest the importance of the workplace culture in attracting and retaining highly qualified staff.  In a changing workforce, there is even more emphasis on how to attract and retain a new generation of employees, and with that, a focus on ensuring there are up to date tools and technology. However, much of the research shows that it is an organization’s culture that has the most impact on staff satisfaction and engagement.  Employees, regardless of their age or demographic, consistently stay in workplaces where they feel welcomed and valued, where they are engaged with their teams, where they have a strong working relationship with their supervisor and perhaps most importantly, when they are able to see how their role fits in to the of the bigger picture of the organization; it’s Vision.

Guelph General Hospital is a 150 bed, community-based, acute care hospital that employs approximately 1300 people and hires approximately 250 new people every year. After reviewing our orientation program and staff evaluations and thinking critically about the research around employee engagement and organizational development, we recently decided to shift our orientation’s focus. We moved away from a one-day information (over)sharing session to a highly interactive half day opportunity for new staff members to connect with our hospital’s values and with each other.

We designed our new monthly orientation with a clear end in mind. We did this by carefully selecting our topics, speakers and exercises in a way that would focus new employees on our hospital’s vision, mission and values. We imagined what kind of story we would want our new employees to tell when they got home from their orientation and were asked by their partner or family what their first impression of us was.  What key messages and impressions did we want them to have about Guelph General Hospital?  The answer?  It was clear that it was critical to engage new staff in understanding our values and the importance of their role in achieving our vision and mission. Not only did this focus just ‘feel’ right; it was also aligned with our research regarding what is most likely to engage new staff members during the on-boarding process. Given this focus, we re-designed our orientation program in the following ways:

Welcome from the CEO

We begin the day with an engaging presentation and welcome from our hospital’s CEO. In a short presentation, our CEO is able to eloquently message her desire for new employees to think critically about their own accountability and ability to powerfully impact the lives of those we are here to serve. She points out specifically how valuable “new eyes” are in an organization and how open she is to hearing feedback from people regarding what they are seeing as they come to learn about “how we do things around here.” She takes time to ask each participant about who they are, what led them to choose to work with us and how they hope to impact those we serve here at Guelph General. She reinforces our values by asking staff members to thank our volunteers, understand some of the systemic issues that highly influence and guide our work (LHINs, boards, etc.) and welcomes any and all questions.

Examining our values

We engage staff in an exercise to reflect what the organization’s values (compassion, accountability, respect and teamwork) might look like within each of their respective roles and departments.  It was important to us that from day one, employees are able to understand how to operationalize these values within their own work context, and explore how the hospital’s values lay the foundation for how we do our work. This exercise brings our values to life, ensures they become more than just “words on a wall” and highlights that our vision and mission can only be achieved when EACH of us live them out.

Focusing on the value of teamwork

We create an opportunity for staff to understand the interconnectedness of their roles, and how the value of teamwork assists us in achieving our vision. Participants are paired up and asked to share their current understanding of what their role will be and to brainstorm about how their roles may be connected. It is not unusual for participants to come to orientation without an understanding of other roles/services/departments within the organization. After participants are given the time to share their respective roles with one another, they are given a challenge and asked to explore the question “What are the potential barriers to reaching our vision if we get too comfortable in our silos and fail to understand each others’ roles?”  We have found that participants can easily identify the importance of understanding and removing barriers when the relationship between the two roles is clear, such as between Intensive Care and Emergency Room nurses. However this exercise is more challenging when the need for inter-departmental understanding is not as obvious, such as for someone working in our Sterile Processing Department and someone working in Food Services. Invariably however, the challenge to think broadly and systemically about their role almost always leads participants to find some common ground between their roles and how this impacts the overall care of our patients and the smooth functioning of the hospital. It’s during this activity where we introduce our internal job shadowing program called “Walk this Way.”  By highlighting a program whose purpose it is to allow for better interdepartmental understanding, we also reinforce the hospital’s expectation as it relates to one of our core values, teamwork.

Refocusing essential “information” sessions on patient and staff safety

In order to ensure a more consistent flow between essential staff and patient presentations such as Infection Prevention and Control, Staff and Patient Safety, and Privacy, we spent time with each presenter and asked them to primarily focus on the role each staff member plays in keeping both staff and patients safe. We reminded presenters that our new employees are not likely to remember all of the details of each presentation and that their focus should be on a few key highlights of their program, with an emphasis on where to get the details when it was needed. Most importantly, we wanted participants to feel welcomed by the “experts” so they would know who they could connect with should they need more support or information once they were settled in their new roles.

Creating space for participants to connect on a personal level

Part of our orientation focuses on the unique and vulnerable experience of being a hospital patient or visitor. During this review the floor is opened for new employees to share their own positive or challenging experiences of interacting with the hospital environment. Allowing this free flow narrative provides new employees the opportunity to learn from one another and connect personally with an awareness of the potential vulnerabilities, joys and frustrations that our patients and visitors experience when they come into our organization.  We use storytelling as a powerful bridge to encourage respect and compassion for the patient and family experience, and our power to either support or frustrate the people that we are here to serve.

Reviewing key supports for staff

Key messaging about the programs that reinforce our culture are shared and explained.  Supports such as our Employee Family Assistance Program, Education Assistance Fund, Respectful Workplace and Violence Prevention Framework, conflict management coaching, Crucial Conversations/Crisis Intervention Training and other educational offerings are reviewed to reinforce our culture’s commitment to creating a healthy workplace for our staff so that they in turn can live out our mission:  “To provide the highest quality of care for patients and their families.”

Touring the Facility

We end our orientation with a tour of the hospital to familiarize staff with key departments and support services, such our Occupational Health Services, Learning Centre and multi-faith chapel.

It is important to note that the orientation process does not stop after the first day. New staff go on to be welcomed into their departments and receive department specific orientation.  Additionally, the hospital follows an on-boarding approach with each employee that ensures they meet with their Director twice over the course of their first 90 days for what we call a 30-90 day check in.  The emphasis of this check-in is to further engage new employees and see how we, as an organization, are measuring up to their expectations of what it would be like to work here.

The following participant feedback statements help to reinforce that we are on the right track:

“I felt like the CEO was connected and meant it when she welcomed all of us. She was knowledgeable and welcoming.”

“I liked the story sharing at the end about how people have felt welcomed or not welcomed at a hospital.”

“Really awesome to hear about all the resources available to staff to help us bring our best at work.”

“Great to hear CEO’s personal path to get a better feel for the cultural direction of GGH.”

The culture presentation “…was a great opportunity to learn more about the roles of other health care workers and my interactions with them in my job. A good reminder of how our behaviours can be perceived.”

The confidentiality presentation “…provided excellent scenarios and discussion as to how to handle each…more aware of how to handle various situations.”

Revamping our orientation program to a half day highly engaging session has resulted in a much more meaningful introduction to our hospital. Getting clear on what key messages an organization’s new employees need to walk away with after attending an orientation session is an important first step in ensuring an engaging orientation program that sets the stage for empowering staff to see their role in creating and sustaining a healthy and safe workplace culture.

 

About the Authors

Karen Suk-Patrick, MSW, is the Director of Organizational Development and Employee Health Services at Guelph General Hospital where she has worked for a total of ten years.  Karen’s background as a clinical social worker informs her systemic approach to organizational development and her passion creating a healthy workplace and taking care of the most valuable resource the hospital has – its people, so that they can take care of patients.

Chantal Thorn has been a staff member at Guelph General Hospital for the last 10 years, most recently in the role of Organizational Development Specialist. Chantal completed her Phd in Applied Social Psychology (Organizational Development) in 2007 where her research looked at work life balance supports and systems and their impact on employee commitment and reduction in work life conflict. Her role both within Guelph General Hospital and with her own coaching/consulting company is to facilitate individual and organizational excellence.

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