Work & Life Awards: Building better bonds

With skills shortages looming in many industries and the Government tinkering with workforce training, organisations must take strong lead to ensure New Zealand keeps up with other first world nations in attracting and retaining staff.
But where is the staff to come from, especially in the healthcare sector? New Zealand must compete with other western nations for qualified and experienced healthcare professionals when there is already global shortage. And with continuous changes to immigration rules and the expense of overseas recruitment, that can only be partial solution.
It is this conundrum that prompted one of the country’s largest health providers, the Counties Manukau District Health Board (CMDHB), to develop new initiative that won it the Tomorrow’s Workforce Award and subsequently the Supreme Award at this year’s ANZ New Zealand & EEO Trust Work & Life Awards.
CMDHB looks after half million people many of whom are Maori or Pacific Islanders, and living with poverty.
Through its Health Science Academies initiative it is offering bright Pacific Island and Maori secondary school students head start for career in the health sector. The health board’s long-term ambition is to be able to fill some of its positions for qualified clinical staff with students from the same culture as many of its patients.
CMDHB workforce consultant Christine Hanley says the board set up health science academies in two local secondary schools in 2010 to help Maori and Pacific students go on to further education, instead of dropping out of school early or not pursuing tertiary study.
“We partnered with James Cook High School and Tangaroa College with funding from The Tindall Foundation,” she says, “while Otahuhu College is working in partnership with the Pasifika Medical Association, with funding from the Ministry of Health.”
Hanley says the trio of academies has worked together to develop science curricula with focus on preparing the students for tertiary health qualification and then eventual employment with CMDHB or other health employers in the district.
EEO Trust chair Michael Barnett says that, interestingly, of the five award categories, Tomorrow’s Workforce attracted the largest number of the 62 entries (in itself the largest total ever) this year.
“This tells me that organisations are being more strategic with their initiative and are aiming at nurturing their future workforces. CMDHB’s supreme award win also shows that big organisations are really planning for the long-term future.”
Highly commended under this award was the Department of Corrections which has focused on upskilling offenders by operating 180 different businesses in 18 prisons. In five years the number of offenders who’ve had employment training grew by 67 percent; the number of national certificates awarded increased by 159 percent.

Often invisible
An initiative to train staff to make sure disabled customers get the service they deserve in their own community, won the Upper Hutt City Council the Diversity Award.
Barnett says it is great to see council starting programme to include people with disabilities through staff training and education. Not only does it mean the inclusion of larger number of people in their community but that someone with disability may also feel more confident to apply for job there, as result.
“I’m also really impressed the council is offering the resource at no cost to other businesses and councils.”

Reducing injury days
When Albany-based Electrix realised everyday physical work was leading its workforce to take regular injury days, it developed fitness programme to help combat the problem. The initiative impressed the judges enough to award the company the Work & Life Award.
Graeme Johnson, technical manager for Electrix’s distribution services division, says the company saw rise in the number of musculoskeletal injuries to linesmen, caused by the awkward positions they tend to adopt above and below ground as they fix power problems. Their shoulders, knees and spinal areas were most commonly affected.
Until then, Johnson says ‘lineys’ were sent to GP for assessment and put on sick leave or light duties for three days while they recovered.
It was no-questions-asked, reactive approach typical of the industry. But it didn’t help productivity, he adds, saying that it probably wasn’t the best way to help them heal. Not only that, although new employees had medical checks on eyesight, hearing, lung function, drug use and other concerns, there was nothing to confirm they could cope with the physical demands of the work. This meant the company discovered too late that some new staff weren’t able to do the work without risking injury.
It became clear that preventative wellness programme was needed to reduce injury, help recovery and provide way to screen potential employees. Staff were filmed undertaking variety of line-related tasks both above and below ground. With the help of personal trainer, Electrix developed strength-conditioning programme to build up areas where linesmen are susceptible to injury.
The company set up 60 square metre gym in corner of its warehouse, and Johnson was one of 18 guinea pigs who tested out the activities using free weights, filled bags and Swiss balls. As result, two programmes were developed and implemented in 2010.
Every candidate for linesman’s job now takes pre-employment physical assessment (PEPA). Carried out by Productive Biomechanics in the Electrix gym, they involve timed events or exercises to failure – until no more repetitions can be done.
Candidates also undergo spinal x-rays and full musculoskeletal examination, which leads to recommendation whether to employ. Some candidates may be offered work on the condition they attend the second programme lineFIT. This voluntary 12-week challenge that is delivered by trainer to groups of six to 12 people.
Some employees were initially sceptical about the programme, says Johnson – before they started seeing the benefits enjoyed by their fitter, newly glowing colleagues. “It’s the group dynamic that gets people through.”
So far, more than 72 field staff have completed or are taking part in lineFIT, and the company now has defined pathway to help rehabilitate those injured.
The not-for-profit Far North REAP (Rural Education Activities Programme) was highly commended under the Work & Life Award for its initiative in giving staff flexible hours to help reduce the burnout that often comes with working with high-risk families. It delivers wide range of community and educational services throughout the region with government funding.

Believing in staff
One man’s dedication to his staff, clients and industry has won him the Walk the Talk Award. Bupa Care Services’ Shaun Brown started out as caregiver and trained as registered nurse, then moved on to become clinical leader before taking up his role as care home manager.
He has generated culture of caring throughout his company from management through to elderly clients, and his hands-on experience in the sector means he relates well to his staff and boosts their confidence and capability, says Bupa’s general manager of homes Grainne Moss.
This is reflected in employee engagement surveys where 90 percent of staff agree that Bupa is well led under Brown’s management and that he provides the support they need to do their jobs well.
“On top of that, 96 percent of the employees in his team say they really enjoy their jobs. This positive endorsement is also reflected in the company’s bottom line – there has been an increase in occupancy and profitability per bed since he became the operations manager,” says Moss.
Bupa has number of rest homes and hospitals, retirement villages and monitored medical alarm service. Brown has been operations manager for Bupa’s Midland region for three-and-a-half years and has staff of about 700.
He also focuses on the care of rest-home clients and i

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