Knowledge Center

Hospital Merger Creates New Opportunities to Listen and Learn

When a new hospital was created from the merger of two major hospitals on the outskirts of Toronto, the HR staff found themselves with an unprecedented task.

"We were experiencing a variety of changes due to restructuring and had an amalgamated management team," says Bonnie Harrow, Chief Human Resources Officer for Halton Healthcare Services (HHS). "So one of the first things we did was conduct an employee opinion survey to see what the staff needs were."

What employees wanted most were development opportunities. And when asked where that development should start, they resoundingly requested that it begin with management. "It was as if they were saying 'Take them out, dry clean them and then send them back,'" Harrow recalls.

A developmentally oriented 360-degree review process was the starting point for HHS's 110 managers. "We didn't want 360 to be linked to salary in any way, but rather to be experienced as a positive tool for raising awareness of how one is viewed in the workplace. It's a richer experience than the traditional top-down methods of review."

Harrow learned about the Panoramic Feedback 360 quite by accident. "One of our Senior Managers was undergoing a routine self assessment by the Institute of Chartered Accountants and I was asked to be a responder. I had put off responding until the last possible minute and was feeling pretty guilty."

Harrow had a PIN number to give her access to the Panoramic 360 system but the deadline for her response was only 15 minutes away and she had no idea how to use it. "When it took me just 10 minutes to do the review, I realized that it was a wonderful system and recommended that we buy it to use with all our staff."

HHS hired an outside consultant to manage the 360 process. "I would highly recommend this approach if an organization is doing 360 for the first time," says Harrow, explaining that the in-house HR people are best to stay in the background. "People feel safe with an independent and neutral process," she says, adding that the Panoramic security protocols further enhance the comfort level of participants.

HHS managers were understandably apprehensive about having staff and peers review their performance. "But they were thrilled when the results came back," says Harrow. "The reports with the color-coded bar charts, along with verbatim comments, were clear to the participants—and many strengths were identified."

The 360 showed HHS that its managers were technically competent. The areas that needed work were team work and communication.

The consultant worked with managers individually, reviewing their reports and modeling a supportive style that they could use when providing assessment information to their staff.

Feedback from the first round of 360 with managers gave Harrow good information about how to improve the process for the next round. She decided to streamline the competencies and ask fewer questions.

"We are also making sure that our core values of respect, teamwork and communication are reflected in our questioning," she says. "It's no longer good enough to come to work on time and do your job correctly. We pay our people for team work, interpersonal skills and customer service."

HHS has one of the lowest job vacancy rates in its jurisdiction. "People want to work for us and they stay because we listen to them."

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