Employee engagement: how an award-winning workplace does it

Dec 03, 2014

Employee engagementAs maintenance manager and unofficial in-house trainer for Residence Inn by Marriott Downtown London, Tony D'Araino has many tools in his training kit. One of the more unusual tools is a scavenger hunt.

After walking new employees through a tour of the 116-suite facility, D’Araino asks them to locate on a plan specific safety features, such as first aid kits, emergency exits and other need-to-know information. If the employees can't do it, D'Araino sends them on a hunt.

It's a fun way to learn, but more importantly it reinforces a core theme of the hotel's health and safety culture: safety is everyone's responsibility.

"If you don't have employee buy-in," explains general manager Anna McNutt, "safety doesn't happen. They have to want to be involved in safety."

McNutt recognized early on the value of engaging the hotel's staff, many working on shifts, in creating a safety culture. "Our associates have the biggest impact on the overall guest experience," says McNutt, "which in turn can impact repeat business and loyalty to both our own hotel and the brand."

"We've received many comments on how genuine and caring the associates are. This means a lot to us on a number of levels."

In addition to positive guest feedback, the facility has also earned a national award. It's a gold winner in the hospitality category for the 2014 Canada's Safest Employers Awards.

Building a health and safety culture

In her 14 years as general manager, McNutt has worked steadily to implement a comprehensive health and safety program, as well as a culture to give it life. "Anna is extremely dedicated to growing her business," says WSPS consultant Jeff Pedlow, who has worked with McNutt and D'Araino for years. “Anna's initial challenge was understanding what they needed to do. Then the challenge became how to effectively manage the facility's growing health and safety program."

"Businesses from large to small all have challenges in understanding what's new in health and safety, and how they can best leverage it to engage employees and improve their bottom line," says Pedlow. "This is where WSPS can help. Over the years we've connected Anna to consulting services, products and, through our Safety Group, regulatory updates and best practices that Anna and Tony can implement in their facility."

Businesses that join a Safety Group receive rebates on their WSIB premiums if they collectively improve their health and safety performance. They achieve this by implementing core elements of a health and safety program, often with the help of other members who share tips and experiences. Group meetings are facilitated by a WSPS consultant, who also works one-on-one with members and helps them tap into WSPS resources.

"We already had many program elements in place," says D'Araino, "but the Safety Group has been a great support mechanism for refining our program."

Living a health and safety culture

As general manager, Anna McNutt chose to get personally involved in health and safety. "You can't ask somebody to do something that you won't do yourself," she says. To this end, Anna

  • prepares hotel policies, standards and procedures with D'Araino, who also serves as management co-chair of the joint health and safety committee (JHSC), and other members of her management team.
  • attends joint health and safety committee meetings. These meetings are open to all staff. "It is so rewarding to see associates engage in what we consider a continuous improvement process."
  • organizes and attends regular lunch and learn workshops.
  • leads a group huddle every morning. "So much is covered in 15 minutes daily that it's become the core of our safety communications," says Anna. "It's the best of the best."
  • promotes an open door policy. "Our doors are always open for questions, suggestions, demonstrations and coaching," says D'Araino.

The result: people experience senior leadership commitment firsthand and are quick to step up.

"Anna's strong leadership and commitment to engaging employees have really paid off," says Jeff Pedlow. "We at WSPS are here as enablers to assist all businesses in overcoming challenges. Anna taps into this whenever an opportunity arises. Like any manager of a small business, she particularly appreciates the learning and networking available through our Safety Group, as well as instant access to resources and expertise."

WSPS: your prevention and performance resource

Workplace Safety & Prevention Services offers a suite of solutions to help businesses achieve and maintain the highest standards of safety. Visit www.wsps.ca or contact WSPS Customer Care: 905-614-1400 or e-mail: customercare@wsps.ca.