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Speeches

 

Prescription for a Healthy Workplace: Invest in People -the Work/Life Approach

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Charlie Coffey
Executive Vice-President
RBC Financial Group
Healthy Workplace Awards Luncheon
Peterborough, Ontario
May 15, 2002

Thank you for the warm introduction Bob…

Her Worship Sylvia Sutherland, ladies and gentlemen:

It's a great pleasure to be back in Peterborough - a city with dynamic leadership, a healthy economy, outstanding post-secondary institutions, impressive local/global markets, a skilled workforce and an unparalleled reputation for quality of life. As Jim Potts and some of you know, my family and I have a cottage at Jack's Lake, so we're summer residents and frequent visitors in the Kawartha Lakes area and just love it here.

This city really has it all - no wonder the Greater Peterborough Area Economic Development Corporation's tag line, "it's a natural" sticks! No wonder, your MPP, Gary Stewart and Member of Parliament, Peter Adams boast about the city's diversity and opportunities every chance they get. And no wonder we only need to watch the likes of Mayor Sylvia Sutherland, Bob McGillen, Brian Fitzgerald, Bonnie Patterson, Martin Wormald, Peter McLean, Bob Allison, Len Lifchus, Gail Courneyea, Sheila Olan-Maclean, Joanne Tully, Andrew Roy, Laura McLean, Joe/Lena Steinfeld, Kathy Pyle, Susan Cudahy and Dan McWilliams (2001 citizen of the year) to see leadership in action. RBC Financial Group is also proud of Peterborough's achievements and impressed with plans for the future…we're especially pleased that our own Paul-Harris Lowe plays a key role in the GPA EDC and that our local team is involved in promoting healthy communities.

Speaking of leadership…to Kerri Davies of Royal Gardens, Francine Piché of Siemens Milltronics and your colleagues both here and at work, you and your teams have made an impressive contribution to the "healthy workplace" - you've truly earned the award/recognition as a pacesetter and role model in the community. When it comes to a healthy workplace, we all have a lot to learn and gain by sharing ideas/success stories at events like this and at the Roundtable this morning. Not only do I thank David Fell for inviting me to join you today, I want to acknowledge the Peterborough County-City Health Unit, the Peterborough Chamber of Commerce and Hearts Alive Peterborough for presenting the first annual Healthy Workplace Awards. I hope this is the first of many annual events in the years ahead!

To begin my remarks about the healthy workplace - investing in people, I want to share a story with you that in its original format was discovered on what's known as "Mark's workplace" web site. I'm taking some creative licence in telling the story…

"A woman by the name of Catherine Courage was appointed the new CEO of a large corporation. She and the outgoing President, who was also her mentor, met privately on his last day and he gave her three numbered envelopes. "Open these if you run up against a problem you don't think you can fix," he said. Initially, things went along pretty smoothly, but six months later, sales took a nosedive and the new CEO was catching a lot of heat from the board. Catherine remembered the envelopes. She went to her desk drawer and took out the first one. The message read, "Invest in your people".

Catherine and her executive team had a few "meetings of the mind" and decided to conduct an employee survey as well as lead employee roundtables across the country. The feedback proved to be an eye-opener, with a common thread about enriching the workplace environment. The team developed and implemented an employee program…sales picked up in about six months.

A year later, the company experienced a significant drop in its bottom line. Having learned from her previous experience, Catherine quickly opened the second envelope. The message read, "Invest in your people". She and her team modified and enhanced various employee programs…in a few months the company rebounded again.

After two consecutive profitable quarters, the company fell victim to sluggish sales yet again. Catherine went to her office, closed the door and opened the third envelope. The message said, "Invest in your people…it's never a done deal". Catherine had a "light bulb" moment…we should never stop learning, never stop improving and never stop measuring results. Perhaps we all need a gentle reminder from time to time (another envelope as the case may be) to put people first, avoid complacency and ensure competing priorities don't get in the way of goals and action plans.

At RBC, a healthy workplace is part of our bigger picture vision - a holistic approach. As our CEO, Gord Nixon says, "We believe that our success as a company is intrinsically connected to the economic and social well-being of our community and our country. To us, behaving in a socially responsible manner is not just something we want to do. It's something we know we must do as an essential part of our relationships with our customers/stakeholders and as a strategic investment in the future prosperity of a civic society…we believe that by contributing our funds, our network, our leadership and, most importantly, by encouraging and celebrating the involvement of our people, we can make a difference in helping to build a strong, healthy society".

Being socially responsible starts right in our own backyard, where supporting our people makes the difference in promoting and sustaining a healthy workplace and healthy communities. We're strongly committed to investing in our people…not only by offering competitive compensation and benefits - but by investing in learning and education - by fostering a work environment that values communication - and by supporting diversity as well as Work/Life initiatives.

At RBC, Work/Life is a formal series of policies, programs, resources and benefits for our employees, designed to help people manage work, family and personal responsibilities over a lifetime, while meeting business objectives. We also continue to develop creative ways of looking at where, when and how work is done - to offer choices and customized solutions. RBC is always learning and evolving with Work/Life initiatives. We're in the business of building business…and it begins with the way we care for and treat our people. People are our most valuable asset. Technology and financial products/services can be copied, bank rates can be matched…and the list goes on. So what's left? The one sustainable advantage over our competition is what's left - the best people in the business. And to have the "top talent" on our team and on your teams - to be an "employer of choice" - we must utilize innovative approaches that attract, engage and keep people.

This is why Work/Life initiatives support our business strategy. They help RBC: respond to the ever-changing nature of the workforce/workplace, recruit and retain employees, increase individual and organizational effectiveness, leverage diversity, reduce stress and short-term absenteeism, as well as gain a competitive advantage.

Let's not forget that major shifts in worker demographics, the shrinking pool of skilled labour, the changing face of the family and varying employee expectations continue to reshape the culture of Canadian corporations. We're now operating in the most diverse marketplace, with the most diverse workforce we've ever seen.

There's a growing need to support all employees in reaching their full potential. The most successful companies and organizations down the road will be those who best adapt to the realities of today - those who plan for the future today. The replacement cost of "top talent" is simply huge…

The research tells the story…

  • 50% of Canadians experience a moderate to high level of stress balancing work/life compared to 27% in 1989 (Conference Board, 1999);
  • Canadians who have a hard time juggling work/life are costing employers at least $2.7 billion a year in lost time due to stress, medical leaves & absences;
  • Companies are paying an enormous price in absenteeism, lost productivity, health care costs;
  • Stress-related disorders due to overwork cost Canadian companies
    $12 billion per year. (Health Canada, 1998).

In 1999, AON Consulting Canada conducted a work-study (in partnership with RBC) that examined how Canadians are dealing with the competing demands of work, family and life. It found that:

  • Acknowledgment of people's needs outside of work is the key driver to employee commitment - outranking compensation, benefits, training, job growth; this acknowledgement costs companies almost nothing and the payback can be enormous in terms of improved employee morale;
  • Employers who help workers manage work and personal needs will not only retain more of their workforce but also attract new recruits looking for companies with a "people first agenda," such as progressive work/life initiatives and pay-for-performance incentives.

The impact of doing nothing about work/life issues hurts the bottom line and activates undue stress. It affects people, business and communities. Having a work environment and boss that values an integrated approach to life is key. For employees it means not having to feel guilty because they've left the office a little early to pick up the kids from daycare or visit an ill parent. "Workforce commitment replaces loyalty as a desired workforce behaviour". And one size doesn't fit all…we must tailor our programs to each employee/circumstance. Doing the right thing for our people is doing the right thing for our business.

This is the business case for Work/Life…and there's also a common sense case to be made. Every day, a Work/Life approach helps a mother spend more time with her child, grants a father special family responsibility leave, assists someone with a personal problem, identifies eldercare services for an aging parent or allows someone to manage multiple responsibilities at work, at home and in the community.

Our Work/Life initiatives have advanced since we introduced the original Work and Family program in 1990. From leave policies, dependent care services, flexible work arrangements, wellness and education/relocation assistance, to financial/retirement planning, community partnerships and partner promotions, we offer a comprehensive array of tools and choices.

Here are three examples of RBC Work/Life initiatives in Peterborough and across the country - initiatives that help build healthier workplaces and communities:

1. Dependent Care Information Services & Resources. Our Dependent Care Services consist of professional consultants who provide confidential, personalized telephone counselling, individualized searches/referrals and educational materials to employees searching for quality childcare and eldercare resources in their own communities, or in other parts of the country. Through the RBC EmployeeCare program, LifeWorks OneSource, employees can access programs such as: parenting and childcare, resources for seniors - eldercare, disability and accessibility. A number of staff have used the service to help cope with the loss of a loved one, to help with kids and teen issues or to find out what services are available for someone with a disability.

2. Flexible Work Arrangements. We experiment with various work arrangements that are in the best interest of employees, RBC and our customers. Working together with our people to develop and accommodate requests, while supporting professional development and career opportunities is important to us. Reduced hours, job sharing, flextime, flexi-place (including working off-site or at home) and phased retirement, are all options that help create win/win scenarios.

As one employee in Peterborough said, "the best part of job-sharing is the flexibility - it allows me the opportunity to put more effort into my job, and I can honestly say that I am a much happier employee with this arrangement". With more than 1000 job-sharing situations in place, managers from coast to coast are finding that the teams tend to be very productive. People have a personal stake in ensuring the job sharing arrangement works. In many cases, customers also tell us that they're receiving better service because two people are familiar with their account/business.

3. Wellness and Employee and Family Assistance Programs. Not only does Peterborough staff utilize RBC services such as health/safety training and confidential/professional consultations on work/life issues, they've developed wellness initiatives of their own. The flu vaccine clinic is a marvelous example…it started two years ago when the Peterborough County City Health Centre advertised that a nurse would provide flu vaccines to staff/spouses in the workplace. A member of our staff (who is a diabetic) needs an annual flu vaccine so she encouraged the setting up of a clinic for her RBC colleagues. This year's clinic had two nurses and all four Peterborough branches, the Business Banking Centre and our Lakefield branch participated. This is just one of several initiatives established by our staff who walk the talk when it comes to a healthy workplace…

And community partnerships are important too. Whether it's our After-School grants, employee volunteer programs or business/education projects, community leadership plays a major role at RBC. As Kate Kincaid and others know, RBC's Rick Letford is involved with the St. Joseph's at Fleming partnership campaign - for the new long-term care facility at Sir Sandford Fleming College. And as co-chair of Trent University's Friends of Native Studies Council, I have an opportunity to work with amazing partners (including recent Woman of Distinction award recipient Susan Mackle) to help make a difference in the futures of aboriginal youth. Through Ontario's SuperBuild funding, Trent and Fleming have developed a high-speed information technology link between the two institutions, making it possible to access facilities and research databases at both schools. I can imagine Peter Gzowski smiling about this partnership right now!

At this time, I'd like to acknowledge the students from Trent University and Sir Sandford Fleming College who are here today - my colleagues and I wish you success in your studies and career choices. My hunch is that a healthy workplace environment will be on many lists of "must haves"!

From the very beginning, we knew that the success of Work/Life depended on how well it was developed, communicated, managed and measured. The same remains true today. Although we know that on any given day, approximately 30%-40% of our employee population uses a component of our Work/Life initiatives, we also know that effective communication, changing economic times, dependent care issues as well as shifts in values and work expectations are ongoing challenges. We don't pretend to have all the answers, however we subscribe to continuous learning and improvement. Visible senior leadership and supportive managers are essential, as well as employee ownership of the tools at their disposal.

In Peterborough/Kawartha Lakeshore, our employees understand what ownership is all about… members of our team (many of whom you know) can tell you much more about our Work/Life programs - what a healthy workplace means to them and to RBC. To Darrel Revoy, Rick Letford, Ian MacNeill, Shelly Storace, Cathy Jordan, Cheryl Kelly, Ken Smith and a host of others whom I'll touch base with personally, thank you for your leadership at RBC and in the community. A special hello and thanks to John McMillan, a former Royal Banker, who has also joined us today.

We've developed an Intranet web site for staff that outlines the different components of Work/Life and how our people can benefit from the variety of programs. Because of time limitations, I've only mentioned some of our initiatives today. If you're interested in finding out more about our Work/Life tools, please check out the Community Report 2001 (also found in branches) and Careers/Total Rewards on our web site, www.rbc.com, by clicking on the links, Community Centre and Careers@RBC.

Initiatives like Work/Life are not trendy…they're here to stay. However, we need to consistently monitor our programs to ensure objectives are being met. It's critical to adapt and improve as we move along. We're also watching what other companies are doing, and we're piloting some innovative programs of our own. There are many success stories and best practices in this room (too many people and projects to mention) …the proposed Peterborough Sports and Wellness Centre and this month's launch of the City's Youth web site (it's never too early to learn about healthy communities, as I'm sure our friends from the city's Early Years Centres would agree) are examples of leadership in motion and leadership in action.

RBC has come a long way…fifteen years ago we were mere toddlers in regard to work and family. Today, we're well into the young adult stage of development. We've gone from being reactive and active, to proactive and now interactive - we're coming of age! We know it's more about what we do, rather than how much we do.

We also know that some people still have a hard time understanding why Work/Life is important. It takes time to change this thinking - change cultures. Some argue that with today's business environment, the need to control costs is reason enough for not doing it. But there's more to Work/Life. It's not a short-term fix. It's really a long-term commitment - incorporating a solid, fundamental business strategy…ensuring you have quality people/teams that can help you maximize results.

People often ask how we measure the bottom line payback of something like Work/Life. Although we have measurement tools in place for some programs, it's often difficult to attach a specific dollars and cents value to everything we do.

But I believe the real cost will be felt by those companies that don't incorporate this type of philosophy and approach. One day they'll discover that they're no longer attracting the "top talent". By then it will be too late.

I also believe that Work/Life affects the bottom line by helping us improve the quality of service we provide customers. Some people may disagree, however it makes sense to me: if you treat your employees well, create an environment where the needs of individuals are respected, where people care for and help each other, it's going to be reflected in the way employees serve their customers.

RBC Financial Group is committed to staying on the leading edge of trends in the workplace. Partnering with leading Canadian survey/research companies and academia has a two-fold result. RBC has access to the information we need to remain leaders in people management and we also contribute to the body of workplace knowledge - assisting other companies and organizations in developing the Canadian healthy workplace/workforce - today and in the future. There's still much to be accomplished on RBC's Work/Life journey…our prescription for a healthy workplace is a work-in-progress.

Again, congratulations to Royal Gardens and Siemens Milltronics for leading the way…and special thanks to David Fell and Jenny Leahy for coordinating this event - what a fabulous turnout!

It's clear that an increasing number of employers are recognizing and reaping the rewards of investing in people through innovative workplace programs - programs that also put more humour and humanity into the workplace. For RBC Financial Group, Work/Life is an investment that has far-reaching benefits, not only for employees, businesses and customers, but also for our children, the elderly, and the community as a whole. What better return could we ask for? And should you need a gentle reminder about the value of your investment in people, remember the story about the three envelopes!

Thank you

 

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10/06/2006 10:05:16