June 20, 2003

Quality of Work Life gives recommendations; some changes already in the works

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Quality of Work Life gives recommendations; some changes already in the works

The Quality of Work Life task force recently passed to senior administration nine recommendations, including the addition of adoption benefits, back-up child care, and an incentive proposal by Health Plus to reward faculty and staff for healthy lifestyle practices through a discount on the cost of their health insurance.

The task force was created several years ago and is under the direction of Kevin Myatt, associate vice chancellor and chief human resource officer at Vanderbilt. It is made up of members from both the Medical Center and University, and is chaired by Jay Groves, administrative director of the Kim Dayani Center, and Marilyn Holmes, manager of Health Plus.

“These recommendations come from our task force’s work-talking with employees of all ages and from surveys conducted of what staff and faculty would like the university to do,” Groves said.

“Taken as a whole, these recommendations provide additional support toward helping faculty and staff balance the needs of work, family, and other areas of their lives,” Holmes said.

The full slate of quality of work life priority recommendations:

• Create a back-up child care facility and expand capacity and availability for child care. Efforts are under way to initiate the pilot of a back-up child care program.

• Implement a training and awareness program for managers so that they know what employee benefits, services and opportunities are available at Vanderbilt. “We want our managerial staff to be engaged and help employees have a better quality of life,” Groves said. This is currently in the pilot stage and will be fully implemented later this year.

• Create standard methods of communicating quality of work life information to staff and faculty. This could take the form of a regular insert into the VUMC Reporter.

• Examine the possibility of a new paid time off program. Paid time off (PTO) is a leave practice that makes no distinction between sick time, vacation time or personal leave. PTO programs have been successfully implemented in a number of health care institutions to make use of time off more predictable. This is being studied by Human Resources.

• Support an incentive program to reward healthy lifestyle practices among staff and faculty. A plan could be implemented as early as January that would allow staff and faculty to reduce their own share of health insurance costs by participating in wellness activities, such as those offered through Health Plus.

• Create a “life phase education series” where staff and faculty could go to learn how to manage various passages of life, such a childbirth, day-care planning, elder care for aging parents, etc. This proposal remains in the planning stages; more information may be available during September’s Employee Recognition Month.

• Provide adoption benefits for Vanderbilt employees, to help offset the cost of an adoption in the same way that health insurance helps offset the costs of childbirth. Details are still being worked out, but Human Resources Services plans to implement such a plan in January.

• Conduct annual, large-scale surveys of staff and faculty to determine what employees want from the University and how the University can best respond. Details are being worked out for such surveys, which would be in addition to other less-comprehensive surveys of employee opinion already conducted.

• Strategically address the “trust gap” identified in last year’s Fortune magazine employee survey, which indicated that many employees have lower levels of trust for Vanderbilt as an employer when compared to other top 100 employers. “Lack of trust is often characteristic of very large employers where the work environment at times may appear impersonal and complex. To address this issue the Quality of Work Life task force has recommended more communication about Vanderbilt’s mission, vision, financial performance, core values, and strategic goals, so staff and faculty know more about what is happening and how it affects them,” Holmes said.

“The development of a culture that values and encourages the balancing of work and family life for staff and faculty is a priority of the leadership of the University,” Myatt said. “Several initiatives are either under way or on the drawing board to address many of the issues raised during the survey conducted by the QWL task force.”

Some of the information used in formulating the recommendations and changes came from the random survey of employees conducted last year as part of the University’s application to be considered for Fortune magazine’s “Top 100 Places to Work in America” list.

Vanderbilt did not make the list, but was a finalist, having been selected one of the top 300 companies and institutions.

The University has been invited to participate in the process to make the Fortune list again this year, and the random survey that is part of that process will be mailed out later this month to 250 randomly selected staff and faculty, Groves said.

“I would like to publicly express my appreciation to the Quality of Work Life task force, individually and collectively for all the time, effort and energy they have put into keeping the QWL initiatives in front of senior leadership,” Myatt said.