January 17, 2003

Vanderbilt making strides to improve quality of work life

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Vanderbilt making strides to improve quality of work life

A considerable amount of progress has been made in the past year in identifying, improving, and communicating issues concerning quality of work life at Vanderbilt, but there is much more work to be done, a quality of work life consultant told University leadership in a meeting Friday, Jan. 10.

“I think the Quality of Work Life task force has done remarkable things,” Rich Federico, vice president of Segal Consulting, told the gathering, which included Chancellor Gordon Gee, Dr. Harry R. Jacobson, vice chancellor for Health Affairs, and Norman B. Urmy, executive vice president for Clinical Affairs and CEO of Vanderbilt University Hospital.

Federico also noted that Vanderbilt’s experience in applying for Fortune magazine’s annual “100 Best Companies to Work For” list for 2003 will provide a valuable baseline and springboard for applying for next year’s list. The application for the list was compiled by the Quality of Work Life task force, which is chaired by Jay Groves of VUMC’s Kim Dayani Human Performance Center, and Marilyn Holmes of Health Plus.

The University applied for the list for the first time last year. The application process included a comprehensive work life self-audit and a confidential and anonymous survey of 250 randomly sampled employees who rated Vanderbilt’s quality of work life and other cultural characteristics. Of more than 1,000 applicants, Vanderbilt was one of 300 finalists invited to provide further information and documentation to the selection firm, the California-based Great Place to Work Institute, but did not make the final list, which was published in the magazine’s January issue.

“Being in the best 300 out of 1,000 is impressive,” Federico told the group, adding that the University should analyze the strengths of companies and institutions on the list, work to improve, and “go for it next year.” He also noted that there were no universities or teaching hospitals on the list, and that absence provided an opportunity for Vanderbilt to be the first recognized among its peers.

“I think it is very important for us to get [onto the Fortune list],” Jacobson said.

“If we were the only university on the list, that would be a powerful recruitment and retention tool,” noted Kevin A. Myatt, chief human resource officer at Vanderbilt.

While the mission of the Quality of Work Life Task Force is to engage faculty and staff in identifying, creating, evaluating and communicating programs and services that enhance the quality of work life for the Vanderbilt community, Federico, who consults with companies and institutions all over the United States, said that he had noted a similarity in places which do well: people enjoy their work.

“Fun in the workplace is a common denominator of workplaces that make top 100 lists,” he said.

Accomplishments and


As part of the report, Federico summarized some of the accomplishments for quality of work life in the past year:

• The Quality of Work Life task force has conducted about a dozen “pulse checks” of panels of employees grouped by age, to better understand how the benefits needs of people change as they age and as their family circumstances change.

• An ongoing campaign to encourage nursing staff to de-stress by taking their breaks.

• A change in the orientation of new employees to offer more education on quality of work life opportunities at the University.

• An evaluation of the advantages and disadvantages of different vacation time/sick time/paid time off policies.

• Publications and Web site changes to help communication of programs already in place to enhance quality of work life.

Among Federico’s recommendations to the leadership for the coming year were:

• Implement an adoption benefits program.

• Implement a health and wellness incentive program.

• Expand child care services with focus on backup and emergency care.

• Teach managers about quality of work life opportunities, so that they can better refer employees to existing programs and services

• Continue to communicate with employees via publications, the University Web site, meetings, and other forums; also evaluate the effectiveness of communications and improve where necessary.

• Reapply for the Fortune “100 Best Companies to Work For” list for 2004, using the report from 2003 to identify areas for improvements.

Quality of work life enhances job satisfaction for employees and helps in recruitment and retention-increasingly important issues in a competitive work environment, Federico said.