HOME / Case Studies / New Brunswick Power
Headquarters
New Brunswick, CN
Number of Employees
2,500
Industry
Utilities

New Brunswick Power

New Brunswick Power Corporation (NB Power) is a Crown Corporation and the largest electric utility in Atlantic Canada. The owner and sole shareholder is the Government of New Brunswick. NB Power is responsible for the generation, transmission and distribution of electricity throughout the Canadian Province. NB Power also purchases electricity to serve customers in New Brunswick and markets excess energy generated in New Brunswick to other jurisdictions.

The energy sector is changing dramatically because of climate change, the rise of disruptive technologies and increased customer expectations. With these changes comes a high degree of uncertainty on what the future holds. With rapid and transformational change comes increased workforce demands. The toll these changes and uncertainty were taking on the workforce was seen in increased rates of mental health related short-term disability claims and increased use of Employee and Family Assistance Programs (EFAP).

NB Power’s Workplace Mental Health Initiative

With all the changes happening in the energy sector, more needed to be understood to determine how NB Power could best support employees’ psychological health and safety in the workplace as described by the National Standard of Canada Psychological Health and Safety in the workplace. Yet, the company’s Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO) and senior executives had limited data to understand how to support the ‘total health’ of the workforce.

There was no formal strategy or methodology in place to collect employees’ behavioral health data, to pick programs for implementation, evaluate program effectiveness and value of investment (VOI), or clearly define metrics to benchmark and monitor progress.

The organization looked at their options and ultimately adopted Morneau Shepell’s Total Health framework. This five-step model uses Plan – Do – Check – Act (PDCA) cycles that support and facilitate a psychological health and safety management system (PHSMS). The total health framework promotes proactive health management, continuous improvement and sustainability, and is aligned with best practices for supporting employees’ health.

Five steps included in the Total Health framework:

  1. Define the key organizational problems and questions leadership would like addressed with the goal of promoting employee health, engagement and productivity.

  2. Investigation and discovery of the organization’s baseline of strengths, opportunities and psychological hazards using the total health index (THI) assessment, and the organization’s attendance data, workers’ compensation board (WCB) data, disability data, and programming costs. All employees get their results in real time, and the employer gets an aggregated report.

  3. Strategy development leveraging both qualitative and quantitative data to design a total health strategy to facilitate the workforces’ resiliency and ability to thrive by positively impacting: physical health, mental health, workplace experience and psychological health and safety, as well as life health – represented by financial health, work-life blending and relationships.

  4. Implementation of programs to promote behavioral change, and to facilitate total health management, continuous improvement, and sustainability:

    • Obtained full support of NB Power Executive and Union leadership

    • Implemented advisory and working committees

    • Increased communication to improve awareness of existing programs such as EFAP to support employees including developing an awareness guide

    • Provided A Conversation for Leaders: a training program for leaders at all levels from front line to executive on mental health, with additional plans underway to provide awareness training to all other employees

    • Implemented the Not myself today campaign, an anti-stigma program to help sustain the conversation around mental health

    • Established a workout space in the Corporate office to promote physical fitness. Currently in the process of assessing all other facilities.

    • Promoted the annual Total Health Index survey to all employees

    • Linked to tools and resources consistent with needs identified by the THI

    • Establishing an organization that promotes both the Health and Safety of employees including hiring a Health Nurse and a Total Health Specialist.

    • Revising our safety management system and manual to incorporate psychological safety factors

    • Plans underway to offer all NB Power employees Pathways to Coping training designed to develop coping skills and increase resiliency

  5. Evaluation and measurement of program impact and results, and the financial impact of the total health strategy on the business, the total health scorecard. This is done by using the total health value of investment (VOI) model to monitor progress and understand the impact on employee health and business results. This is the step that also facilitates the internal audits and management review to evaluate the total health program conformity and impact, as well as inform future program adjustments and requirements.

Four pillars of the Total Health Index:

The 4 pillars of THI and numerous sub-pillars and indexes identified below can be used to measure where employees are in their health journey. It uses a dual accountability model whereby employees are provided with immediate feedback upon completion of the THI to encourage urgency of action and management receives a composite summary to inform programming decisions.

Leadership Support and Organizational Structure

This initiative has full engagement and support from the Executive Leadership Team of NB Power. This includes a yearly presentation on the THI results and overview of the implementation plan for the year. The CHRO is the Executive sponsor for the initiative.

In addition, the initiative includes an overall governance framework with cross-corporate leadership representation covering various operating and corporate areas and the union in the four pillars of health. Funding for the initiative is provided through a centralized wellness budget within the organization’s People and Culture Division.

A corporate communication plan was developed and implemented for an internal audience and plans are underway for an external communication plan. This initiative led to NB Power being awarded the Employee Recommended Workplace Badge from The Globe and Mail and Morneau Shepell partnership awards in March 2018. There were 53 organizations across Canada that received this award based on the employee participation rate and the Total Health Index Score in the 2017 survey results. NB Power also received a top sector award in the Government Sector – Large Organizations.

This Total Health initiative is not time limited and will evolve and change based on results of the THI. From a mental health perspective, it began with an initial roll out of training in 2018, with a commitment that mental health training will become part of ongoing required training for leadership and employees.

Measuring Impact

The initial goal or desired outcome of the Total Health initiative was to uncover key factors that predict the health of NB Power employees and areas that employees and the organization could impact. NB Power leveraged the Total Health Index as a baseline, initiated programming primarily focused on mental health and then measured the impact again and plans to continue to do so annually.

In measuring impact, NB Power collected and analyzed the following data:

  • Drug claims data

  • Total health assessment data

  • EAP use

  • Attendance

  • Long-term disability

  • Workers’ Compensation claims

  • Employee engagement

  • Productivity – measured by absenteeism and presenteeism

  • Disability

  • Retention

  • Organizational performance

Lessons Learned and Next Steps

NB Power faced challenges in getting employees to participate in the THI because of confidentiality concerns and lack of time to complete the assessment. The company also recognized the importance of effective communication with a mobile distributed workforce and the importance of connecting employee health and wellness with safety. A key recommendation they shared is to manage expectations and focus on doing 1 or 2 items extremely well when implementing action plans in response to the assessment and build on success rather than trying to do too much.

NB Power is developing a sustainment strategy to continue raising mental health awareness and providing training. They are also exploring the development of training on coping strategies for employees experiencing mental health conditions and strategic opportunities to better leverage services and supports provided by the Employee and Family Assistance Program. NB Power is also leveraging their work with a third-party vendor providing disability management services to support an effective return to work process for employees.

Recommendations for Initiative Success

NB Power shared that it is extremely helpful to have the organization’s CEO as a champion for the initiative and active Executive leadership support. Union support is another key success factor.

It is also beneficial to create a governance structure for the initiative that includes subcommittees with cross-functional representation of employees passionate about the initiative. NB Power is building on previous wellness efforts and letting the THI data guide the path forward, along with plenty of determination and tenacity.

The Center appreciates the contributions of Sherry Thomson, CHRO, NB Power and Dr. Bill Howatt, Ph.D., Ed.D., Chief of Research and Development, Morneau Shepell to this Case Study. For more information, please contact Ewuria Darley, Associate Director, The Center for Workplace Mental Health, 202-609-7087.

Last updated: July 2018

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