Canadian HR Reporter

October 2020 CAN

Canadian HR Reporter is the national journal of human resource management. It features the latest workplace news, HR best practices, employment law commentary and tools and tips for employers to get the most out of their workforce.

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Page 29 of 31

C O L U M N S 30 I N S I G H T Faced with a looming crisis, the health-care community has undergone major upheavals these past few months. The human resources team at Alberta Health Services has forged ahead with strengthened partnerships and evidence-based decision-making THIS is a short story about how, faced with a critical issue, HR at Alberta Health Services (AHS) cultivated stronger partnerships and evidence-based decision-making during the COVID-19 pandemic. There were many who had to rise to the challenge. Farmers and ranchers, grocery staff, transit staff, truckers, first responders… Not the least of these were AHS frontline health-care employees. Nurses, lab techs, unit clerks and many others worked relentlessly to be ready to care for people who fell sick. Others who rose to that challenge were the health-care leaders. They demonstrated great care, professionalism and passion as they made sure AHS people were in the right place, when and where their talents were needed. Hundreds of these leaders put in long days and weekends to get the job done. HR steps up Our HR team was right there with them. HR was called in from the beginning to support the provincial and zone operational emergency centres. AHS activates these hubs when there are emergencies such as the southern Alberta floods or the Fort McMurray fires. With AHS' people being the most critical and essential piece of the COVID- 19 response, the partnership between HR and the exceptional leaders was pivotal. In the first few days, HR had to help with some of the organization's key questions: How do we ensure the workplace is safe for staff? How do we know the nurses and clinical staff are fit for work? Will we have enough people to deal with the COVID surge? How do we redeploy staff to where they are needed? And how will non-clinical staff work from home? I am proud of my workforce analytics and planning team, and the HR team as a whole, for meeting the challenge of finding answers to these questions. Key to this was building on the partnerships within HR, other organizational supports (such as staff scheduling, clinical workforce planning and finance) and operational leaders. Taking an evidence-based approach As well, it was important to reinforce an evidence- based approach to adversities. In the early days of COVID-19, the news was full of hospitals and intensive care units (ICUs) around the world being overrun. Would AHS have enough trained staff to deal with a potential surge in patients? These are a few examples of how we prepared: • How many nurses, respiratory therapists and physicians did we need for a surge? We built staffing models with ICU leaders to determine how to staff ICUs through hiring or redeploying staff or alternate care models. • Where could we get more staff with ICU experience? The team quickly pulled contact information for people who had recently retired, resigned or transferred from ICU so that HR's newly formed integrated staffing team could see if they were willing to come back to fill shifts. • Would there be people to work? We partnered with AHS' population health team — they built the provincial models forecasting the number of COVID-19 cases in Alberta's population — so they could adapt their model for AHS staff. We were then able to give leaders a forecasting dashboard providing projections on how many nurses or respiratory therapists could be expected to be off work due to regular sick leave, COVID-19 leave or asymptomatic self-isolation. We also worked with the staff scheduling team to draw on their system to give projections on daily absenteeism. Instead of receiving data every pay cycle, we needed access to more up-to-date data to extrapolate how many employees were off work daily — if not hourly. An online dashboard then generated daily summaries that were emailed to senior leaders. Anthony Bennett Alberta Health Services Long-term care challenges Another challenge presented by COVID-19 was the public health orders that restricted long-term care employees to working at one facility. Working with the provincial ministry, we provided long- term care centre leaders and their HR partners with lists of employees who worked at more than one facility. The HR partners then worked with these leaders to determine how staff could be redistributed to ensure this critical portion of Alberta's population could be cared for. All of this was happening amid great change and upheaval for staff. Non-clinical offices were being shut down, employees were told to work from home where possible. Within HR, we partnered to recommend how AHS should: • establish fit-to-work screening protocols • support staff who had to find or arrange childcare • staff screening stations at airports and U.S. border crossings • recognize the long hours leaders were putting in to meet the crisis HR continues to support dedicated leaders and staff in preparing for a return to non-clinical workplaces, ongoing outbreaks, a potential second wave and, hopefully soon, the distribution of vaccinations. We have learned a lot from this crisis. We have forged new relationships — inside and outside of HR. It has made our team, our partnership with operations and our people stronger. As we go forward, we look forward to returning to something close to normal. Until then, we ask everyone to be safe, wash your hands, wear a mask and look after each other. CHRR A member of the Canadian HR Reporter advisory board, Tony Bennett is executive director, HR analytics and planning in HR, at Alberta Health Services in Edmonton. He can be reached at PANDEMIC LEADS TO STRONGER PARTNERSHIPS The HR team quickly pulled contact information for people who had recently retired, resigned or transferred from ICU to see if they were willing to come back to fill shifts.

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