Empowering WCB staff to make meaningful changes for customers

Even though Amber Van Parys was hearing impaired when she starting working for the Saskatchewan Workers Compensation Board in 2008, she had no trouble fulfilling her duties as a Claims Entitlement Specialist, thanks to her hearing aids and a special phone and headset provided by her employer. “I was able to do my job happily and without stress,” says Van Parys, in an email. “I felt my employer had gone out of their way to ensure this, which meant very much to me.”

But after returning to work after the births of her children, her hearing had worsened so much that she was no longer able to use the phone. “I had encountered great stress at this point in my life,” writes Van Parys. “How was I going to work?” Fortunately, for Van Parys, WCB has a policy of contributing financially, up to $5,000, to help employees with disabilities. “A lot of times people are reluctant to declare a disability,” explains Stuart Cunningham, Vice-President of Human Resources & Communications. “We’re hoping more people will put up their hands and say, ‘I’m suffering with this. Can you guys help?’ ”

Saskatchewan WCB is in the midst of change. There are new values and a new vision, Cunningham says, as the leadership team shifts from the traditional “command and control approach to one where we’re actually truly giving power back to our staff to tell us what kinds of things need to change to provide that excellent customer service.”

Every level of the organization is being involved in the shift. Managers are encouraged to develop their frontline staff into critical thinkers; frontline workers are being encouraged to identify what some of their problems are and then brainstorm ideas about how to fix them. “This new workplace culture has empowered us as employees to personally contribute to solving the process problems that get in the way or that cause frustration in our day-to-day work,” says Van Parys. “That allows everyone to maximize their potential as people and employees.”

And that, in turn, means that employees are able to provide better service to customers. “What we’re really trying to do is to get better about telling our story about what we’re trying to create and why we’re trying to create it,” says Cunningham. “Yes, it’s about serving our customers in a better way, but we’re confident that by doing so we can fix some of the problems that frustrate staff on a day-to-day basis.”