It is never easy embarking on a new HR program during the peak summer months of the tourist season, but that is what Delta Grand Okanagan Resort and Conference Centre did, becoming the first tourism organization in Kelowna to achieve the Certificate of Recognition. In retrospect, says the organization’s people resources co-ordinator, Christina Donovan, the COR Certification process gave everyone who works there a heightened new awareness of workplace health and safety.
With 395 guest rooms, the largest conference centre in the Thompson Okanagan region of BC and more than 380 employees during the summer season, the Okanagan Valley property is part of the Delta Hotels and Resorts family and as such subscribes to the company’s overarching values. “Part of our value system and culture is to ensure that our guests have an incredible stay, and each employee is empowered to go above and beyond to ensure that every guest has a memorable experience.” says Donovan. “We are equally committed to ensuring that we go above and beyond for every one of our employees as well.”
Delta’s robust and effective health and safety program had long been in place ― following the standards set by WorkSafeBC, augmented by monthly meetings of a 20-person Health and Wellness Committee and an annual fair that promotes best health and safety practices to employees and their families ― but it became apparent to Donovan and others on the leadership team that a fresh new approach was needed. “We were having our monthly meetings and creating action-oriented minutes, but our goal was to take health and safety to the next level for our team. By following the framework of the COR audit, we were able to ensure that no opportunity was missed, and we were able to ensure that all Health and Wellness Committee members had an aligned vision.”
The first step in getting ready for COR was to prepare for the student audit, which was set for September 2011. Donovan’s team focused intensively on COR’s nine elements as soon as the summer hiring blitz was complete, and spent considerable time on identifying hazards, in which the potential risks for each job are outlined, and reviewing safe work practices. The student audit indicated that there was room for improvement in accident investigation and the job training checklist. By the time the external audit was conducted in December, the team’s hard work had paid off. Not only did the property achieve COR certification, but the health and safety committee element also scored a perfect 100 per cent.
Throughout the process, Donovan was mindful of evolving makeup of the staff. New and young workers are a perennial component of the workforce there, “and for young people it’s all about making them understand that safety measures are meant to create a safe work environment.” But the company also has an aging demographic, because employees are staying in their jobs longer than in the past. For these staff, workplace fatigue can become an issue, she says. Whatever their age or experience, the resort’s employees have benefitted from the team effort to achieve COR, as has the company as a whole. “It has made us all more aware of our health and safety, and people are not afraid to approach a supervisor and say something needs to be addressed. COR has made people think outside the box and take things further. There’s a new alertness and a willingness to participate. This is a large property with a lot of issues, and meetings can drag unless there’s a drive to be there. Now our people are engaged.”