Transformation success proves the power of employee health leadership and determination
Occupational health (OH) professionals can be the unsung heroes behind the return to work and health for employees. This year has demanded the very best of their skills to support workers in essential sectors ranging from healthcare to logistics, and public transport to education.
We were delighted to see that the team at Loughborough University walked away with the OH team of the year (private sector) at the Occupational Health and Wellbeing Awards 2020.
Our employee health director Dr Steve Boorman was a judge at the Awards – but recused himself from judging this category, for a good reason: he had advised and helped to shape the award-winning change programme.
Transforming occupational health management at Loughborough
In late 2018, the senior leadership of the University challenged its head of health and safety to develop a world class OH function – because it recognised that, at the time, it was anything but. Dr Boorman was the expert called in to review assess the situation, analyse the need and advise on the challenge and steps ahead.
Evidently, they took his advice. Significant achievements were noted in his final audit at the end of 2019. Loughborough entirely transformed its occupational health performance in that time. It enhanced its OH leadership, improved control and clinical procedures, and created a broad, flexible employee health and wellbeing programme among other things.
The judges summed it up nicely. They said “This entry showed evidence of a total overhaul of the occupational health service, including an increase in referrals of 300% and success in bringing employees who had been absent from the business for more than two years back to work.”
Dr Boorman reflected: “When I conducted the initial audit, it became clear that this team faced some significant challenges. This award proves that they faced them with both speed and determination.
“The vital importance of a strong OH service in such a major local employer was amply proven when the COVID-19 lockdown arrived. All their team’s hard work meant that they were in a position to respond with an effective mental health and wellbeing programme to support staff at a tough time.
“I am proud to have played a small part in helping set them on the course.”
Proving the power of employee health leadership at the top
Loughborough University is the city’s largest employer, with 3950 members of staff. Supporting the health and wellbeing of such a large cohort is mission critical, to its twin purposes to deliver excellence in higher education and internationally-recognised research.
Strong leadership has long been associated with driving effective change. The University’s executive has clearly shown this.
- With a strategic vision in mind, it brought in the specialist insight and advice required to institute occupational health management change.
- It created a sense of urgency, to turn its OH function from failure to award-winning success.
- Underlying this was perhaps the most important factor of all: a leadership that recognised that it should step up for its staff to promote and protect their health as a matter of priority, and that a healthy staff would mean a healthy and productive university.
“Clarify how the future will be different from the past and how you can make that future a reality”John Kotter, Harvard Business School – change leadership guru
Taking occupational health transformation to heart
Ensuring corporate OH management is effective is always important. It is particularly so now, as you navigate the pandemic and prepare its aftermath.
Having the right platform is an important aspect, but there are other imperatives too.
Employee trust in OH is essential. It requires knowledgeable management, informed decision-making, clear policies, good documentation, and excellent case management, among other things.
Get in touch today if you require audit, advisory and consulting help to shape up your employee and occupational health model for the challenges it now faces.