The Mental Health Center of Denver has worked for many years to create a Recovery Culture which supports the people we serve to live a full life in spite of a mental illness. (Seven Key Strategies that Work Together to Create Recovery Based Transformation, Community Mental Health Journal, Volume 48, Number 3) We also have developed a systematic method for measuring the success of this recovery system. As with many community mental health providers, our initial focus was on the people we serve and how to help them achieve their life goals. Subsequently we began to more fully understand that our measures of recovery are really measures of human happiness and that, in short, consumer recovery is aligned with staff goals for happiness. This led to the understanding that the promotion of a wellness culture for staff is critical to the successful development of a recovery culture for the people we serve.
In fostering a wellness culture for staff we strive to bring out the best in ourselves and others by 1) Seeing everyone’s strengths, 2) Supporting and encouraging one another, 3) Celebrating staff, accomplishments, and diversity, 4) Respecting ourselves and others, 5) Listening to each other, 6) Creating an environment of healthy and positive relationships and community partnerships, 7) Believing everyone wants to be great, 8) Being passionate about our mission and having fun in the process, and 9) Believing anything is possible. Our entire staff collaborated to generate this nine-point Wellness Culture Statement at an all-staff meeting during which our staff members worked in groups to identify the key values of a wellness culture. As an aside, I find it interesting that these statements correlate well with the Core Principles and Values of the United States Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association.
There are five main pillars supporting our wellness culture: Pathways to Leadership training (Stomp the Elephant in the Office, by Steven Vannoy and Craig Ross); StrengthsFinder assessment (Strengths Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath; Catalytic Coaching (Catalytic Coaching: The End of the Performance Review by Gary Markle); employee recognition programs; and wellness promoting activities and trainings.
- The Pathways to Leadership training, which is provided by the firm Verus Global, inculcates in our staff a set of communication and interpersonal skills and tools to promote positive, constructive and collaborative interactions that bring out the best in ourselves and our colleagues. Specifically, the training prepares our employees to: (A) Approach situations – even setbacks and disappointments – in positive, nonjudgmental ways; (B) Value collaboration to set and achieve common goals; (C) Focus on and celebrate one another’s strengths; (D) Communicate constructively; and (E) Repair relationships that have come under stress.
The training is conducted offsite in groups of 20 over a three-day period. Formed from staff members across the organization, these groups forge a unique identity, keep in contact after the training, and reconvene periodically for follow-on activities to reinforce and further embed the lessons and skills they have learned. Additionally, each training group subdivides into four POIS groups (it stands for Pathways Ongoing Integration and Sustainability) that likewise sustain the benefits of training through continued communication and activity.
- Developed by the Gallup organization, StrengthsFinder is an assessment tool to identify an individual’s top strengths, whether they be social, intellectual, motivational or organizational. Within two months of hire, in addition to learning about the wellness culture during orientation, each new employee reads the book StrengthsFinder 2.0 and takes the accompanying online assessment. Managers incorporate these findings in the Catalytic Coaching process (described below) conducted individually with team members to create and implement individual staff development plans. Managers also consider team members’ strengths when planning collaborative team projects. StrengthsFinder promotes an environment in which employees “have the opportunity to do what you do best every day.”
- Catalytic Coaching is a management technique by which, on an annual basis, managers engage their team members in an iterative three-step process of identifying achievements and setting goals for personal and professional development. Through this process the team member and the supervisor bring their respective perspectives into the conversation and work together to assign roles and responsibilities that will be both engaging for the team ember and optimally beneficial to the organization. The Mental Health Center of Denver has pioneered the practice of using StrengthsFinder to inform and enhance the Catalytic Coaching process to develop plans that play to employees’ strengths.
- Employee Recognition is an important means of facilitating staff members’ appreciation for each other’s extraordinary contributions. A “Way to go!” is a paper certificate that any employee can award to a colleague at any time. The RIISE Awards are bestowed quarterly and annually on the basis of nominations by staff members who wish to Recognize Innovation, Inspiration [and] Service Excellence.
- Wellness-promoting activities and trainings are advanced in many ways. A Health and Wellness Initiatives Committee meets monthly to plan and implement activities to educate and activate staff members to take care of themselves in every respect – physically, emotionally and financially. For example, the HWIC conducts an annual Wellness Challenge that provides employees an opportunity to score points by doing such things as enrolling in a health club, purchasing fresh fruits and vegetable, participating in an athletic event and getting a physical checkup. Participants achieving the point target receive a cash prize and are entered in a drawing for an even larger cash prize. Among other activities, HWIC also organizes a virtual “Walk Across America” using pedometers to measure progress along a route plotted on a map of the United States and sponsors a lecture series on such topics as nutrition, meditation, inflammation, detoxification, credit score protection and spiritual wellness.
In addition to conducting the Pathways to Leadership training program with Verus Global, the Wellness Culture CREW organizes activities including an AIDS Walk, All Staff Picnic/Olympics, Dragon Boat Races, chili cook-offs, barbeques, and on and on. The Mental Health Center of Denver’s employee assistance program and internal training department also provide extensive training in such areas as work/life balance, stress management, time management, self-care, trauma recovery, compassion fatigue and smoking cessation. The Mental Health Center of Denver promotes a smoke-free workplace, provides discounted membership to health clubs, and maintains well-appointed fitness centers at its two largest locations.
We also support environmental wellbeing and strive to be the greenest community mental health center in the country. Our Together Green Team arranges for reduced price passes for Denver’s public transportation system, incentivizes car-pooling and use of public transportation for off-site organization-wide meetings, coordinates the annual Earth Day observance (with activities including a clothing exchange and recycled clothing fashion show) and Bike to Work Day. The Together Green Team continuously seeks to promote resource efficiency, informing the purchase of Energy Star-rated appliances, compact fluorescent bulbs, and water filters for faucets and fountains in place of bottled water or coolers. Our dedication to being green strongly influenced the choices we made in rehabilitating a 60-year-old structure as the home of our new Recovery Center, a building that is on track to earn a LEED Platinum certification.
Just as we have developed measures of recovery for our consumer services, we are committed to measuring the engagement of our employees and the wellness culture. We have recently partnered with a company, New Measures, to assess our employee engagement. In addition to providing us with comparison data to other companies, they are working with us to identify the critical drivers of engagement specific to our organization. This enables each team to develop a plan for improving engagement scores in the same way our recovery measures enable them to develop plans to increase their success in promoting recovery.
We strongly believe that wellness culture we have created and are sustaining for our staff improves recovery outcomes for our consumers. We are currently in the process of collecting data from our staff engagement measures and our consumer recovery measures to test this hypothesis.