KNOW NO LIMITS – Q&A with Anne Harvey, Vancouver Coastal Health

By Phoebe Yong

Magnolia MarComm was fortunate to have the opportunity to speak to Anne Harvey of the Vancouver Coastal Health this past week. Anne is the Vice President of Employee Engagement at the VCH and has forged a successful professional career managing a broad portfolio of Human Resources functions at VCH. This Q&A highlights her thoughts on her chosen career path, women in the workplace, and above all, encourages women of all ages to Know No Limits.
Please see an excerpt of the interview below: 

Q: “What is your position at Vancouver Coastal Health?”
A: “My title is Vice President of Employee Engagement which is the Human Resources department for Vancouver Coastal Health. I’ve had the position for nine years with a very broad portfolio that includes everything from Labour Relations, Clinical Education, Health and Safety, Recruitment and Retention, Lean Process Improvement, and Management Education. It’s a very, very broad Human Resources portfolio.”

Q: “How did you get this job and how did it evolve?”
A: “I was asked to apply for the position by the previous CEO of Vancouver Coastal Health.”

Q: “Were you working at VCH beforehand?”
A: “No, I was working for the BC Nurses Union.”

Q: “In what capacity? May I ask?”
A: “I was the Chief Operating Officer and Chief Negotiator. I headed up a very productive set of contract negotiations between the health authorities and the BC Nurses Union in 2004. The CEO of Vancouver Coastal was looking for a more innovative approach to Human Resources than had been traditional in health care in the past.”

Q: “What do you mean by wanting a different approach as opposed to traditional?”
A: “First of all, I think they were looking for somebody with innovative ideas. There were some long standing problems like high sick leave and injury rates that needed a new solution, there was also a huge skill shortage gap for nurses and no one had been able to solve these problems. Secondly, VCH was looking for a more collaborative approach to working with unions. In the 2004 negotiations with the health authorities and the province, we had a number of innovative ideas that were agreed upon and implemented. Obviously, the only way we could reach an agreement on some new approaches was through collaboration between the health authorities, the Health Employers Association and the union.”

Q: “So it’s a collaborative effort with lots of key parts?”
A: “Yes. In that round of bargaining, we actually used a mutual interest bargaining model, which emphasizes more alternate dispute resolution rather than positional bargaining.”

Q: “Now, how many work within the VCH?”
A: “VCH has approximately, 20,000 employees, 5,000 volunteers, and there are 2,500 physicians who are not employees but are affiliated with VCH and have privileges in our hospitals and programs.”

Q: “What would you say is the best part about your job?”
A: “The opportunity to try out new ideas. I have been really, really fortunate ever since I came to Vancouver Coastal Health that when we come up with a new idea and a new way of approaching things, we’ve never been told no.”

Q: “Can you give me an example of a new idea that you introduced and that was accepted?”
A: “Our most recent idea addresses the fact that we have a problem with bullying in health care. It’s a problem internationally in health care. Particularly in the emergency and operating room environment where there is a lot of stress. We had a very good policy on the face of it but people weren’t reporting when they had complaints. We would only hear about them three of four years after they were experiencing the problem. So, we came up with a new program where we put in a 1-800 number for people to report bullying complaints to our Employee and Family Assistance program. Then, they could either get some counselling through the Employee and Family Assistance program or the program would refer their complaint on to a Human Resources advisor, who would investigate the complaint and help them resolve it. This had never been done before, so it meant that we had to be very transparent and recognize we had a problem with bullying. Not every organization would want to be transparent about that but we took it to our executive team and they said, ‘Yes, go ahead. We don’t know how successful it will be. We aren’t sure it’s a big a problem as you think it is but try it’ and we did. So we launched that new program on February 26th, which is No Bully Day. ”

Q: “Of this year?”
A: “Yes and since then we’ve had over 200 complaints reported. So that’s tremendous and we are now not only getting those reports in but sending out how those reports are being resolved in the VCH newsletter. So we’re being very transparent about the results saying these many are being resolved with apologies and one has been resolved by suspension. The senior executive was discussing it this morning and saying, ‘Wow you were right! This is really good because if we have that many complaints we do have a serious issue, more than we thought and we’re really glad that you raised it and that your team is working on it.’ That’s the joy of my position. That we have a culture at Vancouver Coastal of innovation and if you have a good idea, you get to try it out.”

Q: “Right and something like this shows that whatever people’s complaints are, are not going to ‘deaf ears’, you guys are actually doing something about it.”
A: “Exactly. The problem with bullying is it causes a great deal of anxiety for people. People with that level of anxiety end up on sick leave or even on long-term disability because they develop serious anxiety and depression. So it’s a really important issue.”

Q: “Along that same question, what is the most challenging part about your job?”
A: “The most challenging part is that health care is the most complex industry or sector and it’s very difficult to predict how a new program or decision will affect the organization in terms of patience and employees. You can make a decision over ‘here’ that has an unintended consequence over ‘there.’ Then of course because the health care budget is such a large portion of the provincial government’s budget, funding is really a challenge.”

Q: “Do you mean managing the budget or getting the budget? What do you mean by that?”
A: “It’s getting funding for initiative. It’s difficult and challenging so we really have to link how any new human resource program or our existing human resource programs affect the bottom line. So we have to work really hard to translate our work into dollars and patient care hours.”

Q: “Moving away from this position, what would you say was officially your first job?”
A: “I pumped gas as a teenager, I worked as a waitress, chamber maid – all jobs when I was in high school you know?”

Q: “So what about officially as a career?”
A: “I was a Lab Assistant at Imperial Chemical Industry.”

Q: “A lab assistant, interesting. So in the science field, did you like it? How long did it last?”
A: “Maybe a year. I didn’t like it really, it wasn’t my passion.”

Q: “And what about education wise, where did you go to school?”
A: “I went to school in Britain. I finished a Sociology degree with a major in Modern Industrial Society. Then much, much later I took a Master’s in organizational design from the Fielding Institute in Santa Barbara. That was online as part of distance education for the most part.”

Q: “In terms of your career path, did you know that you would end up in HR when you started taking these classes? Obviously you love what you do.”
A: “You know, I didn’t plan a career. Actually, I will be retiring in the next two or three years and I don’t know what I’m going to do when I retire either. But what I’ve always done is looked for what I find fascinating, that’s why I took Sociology. After that I took Journalism.”

Q: “What area of Journalism?”
A: “News reporting because I found it fascinating. Probably journalism was the only decision I actually tried to do. Everything else, I just stayed open to opportunities. As I saw an opportunity, I would switch and go into something new.”

Q: “Were you driven by your gut or money? Do you mind me asking?”
A: “Well no. I had children very early. I had my first child when I was 20. I had always wanted to travel and I was living in Britain and by the time I was 23 I had two children. So, I realized that I wasn’t going to be doing that much travelling just from an economic point of view. So I decided that I would live my work life as an adventure. So I looked for things I found fascinating. Jobs would close down and I would see something else or I’d be working in a job and somebody offered me another opportunity. Most of the time, when I switched I’d earn the same or more money but a couple of times I earned less.”

Q: “Oh interesting. So it wasn’t money that guided you then it was always about that adventure.”
A: “It was really the enjoyment of the work.”

Q: “So if you were talking to young women today, especially from an HR perspective who doesn’t know what to do with their career, what tools would you recommend for them to find that right career path?”
A: “I don’t know because I puzzle with this one myself. First of all, definitely watch your interests. You have to love your work. You may not know the job you want, but look for the area that has the content that fascinates you. For example, I didn’t work with Sociology ever but I was fascinated by Sociology and it was extremely helpful when I moved into Journalism, Labour Relations, and now in Human Resources. So don’t get hung up on the exact job. Look for the content area that fascinates you.”

Q: “Be guided by those interests right? As you were growing up, who were some of your role models for women? Whether it’s somebody personally or famous, was there anybody that you looked up too?”
A: “My mother was very career oriented, so she instilled those values. Both my parents worked extremely hard. The best thing you could say about someone in our family is that they were hard workers. I was growing up just after the Second World War and my father began a business. In fact, he began three businesses, one after the other until he finally made it but he was extremely successful in his chosen field. So, I did see both my parents do much better than you would have predicted based on their education level or social class, which of course is very big in Britain.”

Q: “Yes of course but I hear you about hard work, nothing replaces that doesn’t it?”
A: “No, nothing replaces that.”

Q: “Generation Y because is the audience I may be speaking to throughout this campaign, ones that are coming out of university. Do you have any advice for them or comments about this generation in terms of how they may succeed?”
A: “Well what I notice about Generation Y is that they have strong community values, which is great! I think it’s really important that they hang on to those values and look for work that allows them to express their values. I think that’s absolutely key; to be aware of their expectations and how their expectations might be different from people working around them and be aware that there are different expectations at work as well as at home. I think we all tend to think, what we expect is what everybody expects and I don’t find that as true. So we should be aware of what our own expectations are and being open to understanding that other people have different expectations, I think is really important. ”

Q: “My last question is about the campaign theme that we’re doing, which is Know No Limits. What would you like to say to women today about knowing no limits?”
A: “What I notice, which I am just amazed about and I think is wonderful is that when my generation had children, we tried to hide the fact because it was so new to have working mothers it was easier not to talk about it because it generated less opposition. What I’m really proud of about young women today is that they are raising these issues about the challenges of being parents and employees. Also, young men are too and I think it’s wonderful that there is more discussion about that and people are bringing those issues forward rather than trying to keep them quite.”

Q: “Are you saying I that in terms of knowing no limits that just because you are going to be a working mom, that shouldn’t hinder you or hold you back?”
A: “No it shouldn’t hold you back at all and you should be able to talk about the challenges of being a working parent. I think you need to actually talk about it because there are more and more, particularly in the public sector, value placed around working fathers because of their employment contracts. I think it’s important people talk about those challenges openly and find way to reconcile their differences. I know that we’ve moved some of our meeting times for team meetings, not because the women in the team have childcare times but two of the men in our team have child care times. And so, I’m really glad that we can now debate that and say how do we accommodate this? How do we change the working hours? How do we change the meeting times?”

Q: “Interesting, it’s really about accommodation isn’t it?”
A: “It is. I think what the next ten years is going to be about is: there will be skill shortages in all sectors. Specifically, those in Canada and the US are showing that women’s participation in the workforce is dropping slightly. So young women are going to be extremely valued and sought after as employees because we are going to go into shortages. I think young women have a really good opportunity in the next ten years to advance their careers and maintain the working parent balance because they will be in demand.”

Q: “Yes that’s promising for them isn’t it?”
A: “Very.”

Q: “And then the last question is that is there a lesson you wish you knew then that you know now?”
A: “I don’t tend to think about regrets. I have a great career in that it’s extremely varied, extremely interesting and I’ve enjoyed it all.”

Q: “You’re very lucky too for that. Thanks for your time.”

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Know No Limits – Magnolia’s Social Media Summer Campaign – Join us!

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By Phoebe Yong

This past week, I’ve watched several commencement speeches in the media delivered by smart, highly successful individuals, and safe to say, over achievers.   As I watched and listened to their inspirational wishes for these young graduates, as an entrepreneurial woman, I couldn’t help but also think about the young graduating students at the  high school and elementary school level — in particular the young women and girls who even at that young age have so much to consider before entering adulthood.

This is why I’ve decided to dedicate part of our social media campaign this summer on a project I’ve called “Know No Limits”. Sounds a bit like a Nike slogan doesn’t it, but truthfully, I came up with this idea while enroute back from a business trip.

My daughter is graduating from Grade 7 this year, marking a milestone in her young educational pursuit and I often hear her talk about different professions she would like to strive for. The usual professions that are often targeted for women in health care and education are mentioned. Then I thought about how cool it would be to initiate a campaign where women in all sorts of careers, maybe not quite as traditional, encourage young women and girls engaged in the idea of knowing no limits to their success in whatever they want to do.

Using social media the goal of our team will be to spread the message this summer that young women today can achieve anything they set their mind to it, and here are the many examples of great women in all sectors and professions to tell you how they did it and the obstacles they overcame.

Lastly, I want young women to know if they choose to do something they love as a career, then each day isn’t a chore or drag but a true reflection on their purpose in life to live out their passions and contribute to being an awesome human being in our society.

So please help me this summer by passing the word of “Know No Limits” for young women out there and in the coming weeks, I hope you will enjoy the interviews, short articles, and blogs on how women are living their full potential because they dared to Know no Limits.

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The DART Strategy for Building Media Lists

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By Sandy Leong

The trick behind making sure your press release stays in a reporter’s inbox is in knowing who to contact and how to present your idea to them. Developing a good media list is just as important as penning a great pitch. Get this right and you will have a solid list of contacts from which you can reference again and again.

We recommend the DART strategy

D             DEFINE – your story – the, “so what?”

A             Choose your AUDIENCE – who are you targeting?

R             RESEARCH – Search for contacts, read their articles, know their beat

T              TWEAK – Update your list on an ongoing basis

DEFINE Your Story

Before you even begin building a media list, make sure you’ve fleshed out the point you’re trying to get across: What are you hoping to achieve? What message(s) do you want to deliver?

Choose your AUDIENCE

Who is your ultimate customer and what do they care about? Identify which media your market is following whether local, regional, national, traditional or social. The reporters you choose to contact will also depend on your angle, e.g., if your story is on a new restaurant, your pitch to a food blogger will be slightly different than it would be for a lifestyle reporter.

 RESEARCH

Whether you’re using a media database or a search engine, you will need to dig deep to find the right targets. Start searching for the general outlets that cover your topic and then narrow down what you’ve compiled by media type and location. Supplement your list with contact names and titles.

Tip: Always try to replace the generic e-mail (editorial@) that media outlets set up for queries with ones that go directly to the right editor.

Not sure where to start? Begin by getting familiar with the outlets and reporters on your list before you pitch them. Look at their past articles and imagine how you could help them write their next story.

TWEAK your List

Your job doesn’t end here. Keeping your media lists updated is just as important as identifying the right outlets and writers. The media world is fast paced, and with each day that goes by, another journalist has shifted roles.  Review your lists at least every 1-2 months to make sure your contacts are fresh. This will ensure you have a quality, reliable database.

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5 Key Ingredients of a Great Press Release

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By Hanah Van Borek

First the headline. Make it irresistible.
The subhead too.

Then start with your key messages, those 5 famous W’s and their sidekick the H - Who, What, Where, When, Why and How. These hold everything together and can stand on their own. The reporter shouldn’t have to scroll any further.

However, if they do, they will learn more from the Supporting Points which should help tell the story by providing further background, without veering on another subject altogether.

Next bring in the facts,
plain and simple.
Present them objectively and
Provide Stats if possible, but don’t overdo it.

Finally, including Quotes is necessary for context and credibility. “A great quote doesn’t simply reiterate the point,” said Magnolia’s PR Expert. “It should add further insight and demonstrate the ‘big picture’ value such as industry relevance.”

Keep in mind: while you’re not writing something to be reprinted, everything you offer in the release should be easily transformed into a story.

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Messaging: Answer the “So What?” Question

What messaging all comes down to truly is the “So What?”factor.

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By: Phoebe Yong

It’s easy to get caught up with your service or product feeds and speeds when creating your key messages and sound bites. Companies get too personal about their value, creating a bubble of self-adoration, but they need to step outside of it and answer the hard questions – get to the facts.  Why do you matter to your customers, to the industry, and more importantly, what greater problem can you solve?

When consulting with clients on crafting their message, we tend to break it down into a few key sound bites that point to differentiation, significance to specific industries, and then meaning for customers. I keep reminding clients and their sales teams that reporters aren’t hired to write advertorials, that’s left to the ad department. The editorial piece must be unbiased and relevant to the outlet’s readership, and if you can’t spell out what the “So What?” factor is for them, why should the reporter try to figure it out?

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Media Ready – Stick to the KISS Principle

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By Jina You

One of the first things a journalist learns when starting out is the KISS principle: “Keep it Simple Stupid”. Complexity, abstract notions, and ambiguity are considered bad writing and deleted out of news stories.

The same goes for interviews. Reporters will think you’re a genius if you’re able to take complex subject matter and explain it in a simple, compelling way.

That truth came home to me when one day when I had to interview a university professor for a TV news story. No matter how many times I would repeat the question trying to get a “soundbyte”, he struggled to explain his subject matter. Needless to say, his interview never made it on the news.

We all have “industry speak” within our professions, but it’s important never to use it during an interview, whether it’s televised, recorded or printed. That’s because your words will be disseminated to a wide audience of business people, housewives, students, educators, et cetera who are hearing or reading about your story for the first time. The message will mean nothing if they don’t know what you’re talking about.

Losing the jargon and the fancy acronyms has another purpose too (besides avoiding to put the reporter to sleep), it will force you to speak in clearer, tighter sentences and overall communicate better. The challenge is always this: what is the one take away the audience is going to remember?

Keep your message to three key ideas in order to stand out from the background noise. Try the 12-year old nephew test: could he understand your topic if you explained it? He should.

Knowing how to explain your subject in clear simple terms will earn you points with a reporter and help establish you as a go-to source in every interview you do.

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The Feature Story Of Your Dreams

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By Hanah Van Borek

Your business is on the cusp of something big…you’re about to take the world by storm! The world just doesn’t know it yet. Yet you’re sure that you’ll be appearing any day now on the front cover of the New York Times. So where are all the reporters knocking on your door?

Well you could be ALL that and a bag of chips, but that doesn’t mean you’ll have the media convinced. If you really want that feature story, you may want to give these points some thought.

It takes time to build familiarity.
Don’t wait for an announcement to begin your outreach. Take the time to introduce yourself, build a relationship and offer your expertise.

No means not right now.
As long as you’re contacting the right reporter, continue sending your updates. Even if the reporter won’t cover your news this time, that doesn’t mean they won’t in the future.

Don’t be selfish.
Have you considered sharing the limelight with a client or partner? Offering other sources is a great way to have your business covered and it helps legitimize your story.

Pick up a pen.
With fewer and fewer resources and staff, newspapers are focused on the web and they need content! Consider pitching your own writing. Thought leadership around business management and career advice may be an ideal place to start, a good example is The Globe and Mail’s Leadership Lab .

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Is Your Website Outdated? 5 Symptoms That You Shouldn’t Ignore

By: Kelly Choi

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Sometimes you need to take a good hard look in the mirror and be honest with yourself. And sometimes you need to take a good hard look at your website and do the same. If you suffer from one or more of the following web-symptoms, it could be time for a facelift.

You can’t remember when you last updated your site
To fully take advantage of all the latest apps and widgets, it’s best to consider a redesign every few years. Doing so not only shows viewers and customers that your content and layout is modern and up-to-date, but also that you are proactive on the web.

Your website isn’t mobile friendly
According to a recent Google study, 75% of people browsing online prefer a mobile-friendly site and are subsequently more likely to be returning visitors or buy a product or a service from a website that is. In fact, 48% reportedly believe companies with non-mobile friendly websites don’t care about their business.

SEO is unfamiliar
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) does more than bring your company name to the top of Google’s search results, SEO attracts unsolicited traffic to your website. Without it, your potential customers are more inclined to visit other sites, including those of your competitors who are engaged in SEO practices.

Your company’s platform or branding has evolved
Any changes your company has undergone would need to be reflected on the website since it serves as the first impression. Not doing so means you’re providing inconsistent messaging for your audience and potential customers.

Your web report shows poor metrics
If you aren’t getting the views that you want, then it’s definitely time to consider a facelift. Look for important cues like high bounce rates in your metric report which may reveal that you not only have a lack of web traffic, but are acquiring the wrong type of traffic as well.

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Getting Bums In Seats

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By: Kelly Choi

Picture this scenario: you’ve been planning an event for months and have slaved away researching a venue, exploring catering options, perfecting the décor, and much more on a long list of arrangements. But on the day of the event, as you eagerly await for the arrival of your many guests, you realize you can barely fill the room. This is a nightmare for any event planner. It’s also a nightmare for guests who are expecting a chance to mingle with a group and presenters who are anticipating a good audience.

Well there are some surefire tactics we can suggest that promise to fill those seats:

Know your event, know your audience

Think of the top three goals you would like your event to achieve. What is the message that you want your attendees to bring home? Knowing what your event’s goals are will help narrow down your list of potential invites and sets your event apart from others.

Spend more time on promotion and start early

Too often people put all their time into detail decisions. Rather than focusing on whether to go with the swan-folded napkins or fan-folded napkins, don’t forget you need to get the word out! Promotion is so much more than just creating a Facebook event page. Thanks to e-mail marketing and social tools like Event Brite, creating a campaign is a cinch. Begin planning your outreach early on in order to give people lots of notice and more opportunities to consider attending.

Create an email and social media marketing timeline

E-mail marketing services such as MailChimp or Constant Contact are ideal for event invitations and notices. Keep your audience in the loop about your event by sending out consistent e-mailers with a variety of subject lines, starting first with the initial “save the date” notification, the actual invitation, and then one or two follow up emails leading up to the event, as well as a “thanks for attending” note following your event which is a great chance to get feedback.

For social media (SM) marketing, create a comprehensive schedule of tweets about your event and consider creating an event hashtag to start some buzz. For example, if it’s a golf fundraiser, you could use #pitchinandputt and synch them up with your other SM accounts for a wider reach. Find more great SM tips here: WiredImpact.

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