Recognized as one of Greater Toronto's Top Employers (2018)
By Richard Yerema and Kristina Leung, Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Dec 7, 2017)
Here are some of the reasons why Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences was selected as one of Greater Toronto's Top Employers (2018):
- Ontario Shores encourages ongoing employee development with tuition subsidies for courses related or indirectly related to an employees' current position as well as a variety of in-house and online training programs
- Ontario Shores provides maternity and parental leave top-up payments for employees who are new mothers (to 93% of salary for up to 31 weeks) as well as parental leave top-up for fathers and adoptive parents (to 93% of salary for 15 weeks) -- the organization also offers a $10,000 IVF subsidy for employees who want to start a family
- Ontario Shores recognizes exceptional performance through various rewards including long-service awards, peer-to-peer recognition, and a unique award for staff who demonstrate the organization's core values of excellence, innovation, safety, respect and community
Ontario Shores promotes learning along with wellness
When Amber Smith talks about her job, one word keeps cropping up -- opportunity. "I have been given the opportunity to speak at conferences on behalf of the organization and I've had the opportunity to lead projects and take on new and exciting initiatives," says Smith of her experience at Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences. "It really empowers you to push yourself and develop new skills"
Smith joined Ontario Shores three years ago as a learning and development specialist in the Centre of Education and Organizational Development -- the department that is responsible for overseeing staff education, leadership development and team workshops, among other things.
"If people demonstrate peer-to-peer leadership skills, we put them through a five-month leadership program which is offered in conjunction with another hospital," says Smith. "About 10 per cent of the organization has gone through the program because employee engagement is so high."
That level of commitment is neither coincidental nor surprising, says Ontario Shores President and CEO Karim Mamdani.
"We tend to attract individuals who have a lot of compassion and desire to do well," Mamdani says. "Our patients embark on a recovery journey and we help change their journey in a positive way."
Ontario Shores, a specialty mental health hospital in Whitby, employs more than 1,300 people, including mental health professionals, administrative and support staff, and part-timers.
The hospital offers generous tuition subsidies for those who wish to upgrade their education or move up the professional ladder, from a registered practical nurse to registered nurse, for example. Mamdani says Ontario Shores provides tuition subsidies while bursaries are available through the hospital's Volunteer Association and Foundation."
I'm half-way through an online master of education in educational leadership program because there's tuition assistance," says Smith, who has received $1,100 per year.
Other benefits include generous top-up payments for new mothers -- 93 per cent of salary for 31 weeks -- as well as 93 per cent of salary for up to 15 weeks for fathers and adoptive parents.
The work is rewarding, but can also be demanding. Ontario Shores has developed an extensive and integrated wellness program for employees. That includes a cafeteria that serves healthy, made-from-scratch meals, a fitness centre equipped with weights, exercise machines and treadmills, and a gym where employees can participate in badminton, basketball and floor hockey.
Staff can also join a series of wellness clubs, depending on their interests. These include a book club, drawing club and walking club; members usually meet over lunch.
"Our location contributes to wellness," says Smith. "We're located right on the shore of Lake Ontario and the Waterfront Trail goes right around the hospital. You see staff out there at lunch or on breaks taking walks all the time. Staff will have walking meetings."
Ontario Shores also invests greatly in the organization's culture by recognizing exceptional service through various reward programs. One is called GEM, which stands for Going the Extra Mile. Employees who see one of their colleagues going above and beyond day-to-day duties can present a colleague with a GEM card; once they have accumulated 10 cards, they receive a gift card.
Additionally, the hospital hosts the Values in Actions awards to honour employees who demonstrate superior performance that align with the organization's core values of excellence, innovation, safety, respect and community.