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Element 5: Developing a Program and Evaluation Plan

Creating a program plan

A program plan links to the strategies or broad approaches to facilitating change identified in the program plan. For example, “building healthy public policy” or “creating supportive environments” are strategies. Each strategy contains one or more activities.  Planning terms may vary between organizations. One common point of confusion is the difference between “tasks” and “activities.”

Relationship between programs, strategies, activites and tasks

Relationship between programs, strategies, activites and tasks

According to THCU, activities are products or services that are made or held for a given audience, such as an event, a phone-in counseling service or a self-help group. Output is another fairly common term that may be used to replace activity.

Tasks are different from activities. Each activity may require multiple tasks. Tasks are a part of operational work plans. They are assigned people, resources and deadlines. They are required to make activities happen. Tasks are sometimes called action steps. Tasks include such things as hiring a consultant, researching potential speakers or booking meetings. Tasks are operational steps or actions that contribute to the development of activities for an audience.

Priority setting and decision making:

It is important to prioritize efforts. Where will resources and efforts have the most impact? What projects will require a longer-term investment? It’s important to be realistic about what can be accomplished with the human and financial resources available.

Not all activities will be compatible with the culture of an organization. Be critical when choosing activities. Many practices that are used to promote mental health are also strategies for supporting employees who have mental illness. Therefore, one benefit of implementing many of these programs is that they also aid people with mental health issues. They may allow them to be successful without requiring them to disclose their illness.

Ideally, healthy workplace plans are flexible and allow individuals to indicate the changes or supports they need in order to work well and be productive. Flexible work programs support everyone within the workplace, they enable every employee to be more productive, less stressed and have overall better mental health. The majority of Canadians are reporting higher levels of burnout, major depression, anxiety and other mental health problems[1]. Mentally healthy workplaces provide mentally healthy options and programs for all employees. By making these programs available to everyone, employees with mental illness can access them without disclosing and potentially exposing themselves to stigma and discrimination.

Creating an evaluation plan

Evaluations of CWHP initiatives are carried out to:

  • determine the effectiveness or impact of a program (i.e., the extent to which program goals and objectives were met);
  • be accountable to program stakeholders such as the employers, employees, and other groups with an interest in the CWHP initiative,
  • identify ways of improving a program, such as ensuring that all activities are relevant and appropriate to the health needs of employees and removing potential barriers to participation;
  • assess the economic efficiency of a program through costs benefit or cost effectiveness analysis;
  • compare a CWHP program with similar initiatives being implemented elsewhere;
  • use the evaluation information for a range of purposes, including promotion, fundraising, attracting potential partners and advocating for policy changes to create healthier workplaces.

An evaluation plan should be created before evaluation has started. It must consider both formative and summative evaluation.

Formative evaluation plans must be created during the program planning phase, before implementation.

Summative evaluation is completed at the end of the project. This shows whether the program was successful and can be used to decide whether it should continue.

There are three types of evaluations to consider[2], not all of which will necessarily be used for every program.

Type of Evaluation Description Examples of what it evaluates
Formative evaluation
  • Focuses on programs that are under development
  • Used in the planning stages of a program to ensure program is based on stakeholders’ needs and is using effective and appropriate materials and procedures
  • A situational assessment is a critical formative evaluation activity
Process evaluation
  • Focuses on programs that are already underway
  • Examines the procedures and tasks involved in providing a program
  • Answers “what services are actually being delivered and to whom?”
  • Tracking the quantity and descriptors of people who are reached by the program
  • Tracking the quantity and types of services provided and descriptions of what actually occurred while providing services
Summative evaluation
  • Focuses on programs that are already underway or completed
  • Investigates the effects of the program, both intended and unintended
  • Answers, “What difference did the program make?” (impact evaluation) and, “Which stated goals and objectives were met?” (outcome evaluation)
  • Summative evaluations can assess short-term outcomes and long-term outcomes
  • Changes in attitudes, knowledge or behaviour;
  • Changes in morbidity or mortality rates;
  • Cost-benefit analysis;
  • Cost-effectiveness analysis
  • Changes in policies
  • Impact assessments

Formative evaluation measurement can help improve the program during and after the implementation. Summative evaluation measures provide the proof that the program works.

Adapted from Bond, S.L., Boyd, S. E., & Montgomery, D.L.(1997 Taking Stock: A Practical Guide to Evaluating Your Own Programs, Chapel Hill, NC: Horizon Research, Inc. Available online at http://www.horizonresearch.com.
Formative Evaluation – Improve Summative Evaluation – Prove
Provides information that helps improve the program. Generates periodic reports. Information can be shared quickly. Generates information that can be used to demonstrate the results of the program to funders and the community.
Focuses most on program activities, outputs and short-term outcomes for the purpose of monitoring progress and making mid-course corrections when needed. Focuses most on the program’s intermediate-term outcomes and impact. Although data may be collected throughout the program, the purpose is to determine the value and worth of a program based on results.
Helpful in bringing suggestions for improvement to the attention of staff. Helpful in describing the quality and effectiveness of the program by documenting its impact on participants and the community.

When conducting evaluations, practitioners should think about expected outcomes, how achievements will be measured and the role of the workers themselves in program planning, design, implementation and evaluation. In order to begin an evaluation plan, effective process and outcome objectives need to be created.

Indicators also need to be set. Indicators are the units of measurement used to assess the extent to which objectives have been met. Outcome indicators help you decide whether your program is effective and successful. Process indicators help you decide whether your program was implemented in the way you intended.

Indicators are a building block for a comprehensive evaluation plan. They should be reliable, valid and accessible. A mix of health and business indicators should be used and if organizational levels of change have been included, indicators regarding the workplace culture, including the psychosocial environment, will be necessary.

Working life indicators and measures[3]

Indicator Measures
Stress Percentage of adults who find their job very or extremely stressful
Work-life balance Mean score for how satisfied adults are with their work-life balance (paid work)
Demand Percentage of adults who often or always have unrealistic time pressures at work
Control Percentage of adults who often or always have a choice in deciding the way they do their work
Manager support Percentage of adults who strongly or tend to agree that their line manager encourages them at work
Colleague support Percentage of adults who strongly or tend to agree that they get the help and support they need from colleagues

There are many things to think about when developing an evaluation plan, only some have been explored in this Info-Pack. To learn more about the steps to evaluating a comprehensive workplace health promotion plan, review THCU’s Evaluation Info-Pack at www.thcu.ca/workplace/documents/EvaluationInfoPackFinalWeb.pdf.

Developing a work plan

An organization’s healthy workplace committee is responsible for developing a detailed work plan. The work plan should outline the program objectives, activities and evaluation methods in each phase of the plan. Developing a plan is the key to successful programs. The program work plan needs to be revisited regularly to check on progress and to make any necessary modifications.

Example of a work plan:
A healthy workplace committee used an organizational culture audit ‑ a type of situational assessment. They held focus groups. One of the issues flagged was that employees felt their stress levels were almost unmanageable. Many felt they were not being supported by management. Employees said they dreaded coming to work and often spent long hours answering emails on their off hours. They would often call in sick to avoid these feelings. As a response to the assessments, the healthy workplace committee set a goal of creating a more resilient and mentally supportive workplace and decided to tackle three issues: 1) individual stress management skills, 2) management support skills, and 3) workplace policies around workload.

Click on image below to view the full version:

Online Health Program Planner provides additional information and helps users develop a full, comprehensive plan. See www.thcu.ca/ohpp.

Examples of workplace mental health strategies, programs and activities:

The following examples are from a comprehensive workplace mental health promotion plan. They are practices that can promote positive mental health within an organization. The examples are matched with their corresponding psychosocial risk factor, which is an element that affects employees’ mental responses to work and the work environment and have the ability to cause mental health problems.[4]

In Canada and the rest of the world, not enough research has been conducted to find the workplace interventions that are good practices, those that work well and those interventions that do not work as intended. The following components address the PSR factors identified by Guarding Minds @ Work. They are based on workplace health promotion concepts. For example, social and environmental support is extremely beneficial when trying to promote behaviour change. The following activities have been generated through anecdotal examples of programs that have worked well within various organizations, from research and from the activities provided by Guarding Minds @ Work PSR Action Sheets.[5],[6] As outlined earlier, multiple strategies should be used to make sure that the program is comprehensive, reaching the maximum number of employees and making a sustained cultural change. Also, from the onset of the program, an organization should evaluate and share its findings. More Canadian groups need to contribute to the evidence base for good practices in workplace mental health promotion.

Psychosocial Risk Factors Activities
  • Psychological Support: A work environment where coworkers and supervisors are supportive of employees’ psychological and mental health concerns and respond appropriately as needed.
  • Provide education and training to all employees (including senior management) to heighten mental health awareness (i.e., “mental health literacy”).
  • Provide a portable computer to enable an employee’s ability to work at home or at unusual hours when needed.
  • Create opportunities for training and mentoring to enhance managers’ interpersonal and people management skills.
  • Ensure widespread awareness of the company benefits and programs that employees can access to address and support their mental health.
  • Create “stay-at-work” policies and programs to assist employees who remain at work while dealing with mental health concerns including formal and informal accommodations, such as allowing an employee to temporarily work part-time when they are returning from an absence.
Organizational Culture: A work environment characterized by trust, honesty and fairness.
  • Create a support net for new employees by pairing them with a mentor and a peer during their orientation.
  • Create an organizational mission statement that incorporates values of trust, honesty and fairness and display it prominently for staff and the public.
  • Create standardized orientation sessions for new employees with information about company’s mission and values and standards for employee behaviour.
  • Identify role models or mentors for new and junior employees to strengthen and ensure the continuity of organizational culture.
  • Hold all members of the organization accountable for their actions and ensure that managers and leaders are held accountable to the same or higher standard.
Clear Leadership and Expectations: A work environment where there is effective leadership and support that helps employees know what they need to do, how their work contributes to the organization and whether there are impending changes.
  • Circulate a quarterly letter from the C.E.O. describing what he or she has been doing in the past month and what is coming up in the future.
  • Develop a schedule of ‘check-ins’ with employees and managers to address issues of concern.
  • Create mandatory training sessions for management and aspiring managers that builds skills around emotional intelligence, mental health in the workplace, assertive and non-violent communication, leadership and ethics.
  • Ensure that job descriptions are current, clear and specific.
  • Conduct regular performance reviews for all staff (including management) that include collaborative/bi-directional feedback.
Civility and Respect: A work environment where employees are respectful and considerate in their interactions with one another, as well as with customers, clients and the public.
  • Create a “Matter of Respect” policy that goes above regulatory requirements to foster an environment that respects diversity and ensures a safe workspace where employees feel comfortable to be themselves.
  • Encourage managers to have an open door policy for employee complaints.
  • Adopt non-discriminatory language in all communications.
  • Maintain the confidentiality of employees’ personal information in all communications.
  • Give equal consideration in employment and advancement decisions to qualified persons with mental health disabilities.
Psychological Job Fit: A work environment where there is a good fit between employees’ interpersonal and emotional competencies, their job skills and the position they hold.
  • Hire managers and leaders based on their ability to demonstrate and understanding and commitment to leadership capabilities and supportive management practices rather than technical skills.
  • Have employees complete a personality and skills assessment before they are hired and placed into a position.
  • Have job counselling available for employees who are struggling in their positions.
  • Provide reinforcement and praise for employees’ demonstration of interpersonal and emotional competencies.
  • Where appropriate, consider a process allowing employees to explore internal positions that may better match their skills and style (e.g., via job-shadowing or career-development discussions).
Growth and Development: A work environment where employees receive encouragement and support in the development of their interpersonal, emotional and job skills.
  • Create a mentor program that links new employees to experienced employees to create a social and professional support. Mentors can help develop skills and competencies and can teach new hires how to successfully navigate the organization’s culture.
  • Host an annual education fair that highlights opportunities for personal and professional development and provides information on the company’s reimbursement policies.
  • Create reimbursement policies for tuition, for example:
    • 50 percent of the cost for bachelor’s or master’s degree credits;
    • total reimbursement for job-related courses;
    • exam fee reimbursement;
    • monetary bonuses for passing exams.
  • Develop an internal training and development syllabus that lets employees know about all available opportunities in the company for growth, education and training. This can involve an outline of possible career planning opportunities and include the technical and personal leadership expectations of all employees. This way, employees are able to know what skills are needed for them to progress to the next level.
  • Provide seminars, workshops, lunch and learns, seminars, conferences and educational activities for employees that focus on both individual and department needs. These educational opportunities could be provided by internal experts or external organizations.  
  • Create stretch assignments that expand employee skill sets. During these assignments employees can be paired with a formal mentor. This can drive employee growth and development.
  • Provide onsite adult tutoring for employees who would like to develop their skills. Employees can receive two hours of tutoring a week within their regular work schedule at no personal cost and employees are paid for one of the two hours. Progress is tracked and celebrated quarterly. Curriculum could feature mathematics, adult literacy, GED preparation, English as a second language, basic computing and life skills classes.
Recognition and Reward: A work environment where there is appropriate acknowledgement and appreciation of employees’ efforts in a fair and timely manner. These recognition practices make employees feel valued and that their effort is noticed. Employer Recognition

  • Formally recognize individuals based on individual contribution and exemplary effort.  
  • Provide a non-monetary prize for all members of a team that works well. Working well can be determined by providing exceptional service, supporting organizational programs, fostering teamwork or by staying late during a heavy work period. Find out from the team what they would value receiving by giving them a choice between a couple of different prizes, one example of a prize could be a gift certificate to the cafeteria.  
  • Celebrate employee dedication by providing an INDIVIDUALIZED GIFT to the employee on their 10, 15, 20-year employment anniversaries and recognize to the whole organization in a newsletter, email or announcement.
  • Reward long standing employees with scholarships for their own growth or child-education savings accounts.
  • Feed employees who have to work overtime.
  • Three or four times during the summer, the company hosts a free barbecue lunch to which all employees are encouraged to come.
  • Provide employees with constructive informal rewards such as closing the office early on a Friday after a hard week or allowing an employee who has done a good job the opportunity to try a new role and to take on additional responsibilities.
  • Provide dental, vision and mental health coverage that takes effect on the first day of employment.

Peer Recognition

  • Encourage employees to publicly acknowledge and thank their peers for exceptional effort, doing an outstanding job, enhancing the work environment, showing tremendous passion for the job or for providing leadership. This can help reinforce positive communication, provide a venue for thinking about coworkers’ positive characteristics, break down communication barriers between staff members and help to frame staff interactions positively. This can be done through:
    • starting all major company meetings with at least one person’s words of praise;
    • allowing managers, partners and employees to nominate their co-workers for an outstanding work or contribution award, this can include a written certificate of recognition and recognition at a staff meeting;
    • have an employee selected “Employee of the Year.”
Involvement and Influence: A work environment where employees are included in discussions about how their work is done and how important decisions are made.
  • Ensure that staff have an identified contact person (e.g., supervisor, office manager, union steward) for issues pertaining to how their work is done. Also, allow employees a venue for communicating their thoughts and concerns with senior executives. This could be through email, online forum, drop box or a breakfast/lunch meeting.
  • Ensure management is approachable and available to communicate by implementing an open door policy and by being visible around the office.
  • Involve employees in the interviewing and screening for job candidates to ensure that existing team members are comfortable with hiring decisions.
  • Encourage employee participation and involvement during times of organizational change, providing empathy and support throughout.
  • Create employment agreements/contracts that explicitly value and encourage employee input into how work is conducted.
Workload Management: A work environment where tasks and responsibilities can be accomplished successfully within the time available.
  • Work with employees to develop clear project realistic goals and work plans. Plans should be based on mutually agreeable productivity expectations.
  • Train managers to be flexible with schedules to accommodate staff needs and to model good practices.
  • Cultivate a work culture that clearly values the quality of work done not simply the quantity of work (e.g., hours worked).
  • Inform and prepare staff for anticipated periods of increased work (e.g., seasonal demands, peak shift hours) and acknowledge and appreciate employees’ efforts during times of high work demand.
  • Provide pay or accrued time off for overtime worked.
  • Provide education on resiliency, stress management and burnout (e.g., on signs and effects of stress and strategies for self-care).
Engagement: A work environment where employees enjoy and feel connected to their work and where they feel motivated to do their job well. This helps increase feelings of control, alignment or buy-in to the company’s mission and increases employees’ sense of pride in their work.
  • When work plans are being created for the year, involve employees in the decisions. Ideally their involvement would be included from the beginning, if not however they should at least be consulted before the plan is finalized.
  • Conduct stay interviews with new staff members. Stay interviews are where new employees meet with a human resources manager after three months and then again after six months to have a formal retention interview. This can help managers understand what they are doing well and what the managers and the organization as a whole could do even better to support their employee.
  • Conduct an annual satisfaction survey where employees can evaluate and provide feedback on their manager’s performance in the areas of communication, leadership, conflict management and innovation.
  • Allow employees to help make the decisions when the office decor is being changed (i.e. furniture set up, paint, carpet and furniture colours, etc.).
  • Ensure leadership accountability for retention and engagement (e.g., use metrics to document leaders’ impact on retention and morale among their teams).
Balance: A work environment where there is recognition of the need for balance between the demands of work, family and personal life. These practices can help reduce work-conflict and unhealthy stress and can improve productivity.
  • Promote usage of the company’s Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP/EAP) ability to help with finding childcare or eldercare.
  • Provide personal days rather than sick days – this allows additional flexibility for employees who have childcare or eldercare concerns.
  • Allowing workers to take paid or unpaid time during the day for medical appointments or deal with urgent family issues encourage employees to take time off to spend with family.
  • Identify ways to help employees with filling childcare needs during school breaks:
    • Family Day open-house event where the family is invited to join staff for a day of games, tours, stories and food.
    • Subsidize summer camps for employees’ children.

Alternative Work Schedules

  • Allow for flexibility for work day start time and end time (ex. working 8:00-4:00, 9:00-5:00 or 10:00-6:00) or working a compressed work week (ex. Every other week get a day off and work longer hours the other days).
  • Hold employees accountable to getting all the work they need to get done finished, but enable them to work in the evenings or mornings at home if they cannot spend their full day in the office.
  • Allow a full-time employee to job share rather than quit by allowing them to become a part-time employee and hire a second part-time employee to cover the other half of the work. This also creates a succession plan for if the employee decides that they do want to retire or stop working all together.
  • Provide telecommuting options during the summer so that those with school-aged children, employees caring for aging parents or employees with other circumstances can opt to work from home.
Psychological Protection: A work environment where employees’ psychological safety is ensured. Psychological Supports

  • Provide Mental Health First-Aid training during employees’ regular hours and funded by company.
  • Encourage a safety culture by rewarding areas that have low accident rates with points towards prizes or bonuses.
  • Host emotional wellness seminars to teach employees new skills and strategies for staying psychologically fit in an emotionally demanding job environment.
  • Have and a zero tolerance policy for workplace violence and harassment.
  • Provide retraining and gradual return to work for employees as needed who have been away for an extended leave.

Environmental Supports

  • Providing employees the option to turn off fluorescent lights in their offices and bring in floor or table lamps.
  • Provide a quiet break room or an enclosed office for employees to go to when they need a break.
  • Providing partitions, room dividers, or otherwise enhancing soundproofing and visual barriers between workspaces or, alternatively, removing barriers in the work environments where people need to feel less isolated/more connected to colleagues.
  • Providing a private space for employees to make phone calls during the day for personal or professional support.
  • Allowing workers to consume non-alcoholic drinks (ex. Water, juice) at their work stations throughout the work day (e.g., if needed due to medication side effects).
Case Study: growth and development at Lee Valley[7]
Situation: To reduce turnover, Lee Valley wanted to show employees that there was room for growth within the organization.

Action: Before jobs are advertised publicly, Lee Valley posts them internally. This gives employees first crack at these positions and many people have grown and developed their careers through this feature. For employees who want to further their education, Lee Valley has an education policy, paying the tuition as long as it has some relevance to their job or is along the lines of professional development.

Result: Employees see that opportunities for growth and development come in many shapes and forms and many employees have grown and developed their careers at Lee Valley through these measures.

To read the whole case study visit http://www.vifamily.ca/library/social/lee_valley.pdf.


  • Canadian Best Practices Portal for Health Promotion and Chronic Disease Prevention, by the Public Health Agency of Canada, is a database of evaluated, best practice interventions. See www.phac.gc.ca/cbpp.


[1] Desjardins Financial Security. “Health is Cool! 2006 Survey on Canadian Attitudes towards Physical and Mental Health at Work and Play.” (2006) http://www.dsf-dfs.com/en-CA/_Utilitaires/Prmtns/HlthCl.htm (accessed December 2, 2009).

[2] THCU. “Comprehensive Workplace Health Promotion Evaluation Info-pack.” (2005) p. 6,7 http://www.thcu.ca/workplace/documents/EvaluationInfoPackFinalWeb.pdf (accessed February 12, 2010).

[3] J. Parkinson, “Establishing a Core set of Sustainable National Mental Health and Well-being Indicators,” Scotland Journal of Public Mental Health (2006) 5.1.

[4] Guarding Minds @ Work, www.guardingmindsatwork.ca

[5] World Health Organization, Mental health policies and programmes in the workplace (Geneva: 2005).

[6] Guarding Minds @ Work, “Action Sheets,” (2009) www.guardingmindsatwork.ca http://www.guardingmindsatwork.ca/resources.aspx.

[7] Elaine Lowe, “Working by the Golden Rule, Lee Valley Tools,” The Vanier Institute of the Family (2005), http://www.vifamily.ca/media/webfm-uploads/Publications/SocialInnovations/leevalley.pdf (accessed October 07 2009).