Nuggets of Wisdom – Engaging Our Talent to Strike Gold

Peg Breen: March 26, 201423 Comments

Exactly thirteen years ago in March of 2000, Rob McEwen, who had just become chairman and CEO of a mining operation in Ontario Canada decided he had a problem too big to solve by conventional methods. His company GoldCorp, was in distress.

The price for gold was at an all-time low, and his operating costs were extremely high. Red Lake mine was producing only one-third as many ounces as his neighboring competitor and the miners were restless and ready to strike. It was proving to be as difficult to search Red Lake ’s 55,000 acres as it is to find Flight 370, the Malaysian airliner lost somewhere in the 28 million square miles of the Indian Ocean.

What McEwen did to solve his problem was unprecedented.  He decided to publish all of Red Lake’s proprietary data on the web and committed to giving a cash price up to $105,000 to anyone who could tell them where they’d find the next 6 million ounces of gold.  He nicknamed this project “The GoldCorp Challenge” and the response was big. Over 1400 scientists, engineers and geologists from 50 countries decided to participate.

The winner ended up being  a collaboration between two firms in Australia who had agreed to split the prize. Neither firm had physically visited the mining site but instead had analyzed the data to produce a 3D graphical depiction of the dig sites.

It’s About Making a Difference

When the winning team members were interviewed, they said that they didn’t compete because of the prize money. In fact, the prize money barely covered the hours invested in their research. Yes, they had wanted the recognition that would come from solving the puzzle, but most of all, they wanted to open the eyes of their industry to a new way of doing exploration. In short, they invested the time because they wanted to make a difference. In the words of the winning team leader, “This has been like a beacon (of hope) in a sea of darkness,” for the mining industry.

August 2012 Decision Accelerator
See video from the 2012 Community event

This story, published in Fast Company Magazine, is yet another example of what James Surowiecki calls the “Wisdom of Crowds.”  About 18 months ago, Community used crowd-sourcing,  by bringing together 250 employees to discuss and debate what kind of culture and benefits we need  in order to attract and retain the brightest minds, the most committed and loyal hearts and souls, and the most highly-engaged employees on the planet. Like McEwen, we struck gold and these ideas generated a powerful action plan that turned into measurable outcomes. [Click this link to see the list of accomplishments since August 2012.]

Mining Expedition Scheduled 5-14-14

We know that we need to continue to innovate though so we are going to tap employee input once again, on May 14, 2014, when we host an “Engagement Accelerator.” We’re randomly choosing 160 employees to attend this event to discuss how the PTO/sick time policy works and how to improve it, as well as brainstorm other changes to create an innovative, transparent, mission-oriented, results-driven culture. We’ll be reporting back about the nuggets of wisdom we gained from this session and of course the action steps, so stay tuned.

If you would like to share a comment or observation about how our PTO policy works, or what you’ve experienced at other workplaces, please reply. We greatly appreciate everyone’s insights!

23 responses to Nuggets of Wisdom – Engaging Our Talent to Strike Gold

PTO/Sick Time

I respect the comments made by others, but I personally feel there are advantages to the current PTO/Sick policy. By having the initial time coming out of our PTO, the sick bank is reserved for longer term issues. I have known many employees over the years that were saved from financial hardships when an unexpected serious illness or surgery neccesitated them tapping into their Sick time. Had they been tapping into it for minor illnesses along the way, their Sick bank would not have accumulated to be availalble to them when a significant medical need arose. I have infrequently tapped into my sick bank and acknowledge that I likely will lose Sick hours when I ultmately leave CMC/retire but the insurance of having the sick bank balance seems worth it to me.

we know about gold but It is

we know about gold but It is true that the activities with mining are dirtiest of all work. It is risky too. I loved reading your points, thank for the focus.


It would be a nice incentive if an employee does not call in sick for a whole year that they should be rewarded by transfering over sick hours to PTO and the amount should be according to your years of service.

Sick Time

If an employee is on the job and gets sick and is being seen in ER this should be sick time with the doctors note or notice of an supervisor rather than taking there PTO away but from Sick time.

sick time

As coming from another hospital in town I was baffled as to how sick time works here. If I call in 2 days it comes out of my vacation but after the 3rd day I have to have a doctors note than I can use my sick time. I dont see why my sick time isnt used when Im sick rather than coming from vacation.

PTO/Sick Time

Why not keep the amount we receive in sick and PTO but allow employees to use their sick time if they have a doctor's note or are in the hospital. I found it sad that a fellow co-worker was admitted into our own hospital yet she received an SNA for being in the hospital and was not allowed to use her sick time until the 3rd day. I don't think we should start adding more sick time and taking away PTO time. I just feel that there are extenuating circumstances that come into our lives and we should be able to use this time if the doctor is taking us off of work or we are in the hospital.

PTO time

I would like to see the Corp allow employees to donate PTO time to fellow staff like they used to do years ago. Donation of time allowed to the employee that is out on extended leave from life threatening illnesses or treatment. I know other companies that allow it. Maybe tax the individual donating the time, like you do when you give out cash gift cards. I feel that the employees who benefit from the donation of time would go out and tell the community what a great place CRMC is to allow this. Good news travels fast, and we are in the business of compassion.

Donating PTO

This is a great idea. We'll put it on our TO DO list. Thank you! Peg


I'm completely torn on this subject. While I love how much PTO I accrue, it does "hurt" when I call in because I'm ill and its taken from my PTO time. However, I also love the benefit of the extra hours I appear to accumulate. My biggest complaint (gripe, frustration??). Is only getting 24 hours of SFM. As a 12-hour employee with a husband, two kids, and aging parents it's simply not enough and only comes out to 2 days a year! I suppose if you are an 8 hour employee you get 3 days a year, but last I checked my kids aren't sick for so many hours out of the day. Essentially you give the M-F 8-5ers an extra day with a policy like that which is unfair. I would love to see it changed to days worked,and giving us one or even 2 more SFM days per year. As for the PTO/Sick time I don't see how coming out of one bank of hours would work, for example if one left the corporation, how would you calculate out what is PTO to be paid our and what is sick time??? Maybe by a percentage?

PTO/Sick Time

I have worked for the corporation for almost 30 years. When I first started we received all 12 days a year into our sick time, there was no such thing as extended sick time. When they changed truly was the best change to our benefits. The corporation is clearly rewarding employees who do not ever call in sick by giving half of it to them as PTO. I realize when you call in sick you have to use the first 16 hours of PTO but remember they give you 6 days of PTO. This really is a benefit to the employee. In 2010 I was laid off by the corporation and lost all sick time that I had on the books, if the policy had not changed I would have lost even more sick time; but remember I was paid for all the PTO time. I know some employees don't really understand the policy and feel it's wrong that we have to use our PTO when we call in sick but this is a great benefit. I came back to the corporation in 2012 and I still strongly feel that this is a benefit for the employee and should not be changed.

About a year after I started

About a year after I started here as a full-time employee I ran into a frustrating dilemma due to the current format of the PTO/sick policy. I had saved up my PTO and had exactly enough to cover a 2 week vacation. I requested time off, it was approved by manager, and I booked my trip. About 2-3 weeks before the trip I got an infection and was very sick for about a week. However, because of the current rule where, when calling in sick, the first 16 hours come out of PTO before the allotted "sick pay" kicks in, I found I would use up my carefully saved PTO right before my vacation. I had plenty of sick hours available, so it was very frustrating to have to make the choice of either a) coming to work very sick and contagious for several days so that I would have enough PTO to cover my leave or b) no longer be able to take my vacation due to insufficient PTO hours, even though I had more than enough sick hours just sitting there. If PTO and sick hours accrue separately and are 2 separate entities, it would only make sense that they be dispensed the same way. Or at least for PTO to be a back up instead of the first line of compensation when sick. Thank you for allowing us to give our input, it is greatly appreciated! Corinne RN


Our PTO system pays only lip service to the idea of sick time, and the punitive nature of charging employees SNAs for actually calling in sick increases patient risk by discouraging us from keeping our personal pathogens at home. I regularly work with very sick nurses who self-medicate to hide their symptoms and come to work ill to avoid SNAs. Why even tease us with PTO time if we can't use it when we're sick? And let's also consider the the stress placed on a working parent who cannot stay home with a sick child. There is a brutal irony in coming to work to care for sick strangers while your own child is home vomiting or with a high fever. As a former HR manager, I can certainly appreciate the staffing challenges generated by short notice call-ins. And certainly some employees might take advantage of a different policy mindset. However, the system that exists now is not beneficial for our patients (and further is dangerous to them), and it is terrible for employee morale and retention. Someone should certainly crunch the numbers of staffing time savings vs attrition. You'd be surprised at how much the existing policy is costing our bottom line in turnover and the inefficiency of low morale and sick employees trying to work through a day!

Sick time is use it or lose it!!

Sick time is use it or lose it!! I feel that we should reward employees that do not call in sick. Give back to employees that do not abuse sick time.
1. Every 6 months if you do not call in sick give the employee 8 hours extra of PTO time. It is easier and less expensive to cover PTO time. Often sick calls are covered with OT.
2. Allow empoyees to cash out sick time like PTO time.
3. Allow empoyees to cash out sick time at the end of year if they have over ??? hours.

Sick Time/PTO

If you are just looking for ideas, good or bad... here is my thoughts As I get older, I'm having to go out for dental surgies, one day procedures, and it bothers me that I have to use my PTO to accomadate these times, while others do not. I also think for chronic conditions (ie: diabetes related conditions, back issues), as long as they are documented, we should be able to use sick time and not PTO when you are out. These are just my thoughts, good or bad, they are just ideas. Thank you for listening.


Possibly get rid of sick pay and just increase the rate at which we accrue PTO. At my husband's work its all one bank, PTO and sick. You use the days for what you need.


The sick pay policy we currently have may work well for employees who work 8 hour shifts Monday through Friday, but not for flex staff. To have to use 16 hours of PTO prior to sick pay just doesn't make sense when flex staff may not even work 2 or 3 days in one week.

pto vs sick time-from Kristina Brady, Ultrasound

The policy of having to use our vacation days for the 1st 3 days of an illness is unfair to those of us that do not abuse the sick time. At other facilities I have worked at, they are separate. One incentive to not overuse or abuse sick time is to be able to transfer any time over 40hrs that you have not used in a year to your vacation time. Even if that could not be done, sick time should be for illness and vacation time should be for time off that you can use to relax. Some people work very hard not to get sick. The policy we have almost encourages people to come in sick and infect the rest of us just so they can have their vacation time available when needed. We need our vacation time just for decompression from the stressful work we do. We can only be our best-& our patients deserve only our best- when we can take time off to be sick and recover and time off for planned vacations. Also we have time and attendace for SNA to keep most people honest and the policy of having a medical note from our PCP's. This is actually the only facility I have worked at that uses this policy and I have worked all over the valley. I know we can do better for our employees that usually give more than 100% of themselves for their patients.

Engagement Accelerator Invitations

When will you be sending out the invitations?


By tomorrow, all invitations will have been sent. Site HR directors and managers have randomly selected participates across all shifts. If you were not selected please share your input via this blog, or feel free to contact your local HR team to give them input. Thanks. Peg

pto/sick policy suggestion

At other companies I have worked at the pto/sick policy was as follows: In lieu of the 3 occurance call in policy that is currently in place, an employee may use their pto/sick time as need thru out the year. Added would be an action plan that would cover pattern of abuse that is similar to the verbal warning, written, suspension, and expulsion policy that is currently in place. An employee may choose to manage the hours being used/pulled from ie. sick/annual (pto) as long as there is a balance in their sick/pto "account". As one knows even a fine tuned machine breaks down more than 3 times in a year. This would replace the 3 occurance SNA policy. Also an option for borrowed time. If an unexpected surgery or illness occurs the hospital can create a "credit" of hours with the employee in which the employee would "repay" monthly once they return to work untill borrowed time is "re-paid". I am not sure if this is a hospital policy or floor policy, however if an empoyee request a specific day off ahead of time then that day should be used as pto (if the person has the time) instead of scheduling the employee to work 5-8 days in a row, unless requested.

PTO Policy

I love CRMC and what it stands for. There are many departments that work Monday-Friday, and it would be wonderful for the company to have paid holidays for the 6 major holidays of the year instead of employees using their PTO. Just an idea :)

PTO/ Sick Time

When I worked in the 1980s at a different hospital in town we were able to use our sick time immediately instead of waiting for 2 days & then being able to use the sick time. The nice thing was if you were well you could roll half your sick time over into your PTO time or cash it out at the end of the year. This way you don't accrue too many sick hours for nothing & you are not inclined to work when contagious because you have to use your vacation PTO for sick time.

sick time

We should be able to use sick time before 3 days if we have been to a Dr. and can provide a note to our supervisor. This was the policy at my previous employer.

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