Continuous Improvement or Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI) is a strategic approach to managing change by recognising incremental and measured improvements. It is a method of self-analysis in which validated assessments are completed, and the results are used to make the necessary incremental changes that work towards desirable outcomes.1 Applying this concept to the Alcohol and Other Drug (AOD) program means driving the organisation to a substance free workplace by continually improving AOD program policies and procedures, while strengthening an organisational culture that promotes a substance free workplace.
In CGI, each improvement implemented drives the process, system, or program to a better condition or state. The assessment process ensures that changes, cultural and otherwise, are sustained over time and that the effort to reach goals continues to improve over the long term. Each assessment becomes a method for informing decisions as to the next steps that should be taken. The Continuous Improvement process applied to the AOD program can ensure:2
- AOD policy and procedures reflect industry and legal standards
- Improve the validity of assessments
- Enhance relevance of the AOD testing procedures
- Increase transparency of the drug and alcohol program
- Ensure there is regular feedback to employees after testing
- Support quality assurance
- Improve management of the AOD program
- Guide worker training on the AOD program
- Guide management training on AOD program
There are different ways to assess the AOD program. Benchmarking against industry leaders is one valuable assessment tool. However, benchmarking is mostly used by larger companies because it requires considerable resources that include commitments of personnel, software, data collection and interpretation, and so on. Even if resources are not available for elaborate benchmarking, small to medium size companies can still apply the principle of CQI to their AOD program.
Asking Questions Over and Over Again
It is not uncommon for companies to put onsite AOD testing in place and deal with results one-by-one without looking at the big picture. An employee tests positive for heroin and is temporarily suspended until completing rehab. Three weeks later, an employee in the same department tests positive for cocaine. The same type of event keeps occurring. Though there is follow-up with each person, the real question is: Is there a pattern of substance use in the department? If so, why? Once the “why” is uncovered, the next question is: What should we do about it? Once that question is answered, a change is implemented. The change may impact work processes in the department, frequency of drug and alcohol testing, definition of safety sensitive positions, revision of the Employee Assistance Plan, or any of a number of other things.
CQI is a transformation process, meaning it is ongoing. One of the important steps that should be taken is ensuring that drug and alcohol testing supplies are top quality and that AOD screenings are completed by an experienced qualified company. These are important steps for ensuring the results are accurate. However, CGI involves assessing every step of the AOD program on a continual basis. It has employers asking the question, “How is the AOD program going, and can it be better?”
Program assessments can lead to changes step-by-step, including tweaking a policy, revising a random testing schedule, or enhancing program management or employee training. The important point to note is that the tweaking, revising, and enhancing will occur over and over again as the assessment indicates is necessary.
CMM Technology helps employers everyday in their efforts to maintain a substance free workplace by providing stringently tested AOD products and high quality expert services like equipment calibration. Producing accurate AOD testing results is a critical step in the CQC process.
- Worksafe Australia. (1996, June). Benchmarking Occupational Health and Safety. Retrieved from http://bit.ly/1ivhWOi.
- Government of Western Australia – Department of Training and Workforce Development. (3rd Ed 2012). A guide to continuous improvement of assessment in VET. Retrieved from http://bit.ly/1ixy8J1.