Alberta Health Services hired 'coach' to implement Landmark ideology

Sole-source contract breached department policy

CBC News/October 17, 2014

By Charles Rusnell and Jennie Russell

Alberta Health Services issued a sole-source contract to hire an executive “coach” to ensure the “Ways of Being” ideology learned by AHS employees through Landmark Education training was adhered to.

Documents obtained by CBC News through freedom of information reveal Landmark Education Corp., a controversial American personal-development company, so successfully established itself within the AHS IT department that it adopted Landmark’s “Ways of Being” as part of its strategic plan.

"Coaching services will link the “Ways of Being” to the AHS IT One Page Plan,” the contract states. “Coaching will support employees in transforming behaviours that are not consistent with the directions, goals and performance outcomes for the IT organization."

The documents show Alberta Health Services allowed AHS IT manager Kevin Brown free rein to not only promote Landmark training within the IT department, but also to hire his friend, Mark Rayner, as a coach through a $70,000 sole-source contract.

“The bottom line is we shouldn’t have sole-sourced that kind of a contract,” AHS chief executive officer Vickie Kaminski told CBC Thursday.

AHS apologized to its employees and Kaminski said it is now conducting an internal investigation to find out how, and why, Landmark was allowed to operate within AHS as it did.

The office of Alberta’s public interest commissioner has also confirmed it received a complaint from an AHS employee related to Landmark and has asked AHS to explain what happened.

Wildrose MLA Kerry Towle said it was unbelievable that no one within AHS thought the contract was inappropriate, or even bizarre.

“The fact that anyone would suggest that employees need to be coached because they are not following the ‘Ways of Being’ from Landmark - that is written into their policies - is disturbing,” she said.

On Wednesday, CBC reported AHS allowed Landmark to operate within the IT department for more than a year despite several serious employee complaints.

Employees pressured

The private, for-profit company has been criticized for employing high-pressure recruitment tactics, intense psychological methods, and a conformist ideology.

The documents obtained by CBC show some employees felt pressured, even harassed, to attend Landmark seminars, and to reveal personal details of their lives at the seminars and at staff meetings.

Landmark spokeswoman Deb Beroset said the company would not condone anyone being pressured to attend its seminars. And she said Landmark employs no ideology or psychology in its training.

Wildrose MLA Kerry Towle said she was surprised that no one within AHS thought the contract with Landmark was inappropriate. (CBC)

She stressed that Landmark has provided training to thousands of corporations, including Reebok and Apple.

The March 2012 coaching contract is entitled “AHS IT ‘Living Our Values.’” Marked as an ‘Urgent Request,” the stated reason for the contract is “there is clear need for coaching to reinforce Living the Values.

“Within AHS IT, we have established a 'One Page Plan' to give all 1,200 employees visibility to our Purpose, Business, Targets, Goals, Actions and Performance targets,” the contract states, adding that, “the plan is grounded in ‘Ways of Being’ that align to the AHS Values.

“There is a business need to provide coaching for employees that while committed to the ‘Ways of Being’ are not acting consistently with the Values of AHS.

“The consultant (business coach) will listen for what really matters to an employee and then bring their personal commitment to causing individual employee success that is aligned to the intended business outcomes of IT,” the contract states.

A March 15, 2012 email from an AHS human resources adviser reads “I have confirmed that the language referring to the ‘Ways of Being’ is Landmark Forum language.”

Landmark coach

In a June 29, 2012 email, the same HR adviser summarizes a meeting held with an AHS employee about the hiring of a coach.

“She stated that IT has a coach, he is from Landmark; he is Kevin’s buddy from Landmark.”

Kevin Brown told CBC he left AHS in April 2013. Mark Rayner owns the Rayner Institute, a Calgary-based professional leadership and coach training company. The institutes website now lists Kevin Brown as a facilitator.

Rayner’s LinkedIn profile states he was an executive coach within Alberta Health Service’s IT department from April 2012 to December 2013.

“Executive Coaching within the IT department,” the profile states. “Removing barriers in both personal and professional aspects of life. Living the Values, how personal beliefs affect a person’s performance, and ways of being that define a culture within an organization.”

Brown declined an interview request about how he came to give the sole-source contract to Rayner.

“If CBC wants to raise an issue about a $70,000 contract, then you go ahead,” Brown said. “I don’t want to have (anything) to do with that.”

The documents show that although Landmark is a for-profit company. Brown used AHS internal email to promote the introductory sessions, some of which appear to have been held in AHS offices. He stressed in the emails that participation in the sessions was voluntary.

But there were reports that those who attended the introductory sessions were pressured to attend the Landmark Forums.

“Many staff have been ‘encouraged’ to attend Landmark retreats,” one HR adviser wrote in July 2012. “One Director told me that after the retreat he was harassed every day to join this organization until he engaged.”

The seminars cost nearly $650 and the documents show Brown had won approval from AHS IT to pay for employees to attend the training seminars. The documents show AHS believed as many as 50 people attended the training.

Brown wrote in a March 23, 2012 recruiting email to AHS managers: “This (Landmark) education is available to IT Leaders in support of Living our Values, and the associated ‘Ways of Being’ that drives our IT plan.”

In another email to an employee three days later, Brown tells of a “plan” he has for AHS IT.

“The plan is anchored in ‘Ways of Being,’ a term I used before Landmark started using it. We now refer to the document as ‘Living Our Values’ where we say the Values of AHS come alive in ‘who we are being’ while at work.”

Brown tells the employee in the same email that he doesn’t see Landmark becoming a “requirement” throughout the AHS organization. But he said “there are areas like IT where committing to common ways of being, and to a common plan that aligns our people to our strategic initiatives can result in a High Performing IT organization. That is what I am committed to cause.”

Landmark’s Beroset said, “what we have here is something that happens with a lot of training programs that are out there in the world that I could name.

“Someone reads a book, they do a seminar, they do a program, and they say, ‘Hey, everybody in the department is going to buy this book and we are going to apply this to our corporate culture and see what kind of difference it makes.’”

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