Quality Work Environment Program

Quality Work Environment Program

The Quality Work Environment (QWE) program is an initiative of the U.S. AbilityOne Commission® that has a mission-driven focus on skill development and upward mobility for employees who are blind.

Continuous Improvement

Recognizing that dynamic work environments require a flexible and continuous approach for improvement, the U.S. AbilityOne Commission developed the QWE program to help agencies engage their employees in creating dynamic workplaces. During the QWE Rollout at an agency, a point of contact (POC) from NIB serves as a guide, making sure processes are clear and well understood. Subsequent QWE iterations are led by an agency employee, with the NIB POC available to provide support as needed.

QWE Program Phases

Each iteration of the program lasts 9-12 months and has four phases. When an action plan is completed during the fourth phase, a new iteration of the program begins. The four phases and tasks include:

  • Phase 1: Overview
    • Learn program processes, roles, and benefits
    • Select an agency POC to work with NIB POC
    • Choose dates for phase 2
    • Invite and approve employees to serve as members of the assessment team
  • Phase 2: Assessment
    • Analyze current practices as represented in following four tenants:
      • Enhancing the Workplace through Productivity, Assistive Technology, Culture
      • Creating Opportunities for Work of Choice
      • Providing Supports and Flexibilities in the Work Environment
      • Collaborating and Linking with Community Resources
    • Capture areas for improvement as potential action items
  • Phase 3: Action Plan
    • Review and approve action items to develop a Strategic Action Plan
    • Invite and approve employees to serve as members of the employee practice implementation committee (EPIC) team
  • Phase 4: Implementation
    • EPIC team tracks and provides monthly reports on action item status through meeting minutes
    • Minutes are distributed to management and POCs
    • Outcomes are communicated throughout the agency

Employee-led Teams Offer Immediate Benefits

Many agencies have questions about how the program will help their organization improve. While positive impacts from other agencies provide insight, the full benefits of the program take time to develop. When the processes and roles in the second and fourth phases are explained, it becomes clear how employees are empowered to develop new skills during the program iteration, which is exactly the intent of the program.

Employees from MidWest Enterprises for the Blind
The QWE team from MidWest Enterprises for the Blind in Kalamazoo, Michigan

Retention and Communications

QWE assessments and action plans are meant for internal use by the agency and are retained. During subsequent QWE iterations, the previous assessment and action plan are incorporated in the phase 2 analysis. When an action item is implemented, improvements should be reported throughout the agency and to the NIB POC. A successful implementation plan may become a best practice that other agencies utilize in developing their own action plans.

QWE Shared Practices

As the result of the QWE initiative, much has been done to improve working conditions at NIB associated agencies in ways large and small. NIB associated agencies participating in the QWE initiative share ideas and improvements implemented to inform and inspire the work of other teams. Click the link below to read about some the practices implemented as a result of the QWE initiative.

NIB Associated Agency QWE Shared Practices

Status and Implementation Goals

QWE Rollout began in June 2010. By December 2014, 38 agencies had implemented the program. To date, 93% of NIB agencies are participating in the QWE initiative, with a goal of having 100%of NIB agencies participating in the program.

Participation Awards

Each fall, QWE participation is recognized at the NIB/NAEPB Annual Training Conference and Expo, based on phase and iteration. Agencies are eligible to receive one of four awards:

  • Bronze – completion of first Self-Assessment and implementation of Action Plan
  • Silver – completion of first Action Plan
  • Gold – completion of subsequent Self-Assessment and implementation of Action Plan
  • Outstanding Achievement – distinguished recognition of an organization that has improved in every tenant of the Self-Assessment and has a developed a current practice that influences a standard in the program’s Self-Assessment.

QWE Outstanding Achievement Award Recipients