“There’s a lot of competition in this region for entry-level employees, so we started to look at how to better retain talent at EAMC,” said Karen Gresham, RN, director of education services. “Our frontline employees wanted opportunities for development and promotions, and we realized we had a gap in what we offered at the entry level.”
In 2005, EAMC began offering Catalyst Learning’s School at Work (SAW), a career development program for entry-level healthcare associates, to frontline employees to help them advance within the organization through clinical or administrative positions. Today, more than 130 employees have graduated from the program and more than half of those employees have been promoted. Ten percent of SAW students have gone on to earn a college degree.
In the beginning, Gresham admits, some managers were hesitant to recommend employees for SAW because they didn’t want to see talented employees leave their departments. That way of thinking, however, has shifted as managers experience firsthand the positive effect SAW has on employees as they develop skills in areas like medical terminology, soft skills and math.
“Employees are more confident, more engaged and they are speaking up,” said Gresham. “They are making a difference in their departments.”
The focus is now on EAMC’s mission for high quality, compassionate care, and the opportunity for SAW participants to grow into roles where they are providing better care for patients. Many SAW participants move into positions where they are interacting with patients and families, and they are expected to be good examples for compassionate customer service.
SAW graduates also have personal development plans with clear goals for what they want to accomplish. Managers recognize SAW graduates for more than just their job title. They are career-oriented employees who have computer skills, as well as important soft skills such as the ability to handle conflict and difficult situations.
EAMC has taken its commitment to entry-level employees a step further with a strong focus on “what’s next?” for SAW graduates. Will the employee go to school on a scholarship or with tuition reimbursement? How will the employee grow in his or her current role? Additionally, all SAW graduates go through EAMC’s internal financial university to learn how to manage their personal finances.
Building on their success, leadership development programs expand to frontline nurses
These high standards are the result of carrying out EAMC’s mission to deliver the best possible care, but much like EAMC’s experience with entry-level employees, the organization’s robust leadership development program wasn’t reaching frontline nurses or addressing the development needs of nurse managers and charge nurses.
Given their success with SAW, EAMC again turned to Catalyst Learning for a solution. Catalyst had recently launched NCharge, an evidence-based curriculum that gives first level supervisory nurses the skills they need to more effectively lead. The program was in line with EAMC’s leadership development and succession planning goals. NCharge is now a part of EAMC’s official succession plan.
“I just loved the program [NCharge] right away. It spoke to me as a nurse,” said Rosemary Cummings, director of medical surgical services. “When I started as a labor and delivery nurse, I was put in charge after being on the floor for three months or so. If I’d had some of this info, I could have done more with that position. So, I understood what we were lacking, not having anything for those supervisors.”
Recognizing the importance of having experience in a nurse leadership role, EAMC decided to have nurse managers like Cummings deliver the NCharge content. Each nurse manager is paired with an educator who can help deliver the curriculum. The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.
As with SAW, the success of NCharge is dependent on buy-in from managers and their willingness to allow frontline staff time away from their regular duties to complete the program. Once managers learned the objectives and how a leadership program developed specifically for nurses could make a difference, they were on board. This year, EAMC will also offer NCharge to managers to give them a firsthand understanding of what NCharge participants are learning.
EAMC is focused on results and a return on their investment. Two groups of 20 nurses have gone through the program and checkpoints are now in place to see if the nurses are using the skills they are learning.
Managers are seeing improved engagement and confidence among nurses and a positive change in communication with physicians and other employees. One participant shared with Cummings that she uses different parts of NCharge every day, for example finance and value-based purchasing skills that are typically learned on the job. Two nurses who have completed the program have been promoted to managers.
EAMC’s long-term goal for its nurse leadership development program is sustainability. Cummings and other instructors are planning lunch-and-learns with the two groups who have gone through NCharge to discuss how they are leveraging their new skills and which tools are most effective. The lunches will also be an opportunity for participants who formed a bond completing the program together to reconnect.
“We are not part of a big organization, but we offer quality healthcare here. We take a lot of pride in how we do things from a quality and cost perspective,” said Cummings. “It helps our frontline supervisors to see we’re investing in them. Development at this organization is an important piece of who we are. I think that’s why people stay.”
With inpatient, outpatient, home health and palliative care services, Mercy Health Youngstown is the largest employer in the Mahoning Valley region of Ohio. Investments in employee development, therefore, have a positive impact on both the health system and on the community at large, making this a top priority for senior leadership.
Mercy Health Youngstown has expanded access to skills and leadership training for entry-level workers with education programs, college tuition reimbursement and opportunities for career advancement. Entry-level employees with leadership potential, for example, are encouraged to enroll in School At Work (SAW), a training and career development program created by Catalyst Learning Company.
SAW participants complete a series of modules led by a Learning Coach in the Culture and Learning Department at Mercy Health Youngstown. The Principles of Patient Satisfaction and Safety module has proved to be especially valuable.
“We found the Patient Satisfaction course very useful because entry-level employees didn’t realize how the little things they do affect patients and patient satisfaction. Sometimes patients arrive at the hospital frustrated and hard to please, so this particular course made a big difference,” said Learning Coach Georgette Peters. “This course also showed entry-level employees the importance of their work and its impact on HCAHPS reimbursements.”
To demonstrate program value and return on investment, Mercy Health measures impact and tracks aggregate success among SAW participants. Of the 35 students who graduated from SAW last year (20 from Mercy Health Youngstown and 15 from Mercy Health Cincinnati), nine are now enrolled in higher education and pursuing further training to move up within the organization.
SAW graduate Janet Johnson found similar success. She started in an entry-level position at a Mercy affiliate hospital in 2009. With a grant from the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation, she trained to be an entry-level healthcare associate. This resulted in a promotion to Environmental Services, where managers recognized her leadership potential and recommended Janet for SAW. She completed SAW and is now enrolled at Penn State, pursuing a career as an occupational medicine assistant at Mercy Health Youngstown.
Mercy Health is proud to see employees like Janet advance.
“When speaking with our employees who complete the SAW program, I always thank them for bringing me along on their journey. I hope to assist in lighting the flame, and I hope the students keep it burning,” said Peters.
Mercy Health Youngstown plans to continue offering SAW courses and hopes to expand the curriculum to smaller regional partner facilities. Additionally, senior leaders hope that by offering upfront college tuition reimbursement, they can help employees overcome barriers to advancing their education, particularly those who earn the lowest wages.
The health system aims to enroll up to 45 percent of their employees in skills training programs and help more employees pursue advanced educational opportunities. As employees succeed and move up within the organization, senior leaders are seeing morale and retention rates improve, resulting in better patient care. Mercy Health Youngstown believes that employees are their most valuable resource, and by investing in them they hope to make lives better and the community stronger.
When a unit is under the direction of a charge nurse, service recovery is an important part of their role. Whether they are coaching other RNs or answering directly to the patient or family, charge nurses can directly impact the patient experience.
The charge nurse's ability to communicate and lead can have a significant impact on management, patients and staff. With strong clinical skills they raise the bar on patient care, but charge nurses aren't always comfortable with the leadership side of their role.
A focus on charge nurse development can improve employee engagement and patient care. Healthcare organizations that empower charge nurses to lead will achieve better results.
Research has shown that frontline leaders like charge nurses play an important role in keeping team members engaged. They also serve as the first line of defense when there is an upset patient or visitor. These skills can be learned and strengthened through dedicated training.
First, help charge nurses assess their leadership skills by exploring questions such as:
Key Skills that Benefit Patients and Staff
With greater self-awareness, charge nurses will have a better understanding of the key skills they can put to use right away to benefit patients and staff. Training outcomes for charge nurses should include the ability to:
Waves of learning credentials
One of the most disrupted industries is education, with more 3rd parties offering courses, credentials and certifications than ever before. So many young workforce entrants will avoid costly traditional secondary education/college and pursue low cost online courses to get skills. Groups like LinkedIn Learning, Coursera, edX, Udemy, Udacity, and The Khan Academy are leading the charge. Self-directed learning is driving the need for new credentialing.
Focus on upskilling and retraining current workers
There is political discussion around bringing manufacturing jobs back to America, while the media continues to publish alarmist articles on how technology advancements will eliminate jobs. But this may be smoke in mirrors; the biggest issue is finding ways to grow the U.S. worker skills gap! There are currently 6.2M job openings in the U.S. that are unfilled. Companies can’t find the right workers with the right skills, at the right time. Employers will be investing more into their training and development programs in 2018 to fill their skills gaps and reach full capacity.
Artificial Intelligence (Chatbots) become part of the workplace – but for hospitals too?
This has big HR buzz right now, with both excitement and fear. The large digital companies are concentrating on smarter products using AI. There are over 1,000 AI vendors, supporting all types of businesses and people. Companies are using Chatbots as personal assistants, on-demand customer support, data mining, streamlining processes, recovering information, and answering employee questions.
Healthcare is so hands-on and people-centric that you may think Chatbots won’t make a divot in the workforce. But the top roles it replaces are: Information clerks/help desk staff, phone receptionists, assistants, security guards, and cooks/food. Because these roles are often a first step into a healthcare career, it could throw off traditional career pipelines for large hospitals.
EAP programs get prioritized – financial acuity, plus mental health and wellness
With 78% of Americans living paycheck to paycheck and high student loan debts, workers are struggling and it affects their health. Financial struggles affect productivity and job satisfaction. Many companies are helping with loan assistance, financial planning, counseling and mental health. In 2018, mental health issues are slowly carrying less of a stigma in the workplace.
Talent professionals can’t always just give $400 to every employee to spend on health activities, but they can encourage a company culture where health and wellness are promoted day to day. Put up a walking track around the hospital, encourage a charity walk, arrange games and activities, encourage onsite flu shots, or bring in a nutritionist to speak in the break room.
Employee burnout causes turnover
Employees are burning out from working longer hours with no additional compensation, because technology has expanded the work day. A study by Kronos cites that half of HR leaders say employee burnout is responsible for 50%+ of their annual workforce turnover.
Workforce decisions sway consumer behavior
Big data and research is showing a connection between a positive employee/candidate experience and actual revenue. A major study shows that 58% of employees are less likely to buy from a company to which they’ve applied if they don’t get a response to their application. HR will focus more on candidate communications when not hired, shorten hiring process, provide more clear application instructions, and giving notice when positions are filled or no longer considered. Most hospital entry-level employees live in the neighborhoods where they apply for positions, these are future patients. So treat them well when they interact with your health brand.
Companies take diversity more seriously
This subject has been in the conversation for years, but it is reaching a tipping point where companies are investing money in improving the composition of their workforce. Many companies are creating employee resource groups to support all types of diversity, including gender, ethnicity and age. Hospitals will aim to get their staff to mirror populations of their community. Building diversity at the top of the leadership apex may take grooming employees while at lower levels.
3 in 4 Americans plan to work past retirement age. As Baby boomers maintain their leadership positions, it will be harder for younger workers to advance to new positions, which could lead to high turnover, frustration and stress. Older workers may need tech training to keep skills current, so have a plan for your facility so you can hold on to long tenured employees.
An aging workforce is especially applicable to nursing staff. According to a Fall 2017 study by AMN Healthcare, 54% of bedside nurses are at least thinking about retiring or switching to part-time employment in the next 3 years. Prepare your younger nurses to lead, and encourage them to apply for leadership positions. NCharge: “Nurses Learning to Lead” is a nurse leadership development product that may be a good fit to prepare young nurses to lead.
Leaders encourage more human interaction, soft-skill development
Living in a Tech world has led to a breakdown in basic communication skills. Employers will begin to re-emphasize soft skills like emotional intelligence, collaboration, and negotiation. Ensure that soft skills are on the agenda for employee development.
More Applicant Assessments
HR will give more assessments to a potential new hire before hiring candidates, or transitioning associates to new roles. Employers can test for technical skills or culture fit. Use it sparingly though, applicants hate long rambling, transparent assessments. Only ask questions that have direct relevance to what you want to know.
“Diversifying perks” may sound like Millennial code for “silly work place nonsense.” Obviously hospitals are not going to start looking like Silicon Valley work spaces any time soon, but don’t fear benefits and perks that seem weird, or offbeat. Employees aren’t looking for NERF guns or bean bag chairs, its more what they represent. Don’t shut down perk ideas just because they seem odd. Reclining chairs, music, and an Espresso machine in the break room may be the sweet spot, and will show your employees that you want them to be comfortable at work, and socialize at appropriate times.
Leveraging Training as an Employee Benefit
Training is becoming a differentiator when companies compete for talent. Personal and professional development is an important focus area for modern employees when seeking employment, as well as when deciding to stay with their current employer. Provide accessible training to refine and grow employee skills. Developed employees are more motivated and successful in their roles. Training should be leveraged as an employee incentive and added to existing benefits packages, alongside retirement and health options. Predictions are for a 2-5% global training spend increase in 2018.
What are the fastest growing roles in the U.S. in 2018?
Heads up! 10 out of the 30 are in healthcare, and 6 of the 10 are entry-level or mid-level frontline employees. With the economy at Full-Employment levels and an aging American workforce, HR will be developing plans to fill and hang onto their employees, especially in these 6 positions. Occupational Therapist Assistants/Aides, Physical Therapists Assistants/Aides, Pharmacy Techs, Medical Assistants, Skin Care Specialists, and Personal Aides/Home Health Aides.
"10 Workplace Trends You'll See in 2018", Forbes Nov 1 2017, Dan Schawbel
2018 HR Trends - Candidate Experience - What You Need to Know, Rezoomo in Human Resources Today, Nov 2 2017
"5 Major Talent Trends for 2018", Capterra Talent Management, Nov 7 2017, Halden Ingwersen
5 workplace trends you'll see in 2018"... Workforce Institute
Top 5 Workplace Trends for 2018, Laura Handrick, Nov 6 2017, Fit Small Business
Trends 2018: Speed is the heart of the learner experience" Doug Harward and Ken Taylor, Nov 2017, Training Industry
Top 30 fastest-growing jobs, 2018, Boston.com, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Forbes
Society for Human Resource Management - HR Magazine: "How to Accommodate Employees with Mental Illness"
University Health System’s (UHS) focus on its front line employees is delivering outstanding outcomes that it’s Talent Development strategy has been designed to deliver. With an 81% student/employee job advancement rate for a group of its frontline employees, UHS has created an environment that is supportive of employee growth and organizational success. Appropriately termed their “Talent Garden”, UHS has created an environment where everyone can thrive.
The Talent Garden’s recently graduated its first ECHO skill development cohort for mid-level associates who are now well on their way to achieving big career dreams and goals. And, while turnover costs make retention an obvious organizational priority, UHS’ efforts are still at the cutting edge of frontline engagement trends.
Studies show that highly engaged employees report that they experience ALL of these and more:
· an opportunity to learn and grow,
· are encouraged to seek development,
· have a manager that cares about them
· they view their job as important
· and someone talks about their progress
The Executive Director of the Center for Learning Excellence, Jacque Burandt, provided all of these when she chose to offer the ECHO program. “We have lots of programs, not just for directors and managers, but also for the front line,” says Jacque. “We are always working on two paths, better skill development in whatever your job is, then secondly, where do you want to go in the big vision of the health system.”
According to Jacque Burandt, Executive Director of UHS’s Center for Learning Excellence, “the ECHO program supports their philosophy of promoting from within. ECHO offers a unique opportunity for the organization to fill a gap that often prevents non clinical employees from having the tools and educational foundation necessary to successfully transition to more advanced roles within the system, should they so choose.” ECHO’s delivery format is designed for the adult learner, incorporating multiple learning modalities while at the same time providing a foundation for increased confidence, academic discipline, and formal career planning.
The quotes below show some of the successes thus far and just how well participants used and appreciated the opportunity:
"I hope that UHS can continue with programs like this one, to show their employees this company cares about continuing education." - Irma Beltran, ECHO graduate.
"I currently work in the Patient Business Services Department. The ECHO program has inspired me to go back to school. I plan to go to St. Phillips for nursing. I appreciate all you do for us."
"The ECHO Program...was an opportunity I could not pass up. It has helped me in getting motivated to go back to school. I am enrolled with Concordia University and pursuing my Bachelors in Healthcare Administration."
"I am attending Southern Careers Institute and am working towards receiving my Medical Coding Certification. The ECHO program gave me the opportunity to see that I am not too old to go back to school and pursue my dreams."
Looks like UHS certainly has some future leaders on their hands! Fifteen total employees were chosen to participate in ECHO, 12 of those completed the program - an 80% completion rate. ECHO was facilitated by a former School at Work program graduate, Laura Hernandez. She found her passion for helping others through that experience and has since earned a Bachelors in Healthcare Administration which she puts to good use at UHS.
Certainly outcomes are very important and the Talent Garden continues to track them for this first class. Be on the lookout for the continuation of this story as results come in!