Main Line Health in metro Philadelphia has been recognized by the ANCC and U.S. News & World Report as one of the top health care systems in the country. The organization aims to provide the highest quality and most compassionate healthcare possible to patients and their families. To accomplish this, Main Line Health has included strategies for advancing a group that touches patients frequently, but is often overlooked - frontline workers.
Frontline employees are the largest group at Main Line Health and are an incredibly diverse population. Main Line Health CEO Jack Lynch has been outspoken and intentional about achieving more diversity at the leadership apex of the health system. According to Lynch, the workforce has been diverse overall, but not in terms of job categories and pay.
“There’s a problem in healthcare with the approach we’ve taken in the past to have diverse leadership teams with everyone competing for a small pool of external candidates,” Lynch said. “If we're going to develop more diverse team leaders, we have to grow our own. Top to bottom, employees must see opportunity. We want all employees to know Main Line Health is interested in their growth.”
Lynch believes in investing in programs that promote diversity, foster collaboration, participation and respect in the organization, while reducing turnover costs. Under his direction, Main Line Health’s Human Resources and Diversity, Respect & Inclusion Strategy teams took a deliberate step in 2013 to develop leaders within the organization who mirror its patient population, as well as the demographics of Philadelphia. With many Baby Boomers retiring soon, leadership development was also crucial to building a base of engaged workers for the future.
Main Line Health partnered with Catalyst Learning to implement “School At Work” (SAW) and “Expanding Your Career and Healthcare Opportunities (ECHO)”, programs that aid in the career development goals of entry and mid-level healthcare employees. Main Line Health’s goal is to begin building a pipeline for a more inclusive leadership team.
Both SAW and ECHO sharpen key behavioral skills to optimize employee performance and put them on a path for career advancement in healthcare. Modules such as “Principles of Patient Satisfaction and Safety” help employees understand their link to and accountability for the success of the health care system.
Along with SAW and ECHO, Main Line Health instituted a Career Advisor program, giving frontline associates access to an advisor who assists them in pursuing new roles and exploring opportunities for up to one year. Main Line Health’s HR team has found this added layer of support helps employees overcome obstacles they may face when applying for other positions. Career Advisors, for example, help SAW and ECHO participants navigate internal HR systems and bring greater awareness to employee benefits such as tuition reimbursement.
Employee Advancement Programs have Positive Impact
Main Line Health’s Talent Management Team tracks employment patterns and measures the impact of employee advancement strategies like SAW, ECHO and Career Advisor. Associate Administrator Jameyshia Franklin says her goal for leadership training programs is for frontline employees to have better visibility of opportunities available in the health care system. She also values seeing employees gain confidence as they develop a better understanding of their strengths. With more self-assurance, Franklin says, employees are more willing to speak up about ways to improve processes and be part of solutions that benefit Main Line Health patients.
“These programs encourage participants to discover new interests, pursue growth and development opportunities, and be more open to new things,” said Franklin.
Employee satisfaction has also improved among SAW and ECHO participants. Chris Robinson, a recent SAW graduate who reports to Franklin, worked in Environmental Services but had a goal to move up within Main Line Health. Robinson wanted to be more involved with patients and their families. Robinson’s initiative led him into a position at the reception desk, where positive interactions with patients and families are vital. Robertson credits SAW for giving him confidence in a new role.
“I thought I wouldn’t be able to do it. It was a struggle, but it was worth it. SAW helped me think about what I really wanted to do,” said Robinson.
Robinson’s success was acknowledged with the Genuine Excellence Moment (GEM) award, which recognizes employees who exhibit the excellence, innovation, integrity and communication values of the organization.
Dominic Kayatta, Manager of Education and Development, has also seen the benefits of Main Line Health’s career development efforts for frontline workers. More employees, for example, are interviewing for jobs, job shadowing and making time for informational interviews. Frontline employees are being recognized more for going above and beyond with patients as well as their co-workers, and hospital volunteers are noticing a difference in morale and customer service.
“These programs keep participants from feeling stuck in one role,” said Kayatta. “I’m seeing engagement at a different level, and people have renewed hope in their careers—both in their present jobs and as they think about the future.”
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"
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.
“Service support is increasingly important. There is a tremendous need for high customer service skills: think hospitality-minded members. We are trying to work with workforce boards and schools to prepare for a better fit for health care for our future.” Amy Barry, SVP and CHRO, Lakeland Regional Health
With service support positions taking an increasingly important role in healthcare, employee engagement and retention is top of mind for HR leaders. Most organizations understand the importance of employee engagement as it relates to morale and turnover, but what let’s take a moment to define an engaged employee.
Employee engagement is the emotional commitment the employee has to the organization and its goals. This emotional commitment means engaged employees actually care about their work and their company. (Forbes, 2012)
The definition of an engaged employee has been confused in recent years. It’s up to administrators and managers to identify the characteristics of an engaged employee according to the organization’s mission and goals. Quite as important, leadership must effectively communicate these characteristics to all departments and units to ensure alignment.
Once you’ve defined the traits and behaviors of an engaged employee, you can develop a strategy to encourage those qualities. While rewards and incentives are important, strive to go beyond the norm and create a positive environment that is unique to your organization. There are a number of ways to build loyalty with frontline employees.
Frontline employees with high morale perform their best and have a desire to advance within the organization. When it comes to turnover, investing in talent yields much greater returns than dedicating valuable resources to a reactive approach.