Leadership Research Findings: Key Factors for Entry and Mid-Level Employee Development

Every year Catalyst Learning asks its customers, Talent Management and Learning  leaders at health systems across the US, to help us understand front-line employee development priorities.  This focus of this year’s survey was non-clinical employees at the  entry and mid-levels. Not surprisingly, during the Covid/Delta staffing vortex, there are big concerns about staffing and skill shortages in healthcare. 

Highlights of the survey are below.  To learn more about how Catalyst Learning is incorporating this information into development of the Next Generation of School at Work® and ECHO® experiences, contact us at info@catalystlearning.com.

Why do healthcare DLO leaders invest in entry or mid-skilled non-clinical associates?

Results for the request to select single, most important factor in determining “why you invest” were almost a dead heat between these two reasons:

  • Direct ROI, whether retention, promotion, or both
  • DE&I connections related to employees in entry-level roles.

An altruistic lens towards associate skill investment was not supported as a reason to invest in entry-level and mid-level employees. Concerns related to automation were also low on the scale. 

When quizzed about the types of roles of most interest, developing employees for clinical roles is the overwhelming choice; with Support and IT-related role development of relatively little interest.  Positions both in-demand and seen as attainable with certificate or associate-degree level of education included: Medical/Clinical Lab Technicians, Medical Assistants, CNAs, and Surgical Techs.  When mentioned, support roles most needed were billers, coders, and call center reps.

Given the immediate need for quality workers during the pandemic-induced labor shortage, a focus on RoI and skills is probably not surprising. Filling a talent pipeline for both high need roles and a broader array of jobs is mission critical for our customers right now.

Career Coaching at your health system?

If health systems are willing to get more committed to “growing from within” in this era of high turnover, we next wanted to learn if they have the internal capacity to make this happen.  Overall, the feedback from our panel of L&D Directors and VPs was that they do not have an employee whose full-time job it is to coach low skilled workers for new job roles. Coaching is more likely to be baked into other role descriptions and done informally.  One organization provides programming via the Career Center but doesn’t work 1×1 with employees.  Many of the leaders we received feedback from are School at Work® customers who have internal program facilitators who do 1×1 job coaching as a portion of their role.

This may change for some systems in the future though. When asked about the future state of career coaching to help lower skilled employees to assume more responsibility, 60% who do not currently have an FTE job coach remarked that they were likely to add one in the future. One respondent said that her system may even add an actual department dedicated to career pathway management. Some survey participants mentioned that a role/program like this would need to show ROI quickly to be considered, but given the need to fill in-demand roles, they are considering it.

Digital Literacy is now an essential skill for entry and mid-level non-clinical associates

It is not a secret that healthcare workplaces are more reliant on technology and that work at every rung of the employment ladder is becoming more digitized. Entry-level non-clinical roles now require the ability to interpret, create, and strategically use digital information. Environmental staff are using apps for communication and task management. Nutrition departments are receiving meal orders via iPads, and production supervisors look at predictive analytics to know how much food to order.

Regarding the level of importance of certain types of digital literacy that are needed by entry and mid-level non-clinical associates, here is how the responses stacked up when asked what was “very important”:

  • 92% – having skills to use computers and other technology tools for hospital-specific program
  • 77%  – having the ability to use digital information/communication technologies to find, evaluate, create, and communicate information
  • 54% having technology skills to use computers and other tech tools at work for widely used 3rd party programs like Word, Outlook, or Excel.

Given this focus on digital literacy, more DLO leaders at U.S. health systems are considering virtual instructor-led L&D learning options than in years past. While the pandemic has forced the growth of virtual delivery, the instructor-led in-person cohort is still the preferred delivery method for entry/mid-level skill development. Not surprisingly, many respondents cited that a hybrid learning model of multiple delivery modalities is preferred.