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6 Trends That Will Affect Your Entry-Level, Non-Clinical Healthcare Workforce

1 – Workforce Logistic Changes and Staffing Preparations Due to COVID-19

Training entry-level staff to stay safe in the hospital is a big trend this summer. As furloughed entry-level workers go back to work, they will need to know the safest way to work when every surface is a potential hiding place for COVID-19. Training for sanitation and environmental entry-level roles may change as viral surface cleaning methods are even more stringent. Employee screenings for sick or exposed staff are happening, usually virtually, in order to screen associates for health implications before shifts.

Furloughs and staff layoffs obviously are already happening in many U.S. hospitals with non-emergency elective procedures at a standstill. Atrius Health in Massachusetts for example is temporarily closing many offices and placing many non-clinical employees on furlough.  No one knows what will happen this Summer or Fall, but history shows that a non-vaccinated virus can have secondary spikes, more probable in cooler weather. Organizations are relocating staff from a variety of other care sites like outpatient procedural areas, ambulatory care sites, and low volume clinics to address staffing needs in ICU’s and higher priority locations.

2 – New Digital Interaction Jobs

With changes in technology, and younger consumers preferring digital interaction, hospitals will be challenged to prepare Frontline workers with jobs that don’t even exist yet – think Administrative or Medical Records roles that involve Social Media outreach and interaction. Digital interaction will also change Medical Assistant and Technician roles as they deal with Teledoc customers and keeping health records organized. These changes are expected as care moves away from few large hospitals to quick-care and community-based health centers.

As hospitals become more invested in social media and engaging patients online, entry-level workers will need to be trained on how to provide positive customer experiences in a virtual setting. If your system hasn’t started a social media strategy yet, this will probably soon change. Patients will begin to shop for healthcare the way they shop for cars or electrician services—by searching the Internet, looking for quality metrics and patient reviews, and comparing prices.

Chatbots are another digital trend, and they might replace some administrative type roles. But that doesn’t mean Frontline workers in these positions will necessarily be replaced. Rather, their role will change to meet the new demands of other types of technology – analyzing data from wearables, teaching patients how to use wearables at home, and moderating Telehealth forums to interject and provide patient care when the Chatbot is unable to resolve a question or issue.

3 – Retail Mindset in Healthcare, and Workforce

A direct impact of patient centered care and “retail” inspiration may require additional interpersonal skill training. These are the soft skills of personal interactions, and ultimately drive health system brand loyalty. Quick care health locations in retail centers are popping up, including shopping malls and Walgreens, and existing hospitals are taking inspiration from the retail environment to improve the customer experience – for example, Frontline staff walking the floor and using iPads for check-in instead of the traditional desk.

A retail mindset will create shifting expectations of how Frontline staff interact with patients; to do this, hospitals will use retail best practices to train employees. While broadening the skill set of eligible employees can be a good thing for hospitals, it’s also likely to increase turnover – an unfortunate result of this soft skill “retail” training is more employees could move back and forth between the health and retail industries as skills become more transferable.

4 – Virtual Training for Employees – More Important than Ever Amid COVID-19

Virtual employee training affects nearly every job category, even entry-level staff. As we move forward through (and past) the COVID-19 pandemic, virtual training for employee safety will be more important than ever. As healthcare moves to smaller locations with quick care being a core theme, virtual training and self-taught modules will continue to be a key upskilling format. Aside from merely showing employees best practices and social skills, digital/virtual training programs will be challenged to come up with authentic ways to evaluate these skills – perhaps through virtual group meetings, virtual role play, or  interactions in virtual reality.

5 – Automation Could Threaten Some Entry-Level Jobs in Healthcare

While frontline roles often require direct patient interaction, some are still subject to being replaced by automation, including cooks and information clerks. Twenty percent of companies have already deployed chatbots in the workplace and 57% are anticipated to do so by 2021. This technology could disrupt traditional hospital customer service jobs. Companies are using chatbots as personal assistants, for on-demand customer support, to mine data, streamline business processes, recover product information and to answer employee questions.

Interrupting entry-level employment situations at hospitals could interfere with traditional career pipelines to manager roles, so have development and succession plans ready, even at this level, in preparation for a more automated work environment.

6 – Upskilling and Alternative Job Perks – (They Could be One and the Same)

Higher pay will always have appeal, but some hospitals are getting creative with alternative perks as a way to reduce turnover. For example, employee assistance with loans, free meals, time off, and affordable onsite childcare options can resonate. As an example of alternative perks, Advocate Healthcare (IL) offers its Advancing Careers Through Education program which provides 100-percent tuition reimbursement for programs in high-demand specialties, such as nursing, respiratory care, or health information technology. Another example hospital, Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago provides concierge services for daily errands. Plus, employees with children on the college hunt can use Lurie Children’s college coaching program, in which a counselor helps families with the school selection, application and financial processes. And Lurie Children’s even offers up to $5,000 for adoption assistance and tuition reimbursement.

Upskilling will be increasingly important as technology/automation replace some jobs at hospitals. To prepare for this, healthcare facilities can take inspiration from AT&T, who reached out to employees in roles that were soon to be obsolete, and advised them to start taking action to learn new skills before roles were eventually eliminated. AT&T offered 100,000 employees in such positions corporate assistance and training to re-direct their employment to more relevant and long term roles.

 

It goes without saying that our world is changing in the face of COVID-19. As US Health Systems are tackling these many new challenges, they must continue keep those who are toughing it out on the frontlines engaged. To read about 9 techniques that US health systems are already using to engage entry level associates, check out our article “9 Ways Hospitals can Support Frontline Healthcare Workers, and Create a Winning Culture!”

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BONUS – All About Nursing with Dr. Joyce Batcheller

Dr. Joyce Batcheller is an Executive Nurse Advisor with The Center for the Advancement of Healthcare Professionals for AMN Healthcare and is responsible for the development and delivery of two Chief Nursing Officer Academies: CNO Academy I, which was developed for new and aspiring CNOs and CNO Academy II, which was developed for experienced CNOs. Having served as a Chief Nursing Officer for more than 19 years in one of the largest healthcare providers in Central Texas, she has extensive experience in leading large system changes within a complex multi-hospital organization.

Dr. Batcheller’s podcast, “All About Nursing” explains how nurses play a significant role in providing healthcare in multiple care settings. You will be able to hear from some of these key nurses who work in practice, academia and other practice settings. You will hear about challenges nurses are engaged in as healthcare continues to experience an unprecedented need to decrease costs and improve outcomes. Recently, Dr. Batcheller interviewed Robyn Begley CEO of AONL and Kim Glassman who is leading work in NYC related to COVID-19. Listen to the podcast here.

 

Sources

  • “COVID-19 Hits Some Health Care Workers With Pay Cuts and Layoffs,” NPR, Martha Bebinger, April 2, 2020
  • Healthcare Employment Data 2016-2026, U.S. Bureau of Labor
  • “Seven Learning and Development Trends to Adopt in 2019,” Forbes September 24, 2018, Cameron Bischop/Forbes Human Resources Council
  • “5 Best Hospitals to Work for in 2018,” Indeed.com and Beckers Hospital Review publication, August 31 2018, Alyssa Rege
  • “These are the Fastest Growing Healthcare Careers,” May 22 2018, Hospital Recruiting Magazine, Crystal Jones RN
  • “Employment Training for the Healthcare Industry,” Training Today
  • “Top 8 Healthcare Predictions for 2018,” Forbes November 13 2018, Reenita Das

Special Update

As the impact of COVID-19 on hospitals across the U.S. continues to escalate, the minds and hearts of the Catalyst Learning team are with you and your organization who are providing an invaluable service to your communities as the frontline of patient care.

Our office in Louisville, Kentucky has implemented social distancing protocols recommended by the CDC and the WHO. We are continuing to operate during our normal business hours for any questions you have or assistance you need. We are committed to supporting your teams in any way that we can.

We have asked ourselves “what can we do?” to be helpful in a situation that is beyond the bounds of anything we’ve ever experienced. We are providing a series of infographics and very simple discussion guides that you can use to share with individual team members, or in quick huddles here. Additionally, our existing SAW® and ECHO® customers will have access to applicable CLiMB microlearnings through their MyCatalystLearning online portal here.

Sincerely,
Lynn and the Catalyst Learning team

 

Subscribe to our newsletter for future updates on these tools.

Increasing Frontline Employee Engagement (With a Small Budget)

High employee engagement is critical for success in U.S. hospitals and clinics where customer service is crucial. Engagement is more than just a “feel good” public relations objective. It’s about encouraging and facilitating the staff who serve patients, families, and internal customers to be their best and most energetic selves.

High engagement is also crucial for retention and reduction of absenteeism, and during times of full employment this is more important than ever.  But what can be done to increase engagement, especially with tight budgets and pressures to do more with less?

The first thing is to make engagement a part of day-to-day culture:

  • Show employees you care instead of just saying it
  • Celebrate the good stuff that happens and challenges that are overcome
  • Recognize milestones, make positive recognition part of the work
  • Remind everyone on work teams that there’s a human side to our workplace experience
  • Encourage managers to be empathetic while getting work done

 

Build organizational practices which support, maintain, and grow engagement. Open your organization up for feedback from employees, especially entry-level associates who may feel like they don’t have a say in company matters. Consider creating an associate-led committee so there is always input on the pulse of the organization.  Also give employees feedback. By making feedback a natural and planned part of work life, organizations can give engagement a serious boost.

Another key tactic in increasing frontline employee engagement lies in associates’ relationship with their manager and how they are coached and encouraged.  Health systems are looking for associates who will perform, grow, and provide good customer service, and this happens when their managers are partners who enable. Old school top-down supervisory relationships are becoming a relic.  Huddles and training opportunities provide a forum for associates to interact and receive positive coaching. For more on this topic, see our related article “Frontline Employees: Coaching For Success.”

 

Leaders should also offer learning and development tools that support associate improvement and growth. This not only leads to more productive employees, but it also shows that the health system is interested in employees’ futures, boosting motivation. Be sure managers are communicating about internal training tools, learning & development, and apprenticeships. Communicate roles that are high priority needs of the system and any assistance that can be provided to help frontline employees with skills or accreditation needed to obtain those roles. Have a career path conversation with your entry-level associates before they are having that conversation with another employer.

 

Your frontline employees are the voice and spirit of your organization to patients and families.  To infuse employee engagement into the heart of an organization, even with a small budget, root these “blocking and tackling” techniques right into the regular operations of your organization. 

 

“7 Tips to Increase Employee Engagement Without Spending a Dime,” Society for Human Resources, Tamara Lytle, September 2016

“Top Five Budget-Friendly Employee Engagement Strategies,” Forbes, Char Newell, August 2018

“Employee Engagement Doesn’t Require a Huge Budget,” Cornerstone on Demand, Shayne Thomas, January 2020

“The 5 Most Successful Employee Engagement Strategies,” Onpoint Consulting, August 2019

“5 Steps Managers Should Be Taking After Employee Performance Reviews,” Susan Jeffery, June 2019

 

Are you familiar with CLiMB®? CLiMB supports the professional development for your entry and mid-level healthcare workers. CLiMB is an online library of focused microlearnings focused on actionable, scenario-based learning in basic professionalism, communication, using time wisely, and providing exceptional customer service. CLiMB teaches from real-world scenarios which frontline employees face in U.S. health systems. It includes tool to incorporate microlearning into onboarding, huddles and manager-employee coaching conversations. Contact Us to learn more.

2020 Training & Development Trends for Frontline Healthcare Associates

As we enter this exciting new decade, what are the “can’t miss” tactics that healthcare Learning and Development (L&D) Directors should not miss out on? One “trend” probably isn’t the takeaway here, the key insight is that training opportunities will occur seamlessly in the flow of work. Compartmentalized trainings, like reading a manual, are being phased out. On-the-job training with immediate application is the way the associate adult learning world is moving. With every associate now connected via devices, technology, and push notifications, employee training has followed suit. L&D initiatives drive more holistic and integrated training opportunities, with targeted micro-learning experiences leading the way.

What are the top training and development trends for frontline healthcare associates in 2020 and into this new decade?

The Definition of a Leader is Changing; Core Soft Skill Training is a Renewed Focus

The ‘Leadership’ definition is broadening in U.S. health systems, and the traditional org chart doesn’t capture what a leader is. Systems are considering individuals to be leaders based on impact, not just on authority. This makes sense for frontline healthcare workers, as these associates are the face of your organization to your patients. A leader for these roles is a top-performer in their specific role. As the definition of leader has changed, core skills are a renewed focus. There is now greater demand for development programs which teach communication skills, critical thinking, collaboration, and customer service, all of which aim to improve long-term employee value and productivity.

Movement from Boss to Coach Changes Learning Interactions

Top-Down management is pivoting toward Partnership-Coaching management. “Because I’m the boss” is becoming a relic. Today, effective managers realize that coaching is the way to motivate and engage their team. Managers want employees who will perform and grow, and this happens when managers are partners who enable. In the book The Heart of Coaching, by Thomas G. Crane, transformational coaching is discussed. This author discusses how manager-coaches should be clear in communication, challenge employees by looking for positive ways to stretch and develop skills, and build collaboration on the team. As managers make this transition to coaching, this will change the employee L&D experience. Manager/coaches will look for ways to tie any corporate training to every day applications, and build 1×1 “teachable moments” to reinforce L&D. Training and development won’t be top-down, just like management won’t be top-down. Training will be an opportunity for associates to interact and receive positive coaching instead of an HR driven mandate.
For more on this topic, see our related article, “Frontline Employees: Coaching For Success.”

Adaptive Learning via Analytics – It’s not just for Clinical Roles any more

Adaptive Learning is a way to enable personalized learning to scale. No student learns at the same rate. Adaptive learning works by assessing learner performance and activity in real time, then using analytics to personalize content to reinforce concepts that target each learner’s strengths and weaknesses. Most often this will result in knowledge retention, increased confidence, decreased frustration, and improved results. Adaptive learning is most used in industries that rely on manual labor and experience high levels of employee turnover such as the healthcare, retail, transportation, and hospitality fields.

In hospitals, adaptive learning technology is used to train staff in essential functions such as the on-boarding process, customer service standards, and role specific training. Adaptive learning can meet employees at their own level, regardless of unique backgrounds or geographically separated locations. Adaptive learning helps employees get up to speed quickly and acquire the skills needed to make immediate impacts in alignment with health system goals. At this time adaptive learning is typically only offered within clinical roles. The New England Journal of Medicine, for instance, creates adaptive learning courses for physicians to maintain certification and receive continuing medical education. But in this new decade, adaptive learning could help transform corporate recruitment and employee development on the front-lines. For example, instead of requiring Certified Nurse Assistants or Health Aides take a 120-hour training, systems could offer micro-accreditation to make training for these hard-to-fill roles more appealing to adult learners.

There is a Need to Train Associates for New Digital Interaction Jobs

With changes in technology, and younger consumers preferring digital interaction, hospitals will be challenged to prepare Frontline workers for jobs which don’t even exist yet – think Administrative or Medical Records roles that involve Social Media outreach and interaction. Digital interaction will also change Medical Assistants and Technician roles that deal with Teledoc customers, or keep health records organized, especially as care moves away from large hospitals to quick-care and community- based health centers. As hospitals become more invested in social media and engaging patients online, entry-level workers will need to be trained on how to provide positive customer experiences in a virtual setting. If your system hasn’t started a social media strategy yet, this will probably soon change, especially as patients begin to shop for healthcare the way they shop for cars or electrician services—by searching the Internet, looking for quality metrics and patient reviews, and comparing prices.

Another digital trend is Chatbots, and it might replace some administrative type roles. But that doesn’t mean Frontline workers in these positions will necessarily be replaced. It means they will have to be trained to meet the new demands of the technology. In the new decade, imagine associates learning to analyze data from patient wearables, associates teaching patients how to use wearables at home, and moderating Telehealth forums to interject and provide patient care when the chatbot is unable to resolve a question or issue. These are just a few examples of how digital interactions will drive future training and development needs for health systems in 2020 and into the decade.

Microlearning

Although microlearning certainly is not new, this trend in associate development will continue and get stronger in the coming decade. Microlearning breaks down new skills and concepts into small individual chunks to be consumed, one topic at a time. These learning modules can be completed while an employee continues in their professional role, allowing associates to incorporate new information into existing work routines almost immediately. Health systems often do not find it feasible, nor affordable, to pull staff cohorts from their day-to-day operations and send them to participate in a training program. Microlearning modules can be assimilated during mere minutes of an associates’ day by using mobile platforms and interactive technology to deliver learning in small bursts. Microlearning is especially well-suited to the information-gathering style of millennials, who are used to rapidly scanning and can have shorter attention spans. And gamification elements in microlearning can show associates how they stack up against peers and allow them to earn badges, which is also appealing to younger learners.

While microlearning is not new, the trend is a realization that traditional LMS microlearning is no longer enough to meet employees’ expectations. A one-size-fits-all, 20-minute course on “Leadership” for any role in the hospital no longer works. Content needs to be based on a specific employees’ role and portray situations and experiences which an employee could see on the next shift. For more information on this topic, see our related article, “Microlearning: What is it, and why should it be used?”

Are you familiar with CLiMB?

CLiMB is an online library of focused microlearnings that provide actionable training for frontline employees, on key concepts such as basic professionalism, communication, using time wisely, and providing exceptional customer service. Practice activities use real-world scenarios from healthcare-specific settings and focus on the entry-level job positions of the targeted learner. CLiMB also provides support tools for teachable coaching moments between managers and direct reports. Feel free to contact us HERE to learn more.

Sources

“Trends in Training and Development,” American Management Association
“Moving from Boss to Coach,” American Management Association, September 13, 2019
“Healthcare providers are teaming with chatbots to assist patients,” Modern Healthcare
“What Should We Expect For The Future of Corporate Training in 2020?” Edge Point Learning, Corey Bleich
“Digital Tools For the Future of Healthcare Providers,” Fingent: Shaping the Future, Tony Joseph, April 26, 2019

Increase Productivity and Retention of Entry-Level Employees

Businesses from many industries including retail, hospitality, and agriculture struggle with turnover and consistent productivity, most notably with frontline lower-paid associates. These industries understand the difficulties of keeping employee productivity at a high and turnover at a low. Actual costs to replace an entry-level worker in healthcare runs into thousands of dollars.

Can anything be done about it? Especially during times of full employment in many metro areas, what can hospitals do to slow down attrition of entry-level employees, while also increasing productivity?

Here are 6 actions to take to help avoid the turnover problems facing many industries today:

Training & Development

Low-wage employees who most need to increase job skills and build upward mobility are also the least likely to be offered formal training programs.

Training can help employees be more engaged, committed, and satisfied with their jobs and achieve bottom-line results for their employers. Providing training that is directly applicable to actual roles helps associates be more effective at work and achieve a better quality of life off the job.

There are numerous ways companies can support a culture of employee training and development: individual coaching, workshops, courses, seminars, shadowing or mentoring, or even just increasing employee responsibilities to show trust. Growing employee job skills will allow associates to improve their efficiency and productivity.

For more, read our related article, “4 Large Organizations That Are Hyper Focused On Entry-Level Employee Training.”

Measure ROI

What gets measured, gets managed. Be sure to track retention metrics and team productivity and track entry-level associates who move upward in your organization. If possible, report these metrics (and hopefully improvements) to senior leadership.

TriHealth, one of the largest healthcare providers in southern Ohio, produced one of the most thorough entry-level workforce ROI studies we have seen to date. This ROI plan measures employee training and development ROI. TriHealth tracked employee longevity, upward career movement trends, and recruitment savings over the course of 5-years. TriHealth saw a savings of almost a quarter million dollars when all metrics were considered. To read more about this study, click here: “Investing in the Future of the Healthcare Workforce: An Analysis of the Business Impact of Select Employee Development Programs at TriHealth.”

Help Employees Build a Personal Development Plan

In partnership with team managers, or possibly an internal mentor, encourage your low paid associates to plan for upward mobility. This includes showing them what opportunities are available in a large organization and how to navigate HR systems. Within this plan, have employees weave in development opportunities offered by the organization, or even outside the organization, with certification courses. This personal plan should improve skills for current roles, as well as help associates acquire new skills for future roles.

Get Higher-Quality Work by Improving Morale

At the end of the day, happy, engaged employees work harder and better. Those who dislike their jobs and feel disenfranchised may go through the motions, but burnout (then probably turnover) is inevitable. When open lines of communication and employee appreciation are baked into the employee experience, the result is higher quality work.

Mercy, headquartered in Chesterfield, Missouri takes entry-level employee morale very seriously. This organization even has an internal “Lowest Paid Co-Workers” committee which is led by the CEO. To open lines of communication with employees, Mercy shows each employee how their role contributes to organization success. Mercy also takes associate development, mentoring, and community partnerships very seriously, which also fosters morale.

Teach Managers/Supervisors How to Better Communicate

Most entry-level associates (or most all associates at any organization level) don’t leave organizations, they leave bad managers. Poor communication skills usually go hand-in-hand with bad managers. Teach your managers basic team communication techniques, like focusing on the future instead of rehashing past issues. This demonstrates a manager’s commitment to moving forward and helping find positive solutions. This doesn’t mean ignoring past team member failure is good either, but instead, teach a positive way to discuss it. For example, teach managers to start 1×1 or team performance discussions with what positive things are happening. Modeling positive, open communication sets a precedent for all team members from top down.  In early 2020 I hope we can get some articles going from ATM’s use of CLiMB.  This would be a perfect place to link to an article about improving manager coaching skills.

Workplace morale depends on employees respecting their leadership. If employees do respect their leaders, they will be more enthusiastic about their work. Supervisors need to act the way they expect their employees to act.

Increase Praise and Recognition

If an employee does something that merits praise and recognition, don’t let the opportunity to give praise pass by. Recognition can actually be an even better motivator than money. Be specific in praise given, and be sensitive to the individual. Some enjoy public praise while some prefer a private word. Get managers on board with organization efforts to give recognition.

 

BONUS: CLiMB® supports entry-level healthcare workforce development. The CLiMB online library of focused microlearnings provides actionable training customized to frontline healthcare employee settings. CLiMB focuses on key concepts such as basic professionalism, communication, using time wisely, and providing exceptional customer service. It allows associates to practice activities pulled from real world scenarios.   The CLiMB total support package also includes exercises to strengthen supervisor coaching skills  and a framework for employees to build personal development plans. To learn more about CLiMB, CLICK HERE and Catalyst Learning will follow up with you.

 

SOURCES:

“Improve the Efficiency of Your Employees: 10 Proven Tips for Small Businesses,” Hub Productivity and FreshBooks blog

“Increase Productivity and Retention of Entry-Level Employees,” Business Know How, April 22, 2018, Patricia Schaefer

“Top 10 Ways to Improve Employee Efficiency,” Your People Inc., Alexandra Hicks

“5 steps to creating career development plans that work,” Insperity Training & Performance

Mercy Health: Living the Mission through Education of Frontline Coworkers

Providing educational opportunities to frontline co-workers is deeply rooted in the mission of Mercy, headquartered in Chesterfield, Missouri, whether they work in rural areas or the ministry’s largest hospitals. Leaders of Mercy recognize that education allows co-workers to realize their abilities, advance financially, and improve their own sense of dignity. Sister Mary Roch Rocklage, RSM, health ministry liaison and a respected leader in the healthcare community, understands that education is inherent to improving the lives and capabilities of ministry co-workers.

“Education ties in to what we are about,” Sister Roch said. “It comes from a Latin word – educare – that means you draw out and lead forth additional knowledge from inside a person, and you teach them how to use that knowledge.”

The desire to include all co-workers when developing its Compensation for Lowest-Paid Co-workers initiatives prompted Mercy to expand Catalyst Learning’s School at Work (SAW) program from St. Louis and Springfield to across the organization. SAW helps frontline co-workers refresh essential skills, such as the basics of reading, writing, math and communication, and gain a better understanding of healthcare-specific subjects during their work hours. It also gives co-workers knowledge and tools to improve job performance and potential for upward mobility.

In addition to SAW, Mercy offers ECHO (Expanding Your Career and Healthcare Opportunities®), which uses a blended-learning model to enhance critical thinking and advanced communications skills. The program prepares students for a degree or certificate program while increasing engagement and motivation.

“SAW and ECHO are natural iterations of our core mission,” said Tanya Marion, regional vice president of human resources for Mercy. “We have co-workers who possess a great deal of talent. The programs allow us to help augment those positive qualities that are natural to them while extending their opportunities at work.”

The emphasis on skills and development programs for frontline co-workers is especially impressive given the range of communities served by Mercy. It is the sixth largest Catholic healthcare system in the U.S. and serves millions of people annually. Mercy includes 32 acute care hospitals, four heart hospitals, two children’s hospitals, three rehab hospitals and one orthopedic hospital, nearly 700 clinic and outpatient facilities, 40,000 co-workers and more than 2,100 Mercy Clinic physicians in Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma. Mercy also has outreach ministries in Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. Whether they work in rural areas or the ministry’s largest hospitals, the mission of Mercy is to serve.

“When you think about all the communities where we serve, we range from small towns in rural areas to multi-faceted organizations in larger communities,” Marion said. “Smaller hospitals and communities may not have the opportunities for additional learning because of the geography in which they live. We want to support our co-workers in smaller communities as much as those facilities and cities with larger groups of people.”

“It’s the whole idea of oneness,” said Sister Claudia Ward, RSM, a specialist in Mercy’s Talent Development and Optimization division. “Mercy is one body with many parts. We certainly want to share the wealth of what’s piloted and successful in one area across the ministry.”

While Mercy leaders like Marion and Sister Claudia recognize that programs like SAW and ECHO require an investment by healthcare organizations, reduced turnover and improved succession planning mitigate the financial investments associated with the programs.

“In healthcare, we’re all trying to do more with less,” Marion said. “Sometimes that results in the idea that there’s not enough time or resources to invest in training and education. But it’s because of those constraints that it’s even more important to invest in these programs. We have an opportunity to make a small investment for a huge return. Lower turnover and higher engagement are investments that pay off.”

“Who touches and impacts the patient? It’s our frontline co-workers,” Sister Claudia said. “Who has one of the largest impacts on patient experience? Again, it’s the frontline co-workers. When we invest in these co-workers, we enhance the learning and productivity of the organization.”

Site coaches provide guidance and feedback for program participants. Jan Dieke, clinical education specialist in Mercy’s Talent Development and Optimization division, is a coach for Mercy’s SAW program who sees her role as both educator and “cheerleader.”

“Catalyst Learning gave me the tools to be an effective SAW and ECHO coach,” Dieke said. “A major aspect of the program is providing opportunities and giving encouragement to participants. I call myself a cheerleader because we are there to encourage even the smallest achievements. We see their potential and provide positive feedback and constructive criticism.”

To help share the success gained from educational programs like SAW, Mercy has used a virtual classroom format that allows management or human resource professionals from one facility to support training and development classes at other facilities within the system.

“Technology must work for the virtual classrooms to succeed and that takes getting the right coworkers throughout Mercy working together to coordinate the conference rooms, laptops, webcams, participant guides and other tools for each remotely participating location, in order to facilitate continuity and cohesiveness among all participants,” Dieke said.

As a result of Mercy’s emphasis on training and education for its frontline co-workers, the success and achievements of program participants have benefited those co-workers personally and professionally while also enhancing patient services across the ministry. Education and talent specialists like Dieke and Sister Claudia agree that co-workers gain new confidence in their positions, have a newfound and positive outlook, and become open to other job opportunities within the ministry. Sister Claudia cited a recent survey of SAW graduates and found that 86 percent reported an increase in confidence, which she said can only be a positive boost to patient services as well.

“SAW incorporates patient and customer service modules,” Sister Claudia said. “That allows us to talk about service – to talk about Mercy’s values and the expectations of our patients and co-workers.”

“It’s an extension of our overall mission at Mercy,” Marion added. “We take care of those in our care and those who help provide that care. We are a very large employer in many of the communities in which we serve, and this gives us an opportunity to give career paths for many of our fellow co-workers.”

Sister Roch said, “There’s a joy and pride you have in the women and men who go through the program. It’s a journey for them and opportunity for them to advance. It’s also an investment where you hope there’s a return for them personally, and if they stay with the ministry you hope they can grow along their journey.”

That growth has been seen in ministry co-workers like Rachel Blankenship, now a charge nurse with further ambitions to advance her career. Eight years ago, Blankenship began her career at Mercy in the Environmental Services Department. The SAW program gave her not only professional skills, but also the confidence to move forward with a new career. While most SAW students have a high school diploma, Rachel did not; after SAW, she went on to acquire her GED and started pre-requisites for nursing school. Blankenship was accepted into nursing school after she completed her pre-requisites and became an RN in 2011.

Debra Gouse is a graduate of the first SAW class at Mercy St. Louis in 2004. After completing the program, Debra completed college and went on to get her master’s degree in business administration.

Debra is the first to get a college degree in her family. Vergie Cooper, an environmental services tech, has graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and is now planning to begin work on her master’s degree.

Alan Chapman, human resources manager at Mercy, cites Blankenship, Gouse and Cooper as several of the many success stories that have resulted from the SAW program.

“It’s the spark in the students – that’s where success starts,” Chapman said. “But you have to show them a path or make them aware of other opportunities. When they’re in class, they might be exposed to a job they weren’t aware of or we might set up a scenario for shadowing or learning more about a position. We want them to be self-directed and motivated but you have to help plant that seed and encourage it to grow.”

The growth of SAW graduates like Blankenship, Gouse and Cooper has helped Mercy HospitalSpringfield reduce turnover in traditionally high areas such as housekeeping, while also increasing the overall tenure of frontline co-workers. Marion said the program has increased levels of engagement and provided Mercy more opportunities to promote from within.

“We have the experience of working with these participants so they are a known quantity,” she said. “These are people who are doing great things, and we are moving them into other positions.”

Sister Roch summed the impact of Mercy’s longtime partnership with Catalyst Learning by how the educational programs have supported the ministry’s mission for 10 years.

“Catalyst Learning is investing in women and men who serve because of their great respect for them and their dignity,” she said. “We started our partnership with Catalyst Learning when there was a deep concern for how Mercy could invest money into bettering the lives of our co-workers. We only accomplish our mission by investing in our people.”

Additional successes achieved by Mercy’s SAW students:
• Ernest Blackburn: Advanced from environmental services tech 1 to supervisor of environmental services.
• Sakiba Delic: Transitioned from financial counselor to human resources recruiter.
• Silvia Miranda: Advanced from interpreter to lead interpreter.

Becoming an Advocate for your Frontline Workers

Becoming an Advocate for Your Frontline Workers

Since the 1990s, healthcare jobs have been steadily ticking up, while former powerhouse employers such as the manufacturing industry were trending down. An article in The Atlantic, “Health Care Just Became the U.S.’s Largest Employer,” highlighted this growth, noting that healthcare outpaced both manufacturing and retail industries in 2017.

It’s a position that the healthcare sector is projected to hold for the next decade. This anticipated growth is driven in part by an aging population that will require more health-related services, a topic that healthcare has been discussing for decades. Now, with data supporting this growth in healthcare industry jobs coming from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the Federal Reserve Economic Data (FRED) and other entities, the impact of an aging population driving the need for more healthcare workers is part of the general conversation, garnering coverage in main-stream media.

According to the BLS, healthcare jobs will grow more than any other industry from 2016 through 2026. The Atlantic article points to similar data from FRED, and further notes that the growth has been driven by non-clinical roles. And that’s not expected to change in the coming years. While you may have strategies in place to hire and retain nurses, doctors and other clinical professionals, do you have one in place for your frontline workers?

If not, you may find your organization isn’t able to be competitive in a jobs marketplace that’s wide open for hourly workers. In addition to competing with other healthcare organizations to fill positions, you’ll be competing with other industries such as retail or food service. Many businesses already have strategies in place to find and keep workers, offering higher wages, career paths, education assistance, and other benefits.

 

Finding and Keeping the “Right” Candidates

Across numerous service-related industries, the challenge is twofold: Getting employees to stay, and finding them in the first place. An article from the Society for Human Resource Management cites a PeopleMatter survey showing that finding enough high-quality job candidates is the #1 problem, but that the #2 industry workforce problem is turnover.

The article goes on to explain that when new people come onboard, the process “should do more than take care of paperwork; it should help new employees experience your unique culture, see how their work matters, know what’s expected of them, and help them picture a long-term career path with you.”

In fact, that approach is important well beyond the first few days or weeks of employment. Employees should consistently know that what they’re doing now is important and that if they aspire to grow within their organizations they are able to do so.

A long-term solution won’t be found in placing more recruitment ads or a new marketing campaign. It comes from a systemic approach that evaluates the entire frontline employee experience and creates a workforce development strategy that addresses the issues leading to high turnover and overall job dissatisfaction.

 

An Investment in Frontline Employees Is an Investment in Your Organization

Missouri-based Mercy, University Health System (Texas), U.C. Davis Health (California), and Yale New Haven Hospital (Connecticut) serve different types of communities and populations, but they have two things in common. They have all received national recognition for the healthcare services they provide and for making significant investments in the skills and careers of frontline workers, with each one recognized as 2017 CareerSTAT Frontline Health Care Worker Champions or Emerging Champions.

These organizations are clearly and strategically focused on their frontline employees and the reason is simple: Healthcare organizations that effectively become advocates for frontline workers are experiencing better outcomes for their employees. And this has a positive effect on organization and the patients they serve.

So what does an employee success story look like for a frontline employee? Elaine Thomas began her career in healthcare at East Alabama Medical Center (EAMC) in 1996 as a certified nurse assistant. After working in EAMC’s Skilled Nursing Facility for 10 years, and with encouragement from her manager, Elaine entered the SAW® program in 2006.

Soon after graduation, she accepted a promotion as an education department secretary. Elaine sustained her career ambition and desire to develop professionally. She became a basic life support instructor and took developmental leadership training classes offered by EAMC. In 2018, Elaine was again promoted, this time to education coordinator. Elaine regularly attends recruitment events and is a champion of EAMC’s development opportunities with the frontline staff.

Elaine’s success is based on three pillars: her desire to advance, the support of her manager, and the employee programs and training offered by her organization. Together, they made a solid foundation for her success, but take one away and her goal of career advancement might not have become a reality.

The not-so-hidden truth about effective frontline employee strategies is that they benefit both the employer and the employee, today and in the future. For organizations struggling to find “quality” hourly workers, the answer may not be in expanding recruitment efforts. Instead, hiring for organizational fit and providing basic skills training to help employees succeed in their current jobs can help a healthcare system fill those positions. Additional career training and support, along with other frontline worker strategies, allows employees the opportunity for career growth in the organization.

The end result is that frontline employees aren’t moving on, they’re moving up.

 

Sources:

“Health Care Just Became the U.S.’s Largest Employer.” January 9, 2018. Derek Thompson. The Atlantichttps://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2018/01/health-care-america-jobs/550079/

“Employment by major industry sector.” Bureau of Labor Statistics https://www.bls.gov/emp/tables/employment-by-major-industry-sector.htm

“Employers Struggle to Hire Hourly Workers as Turnover Rises.” July 31, 2015. Roy Maurer. Society for Human Resource Management

https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/talent-acquisition/pages/hire-hourly-workers-turnover-rises.aspx

“6 Scary Numbers for Your Organization’s C-Suite.” October 30, 2018. Ryan Pendell. Gallup

https://www.gallup.com/workplace/244100/scary-numbers-organization-suite.aspx

National Fund For Workforce Solutions, https://nationalfund.org/