As with employee education itself, metrics aren’t worth doing just for their own sake — they have to be tied to something meaningful to have any impact on the way things work in an organization. Thus, any system of measurement has to consider how particular learning and development initiatives (or those of any other function) help the enterprise meet its narrowly defined goals. A generic approach to metrics can lead to irrelevancy or worse.
For Jacqueline Burandt, administrative director of staff development, human resources communications and volunteerism in the Learning Resources Department at the San Antonio, Texas-based University Health Systems (UHS), alignment between organizational objectives and what’s measured in learning is of the utmost importance. Metrics are tied to top-of-mind issues such as employee orientation, learning delivery and turnover.
When it comes to onboarding, Burandt measures head count to make sure each incoming employee goes through UHS’ orientation programs, which are held about once every three weeks.
“We always monitor the percentage of staff who are oriented,” she said. “We have a firm belief that orientation is key to a successful team. We have a 99 percent attendance rate for employee orientation since 2000. Basically, everyone is oriented.”
Additionally, UHS evaluates the proficiency of all new personnel.
“We have an initial assessment of competence for every employee within the first two weeks,” Burandt said. “Then, we have another one at 90 days and then another one annually. The thing about our industry that’s good is that a lot of this stuff is demonstrable — a lot of what we do is skill-based.”
Learning modalities are another key consideration for Burandt because of the nature of the staff. There are myriad employment arrangements within UHS’ workforce of 4,500, and they’re spread out in terms of location and time spent at the office.
“The biggest obstacle for us is being a 24×7 facility,” Burandt said. “We’re never closed, so we can’t have class during off-hours. Also, the logistics are a challenge. If we hold an instructor-led class, we have to figure out when the optimal time would be. We have really bizarre schedules — some people only work weekends, and others work 12-hour days. It’s very difficult to get a critical mass at one time. We’re also at nine different locations. If we put something on (at headquarters), they always ask if we’re going to bring that out to them. We are a Level 1 trauma center, so that makes things unpredictable. That can have a ripple effect throughout the institution if there’s a train wreck or something like that.”
Because of these factors, Burandt and her team have emphasized the need to shift to more virtual learning delivery, especially for mandated curricula from the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO).
“We’ve put those online, and that’s been a boon for everyone,” she said. “We’ve gone to a large amount of e-learning and blended learning. Of the total number of hours of learning recorded in 2006 at UHS, 35 percent was completed through e-learning. That was a 44 percent increase from last year.”
Finally, Burandt has worked to reduce churn among UHS’ population of nurses. The turnover rate for this employee group was 22 percent in 2001, but it was reduced to between 2 percent and 3 percent by 2006 thanks to learning and development initiatives such as the Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) program, which enabled custodial and food service staff to move toward careers in nursing via on-the-job experience and academic scholarships.
“We’ve worked on the nursing shortage,” Burandt explained. “Part of that has been through a pipeline in which we take our staff and move them up through the ranks — the philosophy of ‘growing your own.’ That’s been very successful in terms of retention, and we’ve been able to recruit a lot of people because they know we have a nursing scholarship.”
To demonstrate efficacy in employee education, Burandt runs these and other measurements by organizational leaders in both an annual report and a quarterly dashboard presentation. As a result, learning has earned a seat at the table at UHS.
“I think they really see this department as a resource and a partner,” she said. “They do not hesitate to call on us to come in and talk to them about what can be done. Lots of times, it’s not just a training issue. We’re equipped to talk about overall performance improvement.”
— Brian Summerfield, firstname.lastname@example.org
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