On-Demand Webinar: New Tools for the New Talent Wars: Lessons from the Experts

two professional women talking in street walking

Turnover has HR on edge, especially with quits up and open positions setting new records every day. How do you meet your talent goals when competitors are all fighting for the same pool of hires? One group – healthcare – has experience every industry can learn from.

HR in that field has been fighting this battle for years – and their lessons are instructive for everyone. With a combination of training and internal hires, they’ve figured out how to cost-effectively grow their talent pipelines, distinguish their employer brands, and create benefits so sticky, they even hang on to employees who can snag a new job just by walking across the street. 

Watch the webinar New Tools for the New Talent Wars: Lessons from the Experts to hear the best talk you through the steps.

These employers cover their own success stories, and offer a practical how-to on:

  • Reducing vacancies for some of your hardest-to-fill positions
  • Incentivizing up-and-coming entry-level employees for frontline roles
  • Combining degrees and non-degree into education programs that speak to employees across your workforce

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Dr. Buban: Good afternoon, everyone, and welcome to our webinar this afternoon, "New Tools for the New Talent Wars: Lessons from the Experts." I am thrilled to be joined by three experts in the healthcare field. Obviously we've been hearing a lot about the talent wars in the healthcare field, attracting, retaining, upskilling, reskilling employees. I think it's the perfect topic of conversation, given the climate in our country, in terms of hiring and retraining, and very applicable to those both in the healthcare industry or outside of the healthcare industry. So welcome. Just a little bit about Bright Horizons, for those of you who don't know about. We offer a wide array of services. Many of you are probably most familiar with our childcare services. However, we really provide services for the longevity of the life of every learner. So whether it's childcare, back-up care, elder care, coaching for college, special needs, or our focus today, workforce education through EdAssist Solutions.

As I was mentioning, with Bright Horizons, really caring for employees' everything. So whether you are trying to earn your degree while taking care of your child and putting them through preschool, or helping your child apply for college, advancing your own skills or degree, we have a solution for all of that. I'm a little biased towards the workforce education, obviously, given my background. As I was introduced, I'm Dr. Jill Buban. I'm the GM and Vice President for EdAssist Solutions, our workforce education vertical that's focused on bringing together large companies and educational opportunities and sitting right at the middle there of that intersection. My background is in adult serving online, education institutions, as well as national organizations.

I'm thrilled to be a part of the team at Bright Horizons EdAssist Solutions, and work alongside some of our clients, as represented today on this panel. And also talk about really trends in workforce education, thinking about what the future of workforce education is, and finding the most both realistic and innovative opportunities for hundreds of thousands of learners that we serve every year. I'd love to introduce our panel, Kelly Oliphant, Michelle Sanchez-Bickley, and Jessie Nelson. I was just thinking about this beforehand, we're also represented across the country, so whatever time zone all of our participants are in, I think we have you covered today. But I'd like everyone to give a warm welcome to our panelists, and I'm gonna ask them to introduce themselves at this point.


Kelly: Hi. Thank you, Jill. Good afternoon, everyone. My name is Kelly Oliphant, as Jill mentioned, and I work for Memorial Hermann Health System. We are located in the Greater Houston area. We have about 29,000 employees. We have over 300 care delivery sites and are affiliated with approximately 6,500 physicians. So we are the largest employer in the Greater Houston area, and, really, are very tied to our community and serving our community as part of our mission of really creating healthier communities for now and generations to come. My role with Memorial Hermann is I lead our organizational development learning team, which is all of our learning, workforce development, and talent solutions. I also lead our equity, diversity, inclusion efforts, as well as our clinical education program, which really focuses on building and developing our clinical pipelines within our organization. So I'm excited to be here with you today, and I will turn it over to Michelle.


Michelle: Thanks, Kelly. My name's Michelle Sanchez-Bickley, and I am the Chief HR Officer for Renown Health. Renown Health is an integrated healthcare network and we are located in Northern Nevada. We are actually one of the largest employers in Northern Nevada, not as large as Kelly, but we have about 7,200 employees. And Renown is unique because we are the only not-for-profit healthcare in our community and area. We are the only level-two trauma center from as far as Salt Lake City, Utah, down to Sacramento, California. And we host three different hospitals. We have multiple urgent cares and primary care facilities. And we also have our own insurance company. So being a not-for-profit, it's exciting because we really do get to invest back into our community and the work that we do. For my role, I oversee all aspects of HR. And so it's been very exciting. I've been here for about 19 years with Renown. And it's been a wild ride, and I'm sure those of you on the call, we're all facing so many challenges within HR, and specifically healthcare as well. So with that, I'll turn over it to Jessie. Thank you.


Jessie: Thank you, Michelle. Hi everyone. I am Jessie Nelson. I am the Senior Director of Benefits and our HR Operations teams here at Orlando Health. Orlando Health was founded over 100 years ago and serves healthcare needs across Central Florida. We are recognized nationally for our pediatric and adult level-one trauma programs and have over 23,000 team members, so not quite as large as Kelly's group. And we have 10 hospitals across Central Florida. Last year, we served 150,000 inpatients and 3.1 million outpatient visitors. Similar to Michelle, we're also a not-for-profit organization. And last year, we invested $760 million in charitable care back to the communities in Central Florida. Back to you, Jill.


Dr. Buban: Thank you, all, so much. I feel like I'm just traveling in different conferences, there's people that refer to different panels as the rock star group. And I feel like I am with the rock star women of healthcare today. So this is gonna be a real treat, not only for me to moderate, but certainly for our guests. Just to kind of set the stage a little bit, I don't think a day goes by that I don't either read something or hear something on the news or on the radio about the talent shortages, about this war on talent, and all of these words that we throw out there, the reskilling, upskilling, that I even said, and really focusing on how do we attract talent? How do we retain that talent? How do we provide meaningful work experiences to retain that talent?

So I'm really excited to not only talk to you all about the current trends, but also, as this slide indicates, not to cause any panic, but also the talent crisis that's going to continue to be oncoming in the future years. So we know that there have been record high, quick rates, 10.9 million openings as of July. It's harder and harder to believe these rates and how we're trying to attract talent into much-needed fields. We know turnover has HR on edge, especially with quick rates up and open positions setting new records, it's really hard to help envision how we can meet talent goals when competitors are fighting for the same pool of hires. Not only among this group, I'm fortunate, I think, to have these conversations daily with other large corporate clients and try to find solutions for these needs. But healthcare is definitely a focus of ours and how we serve them.

And thinking about how healthcare, HR specifically, has been fighting this battle for years and has experience every industry can learn from. Many have figured out how to cost-effectively grow their talent pipelines, distinguish employer brands, create benefits so sticky they even hang onto employees who can snag a new job by walking across the street. And I think one common thread that healthcare truly understands and prioritizes, access to education to ensure a thriving workforce. Partly because education saves lives, but also because healthcare employers have seen the positive impacts for their organization from doing so. And this really links to this two in three employees expecting education benefits. 94% would stay at a company longer if it offered education. So it's not just this new surge in "Let's offer an education benefits," we're really grounded in some research that's saying, "These benefits work to attract and retain employees."

And we see this shift happening right now. The workforce is demanding change. In particular, there's a high desire for new skills that span industry, age, and other demographics. Our newly-released education index, we surveyed thousands of employees across the country, and that revealed that 87% of workers say learning new skills is more important now. It also found that two-thirds of workers no longer just want education assistance from their jobs, but as I said, they're really expecting it right now. This conversation, I don't think we're gonna solve all of the answers today. There's not a real clear roadmap. But we hope to show you some real practical success stories that inspire everyone on the call to think about a program or think about the program you have now, how you might enhance that program, how you can think about aligning employee career goals with the talent demands of the organization.

And that's where you can get a real win-win. It will help you not just survive, but thrive as employer of choice. And again, I hope we can break through some of the language that we use that is sometimes recognized in corporate, sometimes recognized in higher ed, sometimes is in the media. But I often find myself thinking what all these terms are and really how we can localize them to our needs. So I hope we can talk a about that a little bit as well. I recognize that I just started using the word skills, as opposed to a degree or education. And I think we'll get into that a little bit more today as well.

So I'd like to start off by asking a few questions to the panel. So Jessie, we know that access to affordable education is really one of the core issues here if you build it, but employees don't have a road or mean to get there, they won't come. We know that. It's important to put ourselves in the shoe use of our employees to understand their top barriers and motivations. And Jessie, we know Orlando Health has a wonderful story here. Can you tell us about how you tackled access and affordability in your workforce education program?


Jessie: No, absolutely. Thank you, Jill, for asking. When it comes to our benefit philosophy, we really wanted to drive sustainable change in the lives of our team members. We need to support them. And, as you mentioned, really understand what those barriers are to pursuing higher education. So we offered a traditional tuition-reimbursement program. We had a student loan repayment program, but we found that less than 3% of our team members who were making less than $15 an hour, kind of that living wage, were actually using the benefit at all. And we found that funding that initial payment for the first semester was a challenge for many. So we found, if we removed that barrier from the program, we could really expand it to include more degrees, more folks in the program than we had in the past. We had reduced other barriers in the past and opened up the program to any degree. We removed a repayment requirement. We had done those things and really had hit those team members who most needed it.

So we work with Bright Horizons to redesign our educational assistance program and provide an upfront payment directly to carefully selected education partners. We work closely with local-state colleges to have programs paid upfront, technical certificates, associates, and bachelor's degree programs. We found that our $5,000 tuition cap which we had in place, full-time classes at these selected organizations were less than our cap. So an average 3-credit class in Florida with our selected partners was $309, and the national average was almost $1,000. So we found we could offer a full-time program for our team members for less than $4,000. So we're actually less than our cap of $5,000 and found we could take the dollar we were already investing and provide 100% tuition and books upfront, with no out-of-pocket cost for our team members.

When we put that into place, participation doubled in one year, and our turnover was reduced by 45% for those in the program. We're continuing to invest in this program. We're actually adding additional schools. We have two right now. We have 2 more going live early in 2022, and we've got such positive feedback from our team members. It really allows them to take that step, to get that higher education, continue their career pathway, which really allows them to be flexible within our organization to take their career where they want to go.


Dr. Buban: Wow, that's sort of a great story, Jessie. And I know you've put a lot of thoughtful work into this no-cost, debt-free education. I just wanted to pick out a couple of things that I've seen thematically that have worked really well. You pointed out the no out-of-pocket cost. So that direct bill, we can see that it's really worked for Orlando Health. And for those of you in the audience, that direct bill is that, it's going straight to the institution. We helped Orlando Health set that up in the system for students, as opposed to, like Jessie said, using the reimbursement model, and students having to save or use a credit card or student loan, whatever means that they have to, to be able to pay out-of-pocket. That's typically a non-attractive, and quite honestly, a real challenge. The cost is a real challenge for adult learners and those employees.

Something else I wanted to pick out, that you really made an effort to include fees and books, which I think is often left out of the conversation as well. We just talked with another partner to encourage that. Books are so expensive, and trying to find every way to reduce costs and at least have them inclusive in your employee policy is really important. But something else you mentioned in terms of what students have access to, you mentioned technical certificates. I know, of course, if you're on a panel with Jill, I always take things a little off-script. So I'm just curious if you can talk to the decision a little bit about to be inclusive of those certificates, as opposed to just, I think what we oftentimes traditionally think of, just degrees would be covered.


Jessie: Right. No, that's a great question. And also to go back to your comment on books, we found that sometimes the books were just as much as the tuition. And we have such affordable education here in healthcare in Florida that we found sometimes the books cost more than the class. So if we didn't cover the books, that would have been a barrier for folks just as high as the tuition amount. But, yes, we do cover technical certificates. So we implemented our tuition reimbursement program and said any degree or any program that you want to go for, we want to help and support you in that. Even if it's not what we do here at Orlando Health, even if it will not benefit you in your career, we want you to be part of our healthcare community, and our community here in Orlando. So folks wanted to go for a technical certificate, let's say in HVAC. And we do have HVAC folks that work with us. But we do help that and support that. We do also cover professional development through our departmental budgets a little bit differently, but we did add those technical certificates. It's typically like a one-year type of a program through a school, and the technical certificates awarded at the end. We encompassed that as part of this program as well.


Dr. Buban: That's excellent. And I pointed that out because I did say I think the original type benefits package that we thought of in this field weren't inclusive of those types of certificates. And we're just seeing such a demand for technical trainings, technical certificates, both in the healthcare field, or as you mentioned, HVAC. Yes, hospitals employ HVAC technicians. So also thinking holistically of your workforce, even if you are in a distinct vertical, but really seeing the need to be inclusive of those skills based in technical trainings. So thank you for speaking on that a bit more. Now, I'm gonna shift the conversation a little bit over to Michelle. Michelle, we know Renown is taking a proactive and innovative approach to workforce education. Can you walk us through your program and how it's delivering on your recruitment and retention goals?


Michelle: Yeah. So similar to what Jessie mentioned, we actually opened up our program. We do both loan repayment as well as tuition reimbursement. And we had started tuition reimbursement years ago, which has been a huge success for us, but we added loan repayment probably a year before COVID. And one of the reasons why we added that was because we were hearing similar to the things that you had mentioned earlier in the preview. Our staff was coming to us with heavy loans, with heavy debts, especially in the clinical areas. And so we said, "Gosh, how do we reduce any financial pressure that folks have and really have them focus on work and take away some of that burden?" So when we added the loan repayment program, similar to what I heard the other guests say, we had it go directly to their institutions and pay it directly so that our staff didn't have to worry about that.

We, though, did open it up. We had really took a look at the information. We thought, "Should it just be clinical, should it just be certain areas?" And we decided for us, that it would be all disciplines, no matter where folks worked. Originally, too, we thought, "Well, we'll just do employees for the last three years who had loan repayment." But when I went out to staff and talked to them and we did focus groups, we found staff that had been carrying loans for over 10 years and were still employed with us. So we said, "We cannot do that. We need to open it up to everyone." So that was a huge success for us for doing that. And so for our tuition reimbursement, we also allow any type of certification. Because our employees, while we, of course, need clinicians like many of you in healthcare that are on this call, but as you know, in healthcare, we have every discipline. So accounting, finance, IT jobs, there's everything.

And really, the new generations, they all wanna learn and grow, and so does our existing workforce. So to allow that opportunity for them really became an important differentiator for us in our community. And what we've also found is the employees who participate in either tuition reimbursement, or loan, we have a 96% retention within those particular programs. And we currently, today, have one in five employees use one of those particular programs. So it's been a pretty exciting journey. And for us, the cost of allowing those programs to occur versus turnover is significant. And we've seen our employees, through our career paths, really be able to grow from ideally a CNA to an RN and then into leadership from there. So we've been able to see it be used, not just from a new hire and onboarding, but to watch kind of their career progression over time. Which has also been attributed, I think, a lot to loyalty and engagement.


Dr. Buban: Wow, that's phenomenal because I think that's also something, nationally, that with the media buzz, there is... At least my natural reaction is, well, we have to kind of track and see if these pathways are working and track for our clients, if they're moving on from an entry-level to a senior-level job. So to hear that you're retaining through these programs and employees are elevating in that way is phenomenal. I think we're gonna hear a lot about that more in the news as, after year one, year two of the focus on talent. It's more getting to, like, "Is it working, are these plans working?" So that's great to hear. Something that you mentioned that we're hearing more and more of, too, is about the loan repayment and how that can, as you mentioned, retain, also attract employees.

While there's a big focus, right now, on the entry-level, the frontline worker, I think there's also this focus on, we still are trying to attract mid-level talent, senior-level talent. And those coming out with student loans, it is a burden. And being able to offer that loan repayment as an option has been very attractive for a lot of prospective employees. So thank you for sharing that. Especially, I was in I think some type of meeting the other day and it, "Well, what about you're attracting, but you also have employees that you're trying to retain that have student loans?" So kudos for going back on the history and working with employees that have had some loans for up to 10 years. That's phenomenal. I guess one question, too, because you hit on the needs of the certification. Are you really seeing a growth area there in terms of some of the jobs you're trying to fill?


Michelle: Yeah. So both on the clinical side and the non-clinical side, we're seeing lots of certifications that are being used. So, I mean, even in HR, I think most people on this call are probably HR, and we have our own certifications, whether it's SPHR or SHRM. So every area kind of ends up having certain certifications. And so you do advance your skill, and it allows you to be, I think, more attractive to your employer when you gain those additional certifications. But I've also seen it on the environmental service side where there's additional certifications that you can get, even including accounting and some of those other areas, especially IT. Lots of different certifications within the IT world. So when we opened our program, we really did any bonafide program that was accredited. So that's kind of how we opened it up. We didn't limit to any one particular geography or particular school. We do partner, of course, with our local schools and have significant discounts that we have. But for the larger piece, people now can take certifications across the country and do them remote. So we really wanted to have a program that allowed that type of flexibility.


Dr. Buban: That's really phenomenal. And I'm glad you pointed out the different IT certifications just across the organization, how that's really a way to skill up, and also I think for a lot of employees step back into an education. It's a safe, shorter form. And then if they're thinking of pursuing a degree, maybe will in the future. But I definitely think the way workforce education is going is being inclusive of those types. So for those of you in the audience, maybe make a note of that, but definitely a need in the future. And in terms of the student loan repayment, we know this debt is just phenomenal. So, Kelly, I'm curious if you can tell us a little bit about the pioneering work that Memorial Hermann Health System's been doing in helping their employees with student loan repayment assistance. Can you walk us through that?


Kelly: Sure, absolutely. And I feel like Michelle and Jessica spoke, too, to a lot of what we're doing as well. But, we've done some work over the last few years to really look at the amount of debt that our employee groups are carrying. And we just saw that there's a significant amount of debt, not just with our healthcare folks, but across all areas. And I'm sure other industries are seeing similar trends. So we have had very similar results as Michelle and Jessica in looking at our education assistance program, student loan repayment, tuition reimbursement, things like that. I would say in 2020, we had a 99% retention rate of our employees that were utilizing those programs. Obviously, in the last year, we've had a little bit of a dip in retention. I think that's just due to the healthcare challenges. But it's certainly a need.

And I think part of the conversation that we're having right now is we know that we're entering a great resignation. We have staffing shortages, staffing challenges. And we're having to get more creative in how we really address the needs of our employees. And so we're looking at it a little bit more holistically. What really drives full wellbeing, whether that's financial, emotional, physical, career. And so we are definitely taking a more holistic and human-centered design approach. That has certainly supported our nurses, specifically through this time. As you look at the past year and a half, we're seeing a shift in people wanting to go into healthcare. And so we're having to look at, how do we help them through these programs from a financial standpoint? But I'd say we've also seen a really great return on leveraging Bright Horizons for our childcare and eldercare. That's been a huge retention boost for our nurses, as well as in our system services groups as well.

So a lot of work is really going around, how do we... I think Michelle and Jessica also hit on this, how do we help achieve life goals as well, not just career goals? So we are going beyond just certifications or degrees that will help you in your specific career. But if you have a passion in another space, how do we support you in growing in that arena? So if you have a passion in an area that you're not in that career now but we can support you in getting education or growth or certifications in that area, we feel like that's going to make you wanna stay with our organization because we actually are embracing your life passions and not just your career passions. So that been a big part of the work that we're doing with this holistic look.

And looking at all of our programs with that financial lens, that emotional, how are we supporting your lifestyle, in addition to how we're supporting your career? Some of the other things I think that we're doing a little bit more intentionally to really drive some of these career paths is we're being a little bit better at partnering with our academic and community partners in diving deeper. So while right now we've grown our nurse residency program I'd say about 300% over the last few years, we're going even deeper now to educate middle school students, high school students on all the different ways you can get into healthcare. So most people think of the nursing career, the physician career, but there's so many other ways to be a PCA or PCT or pursue something in legal or HR, all these different career paths.

And we know that many of them look at the loan debt or the student debt associated with it, and it may scare them away. So we're really looking at some of those partnerships with our local community colleges and universities to say, "How do we offer some scholarships? How do we advertise that you can come into our organization and leverage tuition assistance? That there's multiple paths to get the education you need for your career." And then just being much more intentional and ensuring that they understand and can explore these opportunities. Because we do know that healthcare is a little bit challenged right now with getting that student volume where we need, and so we're looking at how do we greater serve our community by exposing students to the different paths to getting to leveraging some of these programs? And so, so far, we're seeing a great... I'd say with our first-year to three-year students, we're seeing a really great retention rate. And now we're just trying to go, how do we dig deeper and how do we look at our offerings more holistically?


Dr. Buban: Wow. Each time one of you speaks, I'm thinking we could do a whole webinar in the program that you're offering. There's so much going on. I specifically heard a couple of things that made me think of the focus, the full wellbeing of your employees. And I've always talked about the educational benefit for adult learners in really being based on personal, professional, and education goals. And it's kinda those circle of goals. And each learner has a different focus, but I think they all have some ratio of those three goals. So it's really important to think that all employees aren't just looking at using this benefit for their career trajectory or increase in their financial status, but a lot is that passion like, "I always wanted to go to school," or, "I'm really curious about learning more topics." So it's great to hear that Memorial Hermann is focused on that.

But also kind of that full wellbeing. I spoke with CNBC a couple weeks ago and really talked about the psychological benefit, I think, for employees of their employer investing thoughtfully around their education benefit and how that can be a real retention tool. And I think that, there's always this talk of, "Well, what if I invest and the employee leaves right after they finish their education?" And I think some of the things that you just spoke about in that full wellbeing, that the employee knows that you're invested, not just handing over so X amount of dollars, and you've really been thoughtful about this benefit, really is psychologically changing for a lot of employees, and increases not only their persistence in the program, but their retention as talent as an employee. So that's wonderful to hear.


Kelly: Yeah. Well, we always say, "What if you don't invest and they stay?" So we certainly wanna invest. And we're looking at them, just whether it's healthcare or not healthcare, we know that there's gonna be resiliency and career challenges for our workforce. And so how are we getting ahead of and addressing the barriers that they're encountering?


Dr. Buban: Yeah. Yep. And just for the audience to know, we will leave time for questions at the end. And so I am watching the clock. But I did wanna point out something that was really important about this kind of, I don't wanna say attracting talent so young into the pipeline, but that piece about educating middle school, high school students around healthcare opportunities, we're seeing much more of that across industries. And how do we provide knowledge, education to younger, possibly prospective employees in the future around different career paths and have that real personalized practical conversation around what the field is and from people who are actually in the field? So that's great to hear, that Memorial Hermann is thinking that way too, a real innovator in this space, I think.


Kelly: A lot of underserved communities, we're finding students don't even think about college or their career paths because they don't know that these benefits are available to them. And so part of the opportunity is getting in front of these students to say, "You can go to college," or, "You can have a career. Even if you're in a situation where your family can't afford it, we have these programs in place that can support you in paying for your education." And many of them aren't aware of them.


Dr. Buban: And that's another excellent point because we often talk about DEI in terms of workforce benefits and how obviously it can be a game-changer for many underrepresented populations. Also how access to education looks different and how the possible desire or need from different populations, diverse populations, specifically, looks different as well. So that opportunity to expose younger learners into fields that wouldn't otherwise be exposed is really moving the needle on those initiatives too. So let's change the topic a little. Jessie, I'm curious if you could talk a little bit about the opportunities you've created internally for growth via career pathways.


Jessie: Sure. When we're chatting with middle school and high schoolers, we try to get in front of the parents, too. And then it's really interesting because then the parents can have that conversation say, "Healthcare is great and then I don't have to pay for your college. Orlando Health can pay for it for you." And we've had some good inroads having the parents there with the students on some of those career nights and that kinda thing. So if that helps you at all, Kelly, just thought I'd mention that one.

But, yeah, Michelle actually mentioned earlier about some of the career pathways that they're doing. We're doing very similar things that we set up pathways for individuals in our organization to look at, like a nursing assistant, medical assistants, the certified nursing assistants, to move them into the RNs and the nurse leaders, as Michelle had referenced earlier. We really wanna encourage our team members to grow throughout the organization. And anything we can do to improve that flexibility increases our bandwidth across the organization. And so at our new hire orientations, we like to say, "Welcome to your last first day of work." And people kinda think about that for a moment. And we say, "Your career opportunities are limitless here at Orlando Health. We want this to be your last first day at work because we want you to stay with us forever and grow your career. And we have so many different pathways that we can take you down."


Dr. Buban: That's excellent. And I know some of them are from nursing assistants to medical assistants, so there's really such depth and breadth to the pathways that you're looking at. And I am watching, I do wanna have a little cliffhanger question before we open it up to the audience. But, Michelle, I'm curious on, outside of providing easy access to education, what other supports do you feel are really needed to provide employees to help them achieve their educational or professional or career goals, and how you're thinking more broadly about supporting your employees in the workforce?


Michelle: Yeah. Besides that, we also have kind of what we call our career studio, if you will. So we have put together a whole bunch of programs where we have a catalog of different classes that our organizational development team teaches. But they can be anything from workshops that I self-select, to we have high-potential programs. We have leader in training programs. And we have kind of what we call career counselors, which really are recruiters and OD specialists, but they come together and they really talk with employees about, what do you really want to be doing? And then we have actual forms for them to sit down and kinda be thoughtful about what objectives, what things do they like, what things do they need. And then they sit down with our team members. And we help try to map out a journey for them to kind of get to that goal. So whether it's a clinical goal or a nonclinical. We've had nonclinical people wanna become clinical and vice versa. So it's not even in a traditional vertical, but kind of cross-walking horizontally to what those career goals might be.

And I loved what Jessie said, that's one of those things you might wanna just steal, your last first day. But we talk about it in terms of, like, your career or your life and life cycles and that we know employees want and need different things depending on where they are within that journey. So a newer employee who's maybe younger to the workforce, maybe 401(k) isn't their most important thing, for example. But it is about, how do I get food on the table, and how do I learn how to do budgeting or things like that, versus other workforce who maybe are having kids entering college, how do we help them navigate that world? So we do a lot with our existing programs and teams, and we have found, through those LIT and high potential programs, we actually have greater than 95% retention in that group. And they were the highest in our employee engagement surveys. So when people are taking advantage of those professional development programs, they're doing a lot with that. And it starts really with some of our most frontline employees who are very interested in how can I grow?


Dr. Buban: Great. Thank you for sharing that story and adding some more on around the services. We know to support adults, it takes a lot of services on the side. And sometimes student success coaching or career counseling like you're saying, it's just the kind of ongoing support that provides, I think, the vision for the learner to be successful and see where they're going on their career path, but also personally that light at the end of the tunnel when they're juggling, career, home life, and school. It's a lot. It's a big balance. So before we jump over to the Q&A, I'd just like to put each of you on the spot. And I'll start with Kelly. Sorry, Kelly. That's my daughter's name, so I think I'm just prone to asking you first. What's one key takeaway that you would leave for our audience today?


Kelly: Oh, one key takeaway. I think the thing that we've had our aha moment with is really getting into personas. We've done some persona work and really understanding, what are some of the life challenges that somebody might be encountering? I think traditionally, in HR, we think about, how do we create a one size fits all? How do we create solutions that help people with different challenges within their life? And what we're starting to think about is, what are the events that could be happening in somebody's life and how would they experience or interact with the various programs or benefits? What would make them want to use it? What might be a barrier to them using it, and how might that differ?

So I guess my big takeaway would be to maybe step back and think through a couple of different employees that exist in your organization and put yourself in their shoes and actually walk the HR experience or walk some of the benefit programs with their lens and say, "Why wouldn't they use, a tuition reimbursement program? Why wouldn't they leverage our childcare program? Or why wouldn't they engage in this wellness event?" And it helps to start to shape your thinking around what people really need, what experiences they might be having, and makes you think a little bit differently and innovatively about what they really need from the benefits or the programs. And what we think some of the barriers are might not actually be the barriers that they're encountering. And that's really helped to shape our thinking with our go-forward approach.


Dr. Buban: I love that because I think oftentimes in education, we think of the student journey and what that journey looks like. So also thinking about, what's that employee journey, what works, what doesn't work, and what roadblocks do they meet, or what successes do they meet along the way in the program? That's great. Thank you, Kelly. Michelle, do you have any parting takeaways for the audience?


Michelle: I think, just in a nutshell. It is one size really does not fit all. And so, being as open as we can to meeting our employees where they're at. Whether that's their educational journey, their career journey, their financial journey, their aspirations. And so, really trying to get more of that experience relative to meeting people where they're at. And we have found one size really doesn't fit all. Like, I'm sure most of you have a variety of different tools and things that we can offer to staff so that we can try to meet them where they are.


Dr. Buban: Great. Thank you, Michelle. And Jessie?


Jessie: Absolutely. I think our key takeaway is really that any organization can do this. What we're sharing today are some key things that we found successful. But, you can take a look at your organization, your team members' needs, your budgets. And sometimes it's just reframing what you already have in a different way and marketing and promoting it. Our tuition reimbursement budget didn't increase dramatically at all. We were still investing in the same schools and about the same dollar amounts, but we really drove up participation by just tweaking and adjusting one component of the program and re-promoting it and marketing it and had such a positive impact. So just wanted to share that anyone really can do this. And having those key partnerships with educational institutions in your community can really make an impact on the community in which you operate as well. Not just within healthcare, but it's great to have those educational partnerships and funnels into different employers.


Dr. Buban: Definitely. And we do some of the work with the educational partners, that I think specifically even to Orlando Health, looking at those pathways and which institutions could drive down costs and specifically serve the needs of your learners is so crucial in the state. So I'm going to thank you all so much. I'm going to put some questions out there. We have one in the chat. So while I propose this one, I hope everyone in the audience thinks of a few others while we still have this esteemed panel with us. So there's been a couple of questions on repayment/claw-back policies. Does anyone have any caveats for how long an employee needs to continue employment, or do you require a repayment plan if an employee leaves while using or after using a loan repayment or tuition reimbursement program? We don't see that it's typical to have that. We see that most remove repayment requirements. So I don't know if anyone else has anything on that.


Jessie: Jill, we're on the same page as you. We took out the repayment provision probably two, two and a half years ago. We spent a lot of time...and who really wants to send their former team members to collections? We spent a lot of time sending letters and trying to recoup and that sort of thing and said, "At the end of the day, our goal is to really help and encourage team members to further their education, to stay within our community," and going back after them and that sort of thing wasn't in alignment with where we wanted to be. And we found, people who you help and support naturally want to stay with you. And my other presenters here have talked about the wonderful retention rates that we have. We found if you had that little mm at the end, you don't wanna have that barrier at the back end. We found it was better just to remove that entirely a few years back.


Michelle: And we do currently still have a repayment option, although we are, like Jessie, we're currently reevaluating whether or not we really need to do that. But we were wanting people to really think twice about them going into the program. So that was really more about it than trying to collect it on the back end. But how we do it today is at the end, whenever they've received their last payment, it's a rolling 12 months from there. So that's how we currently do it. But we are looking at whether or not we wanna do that at all.


Kelly: Yeah. We're in a similar boat. I think there technically is a repayment clause in there. We have not actively pursued that. And we have recently talked about removing it with our ship to really focusing on life goals. And I think Jessica said it perfectly. Part of our mission now is to support the growth of our employees in our community. And so that repayment wouldn't be consistent with our philosophy. And we do think that part of our strategy, as we move forward, could be bringing that individual back into our organization in the future, either as an employee or a patient in the community. And so we wanna leave them with that positive feeling that we're supporting their life and their career goals.


Dr. Buban: That's a great point, that they are all members of the community. Yeah, that's an excellent connection. We have another question from Katrina in the audience. And I think this is a topic we hear a lot about, and it's getting at skills matching. Do any of you have a favorite skills or career assessment?


Kelly: I'll jump in and say the one that you're going to use. With that, I love Myers-Briggs. I've used Hogan. I like The Birkman. I think there's some great assessments out there. And they all have their pros and cons. I would say the one that you're really going to utilize, whether it's for team building or career development, whatever you do go with, use it intentionally. But, sometimes I find that organizations use great assessments, but then they don't do anything with them, it's a one and done. So the extent that you can, if you give an assessment to an employee, really make it a meaningful part of their onboarding experience, helping to shape their experience through that process, whether it's coming into the organization, assimilating to their leader, their team, incorporating that into their career growth, and what's going to really suit them, I think there's a number of assessments out there that could really help with that. But it's really the intentionality around how you're gonna use it.


Dr. Buban: Great. Thank you. I know we're hearing a lot about different skills matching and even matching skills between national data sets, national future trends, and job descriptions internal to the organization. So I think that will definitely continue to be a trend. I think, in some ways, we know with one client, it was very useful because it was eye-opening to see that, I think, 76% of the jobs required a bachelor's degree. And in their thought process, they didn't realize that there were so many, that that was just automatically written in a job description, and a percentage of the jobs did not need the job description. So I do think some of these exercises, when we get really at skills matching and some assessments around what's needed, the organization can out other items as well. We have another question, which I think is pretty interesting, from Aswani. Has anyone had any attempt to calculate the ROI on your programs?


Jessie: So from an ROI perspective, we look closely at turnover, and we look at, if we lost the nurse or we lost the individual who wasn't here, what the cost of that turnover would be as compared to the cost of the benefit itself. And we do look at the cost of the benefit plan. Of course, I'm the benefit person speaking today, but I have my Excel formula on the other side going on my other screen here. But our tuition and student loan benefits themselves are probably 1% to 2% of our overall benefit spend. So if you look at, in comparison to your retirement or your medical, it's very minimal. And our backup childcare with Bright Horizons, which is amazing, it's so small. And the scheme of all of the different programs that we have. So when we look at that investment and what we get from it, what we get from it is amazing. So we're saving all of these nurses and individuals at a much higher rate than we lose them. So we kind of compare overall cost of the program versus the retention or decreased turnover from them.


Dr. Buban: That makes sense.


Kelly: We similarly, like Jessica, we look at retention. We look at essentially the cost to hire an experienced nurse or an experienced individual versus bring them in through our nurse residency program, our fellowship. So we certainly do find that when we grow our own, we end up with higher-performing, more engaged talent. And you'd said a lower cost, but essentially it is much higher cost to bring somebody more senior into the organization that may not stay as long. And so that is the data that we've found as well. And then I apologize, I just wanna correct my earlier answer. I was thinking personality attributes, we do also use skills assessments as part of our onboarding process. So sorry, Jill, I might have confused you with the personality there.


Dr. Buban: Thank you for the clarification. I think this is an interesting question. How did you launch your career pathway programs? What does full maturity look like for you? This is from Allison in the audience. Allison, I'll just step in real briefly. We have a few pathways for our clients now. And we're doubling and tripling that number of pathways kind of out of box solutions across a few different industries that we know are in high needs, many of them within healthcare. When I work with the team in creating pathways, first we take evidence from the field, both national trends, but also from interviews that we have with our clients and their need base. But we look at it, not only as sequential, where you can come in, maybe you even still need to get your high school degree, and we can show a pathway to that could take you all the way through a doctorate, if that's the employee's dream. But there's many on and off-ramps.

And there's a combination of certificates that could, to the point, like the technology certificates or the technicians certificates, but there's also degrees in there. And with some of those pathways, we also look at working with different institutions who will evaluate experiential learning that's acquired in those skills-based certificates, so that if an employee chooses to go into a degree pathway, they can possibly earn some credits for those others. So to use some other terms out there, our pathways look at multiple on and off-ramps for the learner. But I'd love to hear from the panel about this.


Michelle: I know most of you probably do the CNA to RN, and of course that is a really clear, defined easy pathway. And one of the things that we did was we pulled them, which some of you probably have done as well, from high school or from no skills to a CNA, and then go to an RN. And where I would say we've been really successful on that is we started, and we've worked with our local community college to make it happen, where we actually employ them while they're going to school, but we have the school entrenched within the workday. So most people who are coming as an entry-level employee, they can't go to CNA and work nights and then work days. They can't afford to do both.

So we said, "Let's employ them at whatever skill that they have while they're learning, put them through an apprenticeship, get them to the CNA, and then go to the RN." So I think that when you measure success on that one particularly, our cohorts have now doubled in size and we offer them now three times a year, and there's a waiting list to get into the program. So from that perspective, I would say that's probably one of our most successful. And it's been ongoing for three years, so we have some time under our belt with that one.


Dr. Buban: Great. Thank you. So I can't believe we're almost at the top of the hour. I wanted to really thank our panelists, but also do a brief wrap-up on some key takeaways. I think over the course of this past hour, we've heard about how we can remove cost barriers with education benefits, the low or no-cost programs, but also really thinking about that direct payment to reduce the out-of-pocket costs, the direct payment, the fees, the textbooks. How inclusive can your education benefits policy be to really get at no out-of-pocket costs? We also heard two great ways that loan repayment programs were instituted and how that helped a variety of employees at different healthcare organizations. And I think really providing that time, we just heard an excellent example. I didn't think there would be a linkage here, but how time was provided with the CNA program.

But also looking at whether it's self-paced, different types of certifications, all of these options in combination with providing time and recognizing that this is a journey that your employee's going to go on. And it's a lot to take on. And really thinking about how it's meeting a variety of goals, is important. It's not just, "Here's a benefit it, go take it." I think for these really to be successful, it is really thinking about the full wellbeing and what those benefits are. I thank our panelists so much for joining us today. 

About the Speakers

Kelly Oliphant VP of Organizational Development & Learning and Clinical Education Memorial Hermann Health System

Kelly Oliphant is the Vice President of Organizational Development and Learning & Clinical Education for Memorial Hermann, the largest not-for-profit healthcare system in Texas. In this role, Kelly supports the organization in creating innovative and agile approaches to talent management, diversity, learning, organizational change, and culture. Prior to joining Memorial Hermann, Kelly held various executive roles across multiple industries for both large domestic and global organizations. In these roles, she led the design and implementation of strategies and programs that support the entire talent lifecycle. Her expertise and passion for talent and organizational development have led to her serving on professional and educational councils, advisory boards, and as a mentor for young professionals. Kelly earned her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Texas A&M University and her Master of Arts in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from the University of Houston. She resides in Houston, TX with her family and two dogs.

Jill Buban

Dr. Jill Buban is the Vice President and General Manager of EdAssist Solutions, a division of Bright Horizons focused on providing strategic workforce education solutions to more than 200 of the world’s largest employers. Before joining Bright Horizons, Dr. Buban was the Vice President, Digital Strategy and Online Education at Fairfield University, where she managed the development of and programming for the University’s online and hybrid learning offerings. A recognized thought leader, Dr. Buban is a frequent speaker on topics related to innovation, education for adult learners, and workforce trends. She also contributes to multiple initiatives with the Online Learning Consortium and consistently engages in opportunities to mentor young women entering the space.

Michelle Sanchez-Bickley

Michelle is Chief Human Resources Officer for Renown Health, the largest not-for-profit health system in Northern Nevada, where she leads overall strategic and HR operational functions. Michelle has over 25 years of HR leadership experience, with the majority in healthcare. She holds a bachelor’s degree in political science and justice studies from Frostburg State University in Maryland and earned her Master’s degree in human resource development from Georgia State University. Michelle is a certified senior professional in human resources (SPHR) and a Senior Certified Professional (SHRM-SCP). She serves on several local not-for-profit boards including Education Alliance, Nevada Works, and the Nevada Association of Employers. Michelle loves to mentor others and is passionate about helping the community in which she serves.

Jessie Nelson