The last few years have been a time of profound disruption for businesses and their employees. Stress, burnout, family needs, and disenchantment have led to the exodus of workers across industries.
Healthcare and other frontline industries have been particularly hard hit. The resulting labor shortages are forcing employers to rethink their approach to hiring, retaining, and ‘embracing’ workers. Healthcare HR leaders are facing the challenge head on with personalized solutions that help employees stay productive across various life stages.
Kelly Crocker, director of benefits for Prisma Health, the largest not-for-profit health organization in South Carolina, oversees a benefits program that supports the organization’s 30,000 workers. Recently, Angela Jones, Bright Horizons’ head of global enterprise partnerships, caught up with Kelly to discuss the types of HR innovations her organization was putting in place for employees.
Angela Jones (Bright Horizons):
Kelly, with 26 years in this business, you’ve seen it all, from dealing with the merger of two large healthcare systems into Prisma Health, to the pandemic, to today’s tight labor market. Now you’re focusing on programs that impact the wellbeing of the family. Why that approach and what programs are you putting in place?
Kelly Crocker (Prisma):
The last two years have been difficult for everyone, whether it's because they've lost someone to COVID, they were affected financially by it, or they were on the front lines and working 60-hours a week for months at a time. We want our programs to support the challenges our employees and their families face.
This year, we launched a wellbeing platform that uses a typical health risk questionnaire to analyze an employee’s needs. It takes advantage of artificial intelligence to deliver a “wellbeing prescription” that identifies issues an individual should address and automatically provides access to free resources to show them how. We cover emotional, financial, nutritional, and general health problems and have solutions for all of them. We incent employees with points for using the wellbeing platform that they can redeem for gift cards and other rewards.
It sounds like you’re really listening to team members to understand the challenges they’re facing. How does that play out across various employee life stages?
Let me give you three examples. The first is our Military Family Program. We want our families to know that just because an employee may be deployed, Prisma Health is still here to support them. When a team member is called up for active duty, we send a letter from our CEO that thanks the family for their service. The letter includes an HR partner who can address benefits-related questions and contact information for our VP of Veteran Affairs who can connect families to resources throughout the state and military system.
Second is our new concierge service for those who are expanding their family through pregnancy or adoption. It provides a care coordinator who will help locate resources, navigate their Prisma benefits, and address financial challenges by connecting them with programs offering free or deeply discounted items, like strollers and car seats. The service supports them until after they return to work to ensure that if they have emotional issues, they get needed help. Within the first month, we had 100 team members use this service!
Third are all the resources that we provide through Bright Horizons, including our onsite child care center in Greenville, SC, which services 135 children. There’s enough demand now to build an additional childcare center in the Columbia area, where we hope to accommodate 200 children.
Employees also have access to the back-up care program which helps them find care for their child or adult dependents when something disruptive happens to their regular care. It also gives employees’ children access to virtual tutoring and virtual camp. Earlier this year, we implemented employer contributions for student loans. In addition to these Bright Horizons programs, we’re looking to add Enhanced Family Supports too.
It's great that your Military Program embraces the whole family; sometimes people just think about the active duty or reservist. And the amount of concierge services engagement you’ve had shows how important that benefit is to families. How does serving the entire family help you attract and retain employees?
I can remember when the Bright Horizons Center first opened. Everybody was talking about it. Back then, I thought child care was not our job. That was 15 years ago or more. It wasn’t until later, as a mom of two small children who were 15 months apart, that I realized how important a benefit it was to have onsite child care.
It became even more apparent when COVID hit. We had to have child care and scrambled to find it. We partnered with YMCAs that were open, reached out to the Department of Social Services, built an active list of child care centers, and leaned on Bright Horizons for as many back-up spots as we could get. We even signed an agreement for 20 dedicated spots at the Bright Horizons Center in the Colombia federal building.
Working parents now expect child care assistance to be part of their total benefits package. It's no longer a nice to have.
About 50% of the employees with children at the onsite center in Greenville are physicians. Every year we bring in about 250 residents. If they’re planning a family, they get on the waiting list as soon as they arrive. When their child starts at the center, they say, “This is wonderful. I'm never leaving. It solves all my problems.”
Our child care center is right beside the parking garage. Employees drop their kids off at the center and know they’re five-minutes away. If an emergency happens, they‘re right there. Saves time. Saves worry. And the staff is amazing.
A member of my team who had two children at the Bright Horizons Center had a pretty significant job offer. The center was one of the deciding factors in not taking the job, because he would have to move his children. It meant a lot to know that we were offering something that made him stop and say, “Is this move going to be worth it?”
So, child care is working for you as a recruitment and a retention strategy. As you look at the talent shortages in healthcare, what other strategies are you using to recruit nurses, technicians, and pharmacists?
We are focused on our pipeline and hiring at a rapid pace, recently averaging 170 hires a week.
We are planning to stand up our own certified medical assistant program, and we have implemented an apprenticeship program for current team members who want to elevate their degrees – from CNA to LPN or LPN to RN or non-clinical to pharmacy tech. It will enable us to grow talent internally and promote from within.
We are also doing more to entice and incentivize high school age students. If they work at Prisma -- even part time -- they are eligible for tuition assistance and a student loan employer contribution. Or we can send them through the 12-week CMA course, then put them in the apprenticeship program. We help pay for it all.
Your programs sound incredibly supportive of your employees. I’m wondering what kind of results you’re seeing. Are there indications that the program translates into better healthcare for patients?
We can see in our survey data that when our employee engagement scores get higher, our patient satisfaction scores always follow. Some of our hospitals have had double digit increases in patient satisfaction, which is hard to do. So, I think as we continue to engage, we will continue to see patient satisfaction go up as well.
Thank you so much for sharing your story with us, for the insight into your strategy, and how you're leading the charge.