Mercy Adopts New Technology to Educate & Advance Frontline Coworkers

Mercy serves millions of patients each year, with a health network that comprises more than 40 acute-care hospitals and nearly 900 physician and outpatient facilities across Missouri, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Arkansas. Mercy is the country’s seventh-largest Catholic healthcare system and employs more than 40,000 people.

Mercy’s mission statement is to deliver patients a transformative health experience. But Mercy has another calling of service, one to its coworkers. In addition to outstanding leadership development, Mercy is deeply committed to advancing and educating the ministry’s frontline workers.

Mercy aims to improve compensation for low-skilled co-workers. Through its Social Determinants of Human Dignity Committee, senior leadership builds opportunity and career development tracks for these lower paid coworkers. Mercy offers tuition advancements, apprenticeship programs, internships, plus supportive HR policies like medical premium assistance and affordable childcare. Removing barriers to career advancement for lower paid coworkers is part of Mercy’s ministry.

Building on workforce development efforts that originally began in 2004, Mercy and Catalyst Learning collaborated to provide a new microlearning solution for developing employees.

CLiMB is an online library of focused microlearnings for entry-level coworkers who are working in a healthcare setting. It focuses on key work concepts like basic professionalism, communication, productivity, managing stress, and providing exceptional customer service.

All of CLiMB’s 10 to 15-minute learning modules enable learners to practice real-world scenarios in order to improve their performance on-the-job. During the recent virus pandemic, remote learning and development has become even more crucial for all healthcare facilities.

Talent Development Sees the Positive Impact of CLiMB

Beth Kinsey, a Senior Specialist of Talent Development at Mercy, commented that much of the feedback from CLiMB was that it helped co-workers process information.

“Learners are asking clarifying questions with their leaders,” Kinsey says, “They’re repeating information back to leaders and seem more engaged when tasks are being explained.”

Effective listening and preparation for tasks is part of the module “Listen for Accuracy.” This module teaches learners to avoid distraction when speaking with leaders, to clarify what is being said, and to take accountability for what information was processed by asking clarifying questions.

Soraya Humphries, another Senior Specialist of Talent Development at Mercy, commented that CLiMB really opens up accessibility of L&D to so many more of Mercy’s lower-paid coworkers because it is all online. “All departments within the health system, clinical and non-clinical, have been accessing CLiMB,” says Humphries. There have been 469 individual learners and 2,146 total modules completed.

Examples of how MicroLearning is Being Applied by the Front-Line During COVID-19

One CLiMB participant in the Emergency Department at Mercy was going through a COVID-19 outbreak preparedness training this Spring. She suggested to HR that the CLiMB module “Speak to be Understood” should be included in the package of that training, because giving concise instruction is so important during crisis situations.

Another CLiMB worker-learner commented that she is now more intentional about listening before contemplating her responses. She has learned to paraphrase instructions that are being given back to her manager and is asking more clarifying questions to help comprehension.

Another course participant gave similar feedback, commenting that she now stops working on any activity and fully focuses on what her manager/nurse is explaining in order to not be (or seem) distracted.

A mid-level manager commented that she uses the ‘4 Best Practices for Speaking Effectively’ to get lots of needed information out to entry-level coworkers on her busy evening shift.

One supervisor said that he uses the CLiMB module “Engage with Customers” to help motivate his staff to improve customer service. He references this module at huddles and in 1:1’s, and strives to model these behaviors as he interacts with his staff. This module helps coworkers to communicate with customers in a way that positively impacts their experience.

Finally, another supervisor said that he uses CLiMB to help diffuse occasional team conflict. He said that CLiMB gives good guidance on handling difficult situations, and it assists his team to better communicate during stressful moments.

The 3-step strategy of responding thoughtfully, avoiding blame, and focusing on the future resonated with his team, and they revisit this conflict diffusion strategy when needed.

Through Scalable Applications Come Opportunities for Career Advancement

CLiMB offers Mercy the opportunity to scale-up the quantity of co-workers who can be served with development opportunities and can be used by many learners at a time that is convenient for them. Coworkers can access CLiMB microlearnings independently, with their leader, or in a learning lab at a hospital for example.

To market the availability of CLiMB to its frontline workers, Mercy uses open enrollment and internal communications like health system newsletters. Education leaders at Mercy are seeing that most courses are taken because of self-motivation from coworkers, not because of any management mandates or deadlines.

Besides just offering this as a soft-skills training opportunity, it also lets Mercy see which coworkers are most interested in career advancement. If HR sees that a coworker is completing every one of the modules, that can foster a conversation, and generally the coworker then informs managers of a desire to advance or take on more responsibility.

CLiMB offers the opportunity for HR and management to track course participation, and quarterly goals are set for each department. Course completions, how many times a course is accessed, unique page views, and what departments are completing the most courses are all tracked. Mercy even keeps a “Top Ten” list of engaged departments for fun. Manager’s subjective feedback is monitored as well.

One mid-level manager for example cited that she had team members who were looking for skill development and advancement opportunities. This manager discussed the need to her senior leadership, and was made aware of all the resources CLiMB offered. One of the modules included was even a “Your Healthcare Career: Set Yourself Up for Career Success” module. This manager was excited to be able to take all this learning and development opportunity back to her team.

Looking to the Future of Talent Development in the Front-Line Workforce

A future goal of Mercy is to use CLiMB’s available Coaching Guides for better 1×1 teaching opportunities, and to integrate CLiMB into its upcoming Career Development Academy. This academy will be an intentionally designed learning burst opportunity, and the most crucial leadership capabilities will be taught to high potential candidates. CLiMB should integrate perfectly since it proves how short, targeted, scenario-based learnings can have a big impact on employees and their performance.

It is likely that Mercy will always be at the forefront of frontline employee education. Mercy understands that it isn’t just about an altruistic outreach to its employees, it’s also about preparing the frontline co-workers who touch and impact the patient. Career development within a healthcare setting requires a variety of tools to fit the unique needs of employees, including work schedules, family situations, and education or advancement goals.

Mercy is recognized by Fortune 100 and CareerSTAT for achievements in advancing entry-level employees. Catalyst Learning is honored to be a contributor in this system’s employee engagement success.

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