How to Set Up an Upskilling Program for Healthcare Employees

This is the third article in our four part series on attracting entry-level healthcare talent and upskilling employees. Part 1 goes over what entry-level healthcare workers are looking for employees. Part 2 goes over the ROI of upskilling employees and deciding if it's right for you. Finally, Part 4 goes over how to choose a training program to upskill employees.

Due to the ongoing staffing crisis facing healthcare companies, organizations are working hard to incorporate strategies for improving employee retention

Upskilling employees and providing them with opportunities to progress is one of the most effective strategies to not only retain current employees but also recruit new workers to your team. 

Research shows that upskilling employees can result in as much as a 250% return on investment (ROI). In addition, 71% of employees stated that they experienced higher levels of job satisfaction after completing an upskilling program and 65% of employees would leave their current job to apply to one that offered more upskilling opportunities. 

If you decide that upskilling your employees is a good strategy for your organization, you’ll need to understand how to create and implement an effective program. 

In this article, we’ll go over the essential steps you need to take to ensure that your upskilling program is as successful as possible and gets you the highest possible ROI.  

How to Set Up an Employee Upskilling Program for Your Healthcare Organization

An effective upskilling program requires more than just sending your employees to a conference, bringing in a guest speaker, or enrolling them in a class. Careful selection of employees to upskill, positions to fill, and training programs is essential for the success of your organization. 

The following steps can help you create and implement a great upskilling program for your employees: 

1) Decide which positions you can upskill current employees into

While upskilling is an excellent tool for improving skills in your employees, some positions work better for upskilling than others. 

For example, you can upskill a good phlebotomist to a medical assistant or a medical assistant to an office manager. However, you cannot upskill a medical assistant to become a doctor. 

In addition, make sure that you have enough work for your upskilled employees. Focus on upskilling workers and guiding them towards roles that are more difficult to fill. 

For example, the American Hospital Association states that the turnover rate for CNAs is 27%. To help with problems like this, you might consider upskilling employees from a position that is easier to fill to positions that present more of a challenge.

You may also be able to upskill an entire group and simply add to their responsibilities. This should be done thoughtfully, and you may need to hire more people so you do not overwork your current staff, but many healthcare workers are excited to have the opportunity to learn a new skill.  

2) Identify employees who would be a good fit for upskilling & gauge interest

Not every employee is a great fit for upskilling. Get to know your staff well to find out whether or not they are interested in growing and contributing to the team

Understanding the goals, personalities, work ethic, and motivators of your staff will help you determine who will make a good candidate for your upskilling program. 

A study published in the Journal of Observational Behavior showed that employees who had a positive affect, proactive personality, conscientiousness, and extraversion were the most likely to be engaged and perform well at work. On the other hand, employees who showed neuroticism, negative affectivity, agreeableness, and openness to experience were the least likely to be engaged in their jobs. 

Take the time to learn more about your employees so you can decide which ones will most appreciate an upskilling opportunity. 

Alternatively, you can offer basic upskilling opportunities to all employees, and offer more advanced skill training to those who take advantage of those opportunities. Several large companies have had success implementing plans that allow any employee who is interested to participate in upskilling programs and enroll in training courses. 

3) Research and choose a training program

Choosing a program is one of the most important decisions you’ll make as you work towards upskilling your staff. Even the best employees won’t make much progress if you choose an ineffective training program. 

Several platforms are already set up to help companies upskill their employees, eliminating a lot of the upfront work for healthcare organizations. 

Programs like ours here at Stepful can help you get employees nationally recognized certifications so that they can function at the top of their field. We can take over the training and education portion of your upskilling program so that you can focus your energy on choosing the right employees and filling positions that they leave behind. 

As you look into different programs, you’ll need to consider cost, program completion rate, certification exam passing rates, and length of the program, and take a look at online reviews. 

The next article in this series goes over how to evaluate upskilling programs.

4) Make a plan for filling positions of employees you upskill

Unfortunately, entry-level healthcare jobs have the highest rates of turnover. This means that as you upskill your employees, you must be aware of what holes will be left behind by upskilled staff. 

While encouraging employees to move up to more desirable jobs does increase retention and staff job satisfaction, your company most likely cannot eliminate all basic positions. 

You may want to start upskilling staff members until you have chosen a new employee to fill their position or put a hard limit on how many staff you upskill each quarter. 

Alternatively, staff in hard-to-fill positions can be upskilled to become mentors for new staff training for the same role. Allowing good employees to become mentors for others provides them with an opportunity to learn new skills and remain engaged in their work without completely removing them from their original job title. 

5) Create a pathway map

Every organization has different needs and will have to customize its upskilling program to meet its goals. However, no upskilling program can be successful without a clear pathway map. 

Everyone participating in an upskilling program should know exactly what to expect. Your program needs to have clear end goals, timelines, and metrics as well as frequent opportunities for check-in and evaluation. 

As you create your pathway map, keep in mind the goals of the employees and the organization as a whole. Some things to consider include: 

  • Whether you expect your employees to take time off from their regular duties to complete their training or if you need them to continue to work full-time.
  • If you will have a strict timeline for completion of the upskilling program. 
  • What milestones employees can hit along the way to ensure they are making progress.
  • How often employees will meet with their leaders to assess progress or concerns.
  • How employees will be recognized when they complete the program. 
  • Whether or not any commitment to the company will be required after the completion of the upskilling program. 
  • How soon after an employee completes a training program can they begin a new one.

You can expect much better compliance and success with your upskilling program when you get specific with your pathway map. 

6) Plan salary increases for upskilled employees

While employees are often excited about progress and are more satisfied when offered a challenge at work, organizations should expect to increase salaries for upskilled employees. The average performance-based wage increase is 3%

For most entry-level healthcare professionals, a 3% raise will cost an organization about $1,200 per year per employee. This does not account for any annual raises that you plan to offer your employees, which estimates show will average 4% for most employees across the United States. 

As you plan your upskilling strategy, don’t forget to factor in changes in salaries for your upskilled employees. This may make a difference in how many of your staff you allow to participate in the program. 

Up Next: How to Choose a Healthcare Upskilling Program

After deciding that you would like to implement an upskilling system for your employees, you’ll have another decision to make. What program will you use to upskill your staff? 

Choosing a healthcare upskilling program doesn’t have to be an overwhelming process. There are a few key things to look for to make sure you are choosing a high-quality program. 

We review how to make the best decision for your company in our next article: How to Choose Healthcare Training Programs: Rubric for Evaluation

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