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COVID-19 and Reimagining Work

Measuring training and development programs: What healthcare organizations need to know

Measuring training and development programs: What healthcare organizations need to know

Healthcare professionals are motivated and energized by a greater mission, but the day-to-day grind may be undermining that. Not only has the pandemic amplified the already chronic levels of healthcare worker burnout, but an increased focus on paperwork takes providers away from the bedside, pulling them further away from their mission. 

With turnover on the rise—54% of industry professionals we surveyed¹ said more people are leaving their organization compared to a year ago—healthcare organizations are increasingly looking for opportunities to boost employee engagement. One way to do so is through continuous education programs, which have increased in recent months—1 in 4 healthcare workers we surveyed said their organization provided additional training and development opportunities to better support employees in the last year. 

Investing in employee training and development (T&D) can pay off significantly. Effective T&D programs build better job performance, a more engaged workforce and ultimately, better patient outcomes. However, simply launching a continuing education or medical training program isn’t enough. The most impactful employee T&D programs are built and then updated based on employee feedback, creating a cycle of continuous feedback and refinement that ensures that training and development initiatives are working as intended.

According to Cecelia Hunt, CEO of the addiction treatment program JourneyPure, training and development in a healthcare setting brings many challenges. “Senior healthcare staff are often pressed for time and simply don't have the time to coach their direct reports,” she said. “Other times, healthcare staff may generally have insufficient time to do a training module.”

In addition, training for regulatory requirements and accreditation, which can change frequently, can be complex. “Due to the nature of blanket education and a need to ‘check-the-box’ in order to meet training and development objectives, assigned training modules may not be personalized to the training needs of the employee,” she said.

Many healthcare organizations already know the power of employee feedback in identifying training areas as well as measuring the effectiveness of training programs. In our research of 321 healthcare professionals¹, two-thirds said that employee feedback is “extremely important” or “very important” in determining what training opportunities are offered at their organization. 

Chances are, your employees have an idea of areas where they may need additional training, and your organization may not be providing it: in a separate SurveyMonkey study, 86% of workers said job training is important to them, yet only 52% felt their employer provides the right amount of training. That's a significant opportunity to look for ways to collect feedback and update your training offerings.

“Sometimes training may be assigned to a large group of employees with no regard for whether they actually need it or not,” Hunt said.

“If we evaluate training and development efforts purely based on whether an employee has completed all their required training, it may not be the best measure of training and development effectiveness. Instead, a more personalized approach that involves consultation between the employee and their manager to understand their training needs and map the correct training to them will be more accurate.”

Cecelia Hunt, CEO of the addiction treatment program JourneyPure

Using surveys to get feedback from employees isn’t just a useful way to uncover needs—they can also help with training evaluation, enabling you to better gauge the success of T&D initiatives while also empowering your teams to shape and refine programs to be most effective. 

Collecting that feedback, though, isn’t always easy, particularly in the healthcare industry where time is at a premium. Likewise, in an era of screen fatigue and a time when people feel constantly besieged to provide information, both T&D programs and surveys must be easy and seamless for your employees. 

Especially in healthcare, the luxury of learning is inevitably trumped by the importance and urgency of the work. Learning must be done in a different way—on the job, in the flow of your work.

When assessing the effectiveness of your continuing education programs, there are tried-and-true methods to help boost participation levels.

One technique is to make surveys a seamless part of your organization’s workflow. This quick, immediate approach can ensure that giving feedback becomes an everyday part of your employees’ jobs. A culture and practice of ongoing feedback may also help you see trends that are not readily apparent in the lengthy quarterly surveys that many organizations focus on, which can sometimes be affected by individual factors like an employee’s mood or a recent life event.

Brief, ongoing surveys, gathered over time, can often provide deeper, more compelling metrics while providing a direct lens into the ROI of learning and development programs. Engaging people through surveys really demonstrates the benefits of learning. The data you collect can help you refine your approaches and calculate the impact that different initiatives are having in your organization. 

Consider a situation where a nursing staff has just been trained to use a new piece of equipment. During the day, staff members could be asked two simple questions via their mobile phones, tablets, or work computers:

  • On a scale of 1 to 10, how confident do you feel in using this equipment?
  • On a scale of 1 to 10, how likely are you to recommend the equipment to someone else at your organization?

There are different ways of structuring survey questions depending on the type of answer you’re looking for, and your team can choose the method that’s best-suited for each situation. When it comes to real-time surveying, the scoring system is nearly instantaneous for the user but incredibly revealing when aggregated. That kind of quick feedback can be incredibly useful and important. If someone rates themselves a 5, that tells you they don’t know how to use a piece of equipment that could save lives. If they tell you they wouldn’t recommend the equipment to a colleague, you know you need to address the situation quickly.

Here's a list of best practices to create surveys that strengthen a healthcare organization’s training and professional development program, as well as ways to effectively make use of the data you collect:

  1. Start with the end in mind. With any survey, you should narrowly delineate what you are trying to accomplish. For example, if you are trying to fine-tune your training offering for nurses, you might ask them to rank their preferences for how they receive training in order: unit-based in-services, computer-based learning (tutorials), hands-on computer training with an instructor, classroom lecture, and self-study.
  2. Be short and specific. For most healthcare workers, time is at a premium. Because your employees may not have the downtime to complete a full survey, be sure to ask the most important questions first.
  3. Keep it simple. Write questions that are easy to understand. Clear, concise, and uncomplicated language will be welcomed by healthcare professionals at all levels.
  4. Use fresh eyes. After you’ve prepared the survey questions, share them with someone you trust who is not directly involved with the programs you’re evaluating. 
  5. Provide motivation. Give employees incentives for taking a survey. For example, saying that a small donation will be made to a charity for taking a survey can encourage participation.
  6. Share the data back. Transparency is a key element in employee surveys. If your employees have concerns that can’t be immediately addressed, it’s important to acknowledge these comments and explain why some actions can’t be taken now. 
  7. Get some perspective. When it comes to understanding survey results, context is key. Let’s say 64% of your medical office staff report they’re feeling engaged at work. At first glance, you might not know if that’s good or bad, but by comparing your results against industry benchmarks, this information becomes much more useful.

Healthcare practitioners know about the importance of taking the vital signs of patients. Healthcare organizations also have their own vital signs, which must be regularly taken and analyzed. By using tried-and-tested methods of surveying employees, you can help your organization’s training and development programs be continuously successful.

Sara Dowling is senior director of Learning and Development at SurveyMonkey.

Learn more about SurveyMonkey solutions for healthcare organizations, including solutions for elevating employee and patient experiences.

¹SurveyMonkey research of 321 U.S.-based healthcare professionals conducted in May 2021, using SurveyMonkey Audience.