In Relias’ 2021 State of Healthcare Training and Staff Development Report, a survey of nearly 1,300 healthcare professionals that offers insight into training needs, strengths, weaknesses and opportunities, we found that 68% of healthcare respondents did not fully recognize or appreciate the financial benefits that training and staff development can yield.

One of the biggest concerns we have heard from organizations is the loss of their investment in education, whether from employees leaving for better job opportunities or departing healthcare entirely for work in the gig economy.

While I understand the root of that mentality,  I wholeheartedly disagree. According to Gallup’s How Millennials Want to Work and Live, 87% of millennials and 69% of non-millennials rated “professional or career growth opportunities” as important to them in a job.

Simply put, most workers want to grow their skills, knowledge and earning potential. According to the Relias report, more than half of healthcare professionals said benefits of staff education include increasing competencies (85%), compliance (80%), better staff performance outcomes (78%), addressing knowledge gaps (66%) and staff career advancement (51%).

However, only 32% of healthcare respondents identified ROI to the organization as a benefit of a staff education program.

If you don’t appreciate the financial payoff of staff development, you risk underinvesting in employees, which makes their decision to leave easier. With the cost of turnover usually at four or five figures, you may leave your organization “penny-wise, but dollar-foolish.”

How to grow training

Linking education to business goals and ROI can be done in a variety of ways.

Agencies often look to tie dollars spent in education to dollars earned. Some costs are more direct. For example, by investing in staff education for wound care specialization, you can take on patients that qualify for higher reimbursement.

A more indirect method is to find key performance indicators, or KPIs, that can be associated with experience and training. Consider measures like:

  • Staff satisfaction scores
  • Productivity
  • Brand reputation
  • Specific quality concerns

Let’s say you focused on a KPI like: “Achieve a five-star rating on the Home Health Compare website.” You could then target growth on a quality measure like improving readmissions. You might implement training for your aides around assistance with activities of daily living and changes in condition. When you see your outcomes improve based on that training, you will see your quality scores improve as well.

By tying learning to existing KPIs, you’re likely to see better patient volume, better payments and better patient experience scores. When targeted learning leads to broader positive results, your quality scores differentiate you from competitors.

Training and development strengths

As we know all too well,  COVID-19 shook everyone up in healthcare. Despite the challenges that the pandemic created for training, however, some positive areas emerged in our survey results.

The two main strengths noted were the ability of organizations to adapt to changing needs (33%) and provide online learning (27%).

Amid the pandemic, training became a just-in-time effort. Organizations relied on quick bites of education that could be put into practice that day. Training also can provide value for simple items like new documentation standards or more complex tasks like fit testing of N95 masks.

Pandemic planning and response was a priority among 60% of respondents’ organizations, followed by employee wellness and self-care (57%). These are two areas where virtual classroom technology can ensure consistency and rapid delivery of messaging, as well as the ability to create breakout sessions for coaching, collaboration and problem solving.

As organizations continue to find ways to deliver training differently, utilizing new virtual capabilities will be important for current employees and for onboarding new staff.

DEI dilemma

We know that staff retention is a struggle in post-acute care, and a focus on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) can support your staff’s sense of belonging. Among organizations that have DEI initiatives, 88% of post-acute care respondents said their efforts were supported with training. However, only a mere 39% of those organizations require managers to participate in that training.

Sensitivity to the stress and moral injury experienced by staff in post-acute care organizations is a must-have to stem turnover and improve the work culture.

The value of cultural competency training in healthcare can be seen readily in areas like hospice care, which has always provided services cognizant of the traditions, values, cultures and spirituality of patients and families. Hospice organizations typically score high in these areas, much of which has to do with staff coaching and development.  When managers are part of DEI training, that can ensure it’s a priority for everyone in an organization.

Embracing data

While DEI discussions focus on the individuals on your team, we also need to look at performance trends using data. To some healthcare professionals, data is a big, bad collection of overwhelming numbers.

In the Relias report, 38% of respondents said they don’t use data and analytics to inform training.

Data can be your friend.  The key is not overthinking it. You don’t need a nursing informatics background to start incorporating it.

Even for a smaller organization, the Medicare Care Compare website can be a helpful tool. You can measure your strengths and weaknesses against competitors. In turn, that data can help identify potential training gaps and opportunities.

By merely looking at the Care Compare site, 100% of organizations could say they use data to support training and staff development. And that doesn’t take a mathematics degree to figure out.

Get in the driver’s seat

If you want to achieve a healthy ROI for staff education, map out your training and development plans, grab the wheel and guide your staff.

The education you offer will build your staff’s expertise, increase their confidence, and prepare them for whatever is next, because in healthcare we know the only constant is change.

Don Spiers is a senior product manager at Relias, providing market insight on home health, hospice and home care.