Great Places to Work: The Michigan Difference

Jan Mulcrone

By Jan Mulcrone and Nancy A. Kelly
June 18, 2009

The University of Michigan Health System Human Resources’ planning journey began eight years ago, knowing that we needed to start a journey that ensured we would have the talent to meet future demand and keep UMHS as the place where people choose to come for health care and talented employees choose to work. Health care is in a unique situation. As the baby boomers begin retirement, the general population is aging, and fewer people are entering the workforce, a ‘Perfect Storm’ is created of increasing demand and decreasing supply. This is further compounded by technology advancements that create an ever-increasing demand for more sophisticated skills to accomplish our patient care mission. Amazing things happen every day in our institution, and it takes the best talent to make that difference.

So, what’s an employer to do? We partnered with a team of our leaders to create a Workforce Investment Plan that included a multi-pronged approach to attract the best and the brightest and to make sure we retain our incredible talent.

Some unique aspects of the plan include School Outreach Programs where we partner with middle and high schools to increase interest in health care careers by showcasing the variety of career opportunities beyond doctors and nurses. A Youth Mentoring Program allows us to give back to the community while creating future health care staff interest among local high school students and a Careers Web site has a student portal with the opportunity to walk in the virtual shoes of members of our health care team.

Our employee recognition initiatives include the You’re Super Program, which takes the patient comment card to the next level by providing a certificate of appreciation for excellent service. A You’re Super certificate and lapel pin is presented to the employee along with a quarterly recognition event that honors our awardees. Many of our employees have badge lanyards covered with You’re Super pins; they truly have become a “badge of honor,” proving that sometimes the most effective recognition is the simplest.

In analyzing turnover we learned our highest vulnerability is in the first three years of employment. To stop “new hire flight” we assessed root causes through interviews, surveys and a CEO breakfast series with new hires to listen and learn their views. We modified our orientation expectations to go beyond the “musts” of compliance requirements by including best practice activities to engage new employees.

Recruitment and retention strategies can only take things so far without ensuring you have the environment where employees are engaged and giving discretionary effort that truly makes a difference. Studies show that supervisors, managers -“ all leaders -“ have the biggest effect on creating the right environment. A focus on leadership development through a Foundations for Successful Leadership and the Master’s program help supervisors and managers take their skills to the next level as well as sustain them. Finally, an annual Leadership Day brings together top clinical and administrative leaders to focus on renewal and enhancement of leadership skills and strategies.

The foundation that supports all these efforts is the Michigan Quality System (MQS), our management and quality improvement strategy designed to improve Quality, Safety, Efficiency, Appropriateness and Service. The Michigan Quality System adapts the ‘lean thinking’ methods from industry and applies them within UMHS. Aligning with MQS, we revamped our employee suggestion program, as it struggled with falling participation and invented a department-based Everyday Lean Idea program. This program supports empowering employees to find and fix problems for their customers and improve their workplace.

The journey to ensure our future workforce is never-ending. Included on the horizon are plans to create a mentoring program to engage our retirees as mentors for new employees, a fully integrated total rewards strategy, succession planning, and staff retention interviews that focus on career development opportunities. This continuing journey is what creates a Michigan Difference for our employees and our patients.

Jan Mulcrone is director of human resources at the University of Michigan Health System and provides leadership for Talent Management and HR Services. She can be reached at [email protected].

Nancy A. Kelly is director of human resources at the University of Michigan Health System and provides leadership for Retention, Recognition, Payroll and HR regulatory compliance. She can be reached at [email protected]. UMHS was named a Metropolitan Detroit’s 101 Best and Brightest Companies to Work For in 2008 and 2007.