Support strategic initiative with knowledge management

Hospital utilizes corporate university

Applying knowledge management techniques to education and training can help support your organization’s strategic initiatives. In the case of William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, MI, chief learning officer Jean Ann Larson, CHE, FHIMSS, says this is accomplished through an organization called "Beaumont U."

"A couple of years ago, the administration began exploring the concept of a corporate university," Larson recalls. "I was asked to head it up, and it has become a mission: to make sure our educational efforts truly support our strategic initiatives and to truly invest in our employees." Within this framework, she adds, the global objective of organization learning is key.

Like many large teaching hospitals, Beaumont has many successful teaching departments, Larson notes. "We are trying to take those efforts and align them around strategic initiatives," she explains.

(Because Beaumont is so large — one of its main facilities records more than 10,000 emergency department visits a month — all mandatory education is handled on-line.)

One of those initiatives is work force planning. "What this means is working with entry-level people, providing career paths and innovative ways to train, educate, and prepare them for positions such as nursing," Larson says.

"As co-op students, they might come in and work in patient transport. I might identify that they have certain interests, convince and help them to pursue their career paths, and they will probably become surgical technicians and then RNs." While this is being done now on an individual basis, Larson is seeking to systematize the process, she adds.

Success requires innovation, she points out. "Some of these folks have families, and it’s hard to get them to drop one thing and start another," she concedes. "But instead of letting them go out the door, perhaps we can redirect and train them."

Technology can help in both areas. "We are implementing a lot of information systems, both in administration and clinical areas," Larson says. "We’re trying to look at tools that will help provide on-line tutoring capabilities."

She is incorporating a number of strategies in seeking to systemize education. "If we find people with good supervisory skills, who demonstrate best practices and who get good results, we ask them to be part of the faculty," she notes.

"We help them with some platform skills, give them resources and tools, and have them sit on a panel, where they discuss and share what they do. This also gives the audience a list of subject matter experts they can go to when they need help," she adds.

A significant part of the initiative is promoting career opportunities. "We let people know that if they are interested in a different career or a change in professions, or if they want to work their way up, we will meet them halfway," Larson says. "Some of the programs offer financial aid in the form of tuition reimbursement or forgivable loans."

While these people are trained, they may be required to work only part-time so they can spend more time with their families, yet they will be offered full-time benefits or stipends during the program, which can last anywhere from six months to two years.

"Our employees are already with us and committed to us," explains Larson, who notes that retraining and retaining current employees is far preferable to having to replace them. "It’s better to put the money there than to commit to bidding wars. Plus, these individuals already possess the knowledge of the organization."