02/01/2008

Growing Our Own

By Denise E. Jenkins

It is an honor to be a part of the team at Nationwide Children’s Hospital of Columbus, Ohio, which was ranked as the #12 pediatric hospital in the U.S. for 2007 by U.S. News & World Report, and voted a “Best Place to Work in Central Ohio” by Business First magazine in 2006 and 2007. One of the many factors that makes our hospital stand out is the Workforce Development Division located within our Human Resources Department.

As Senior Workforce Development Coordinator, I have benchmarked several programs that educate, encourage, coach and advise our employees, moving them from where they currently are in their careers, to where they would like to be, through the “Grow Our Own” campaign.

In 2005, I was hired to design programs that would develop our employees professionally by giving them classroom instruction, academic advising, and professional development tools for career success. Accepting this position was a great fit for me after having been downsized, which encouraged me to really focus on the career role that would bring me total fulfillment. The program name “Grow Our Own” was already in place upon my arrival, and my task was to design programs to grow our existing employees, as opposed to recruiting primarily from the outside to fill open positions.

To make this campaign successful, we needed buy-in from our CEO, Vice Presidents and senior leaders. My director felt it was important for me to begin by presenting the concept at our top-level operations and management meetings. It was one thing to get support from my director and my division co-workers; it was quite another thing to pitch these program ideas to the executive team. Fortunately, they loved the concept.

The main purpose of the program is to tap into the career potentials of any employee who shows interest, from the entry-level frontline staff all the way up to senior management. My counseling background has equipped me to develop creative approaches on the best services and programs to offer the more than 6,000 employees at this hospital. And in addition, we reach out to the community through a career development program for youth.

The “Grow Our Own” program currently consists of the following five program areas:

Academic Coaching/Advising: Through individual meetings we listen, support and sometimes supply tissues to employees who want to continue their education, but who have not found ways to make that possible. At the end of the coaching session, the employee is given homework to encourage them to elicit support from family, friends, managers and co-workers, and to engage in some quiet soul-searching about their career plans and needed training. It asks them to consider researching academic programs, reviewing college brochures, and registering for courses. At the conclusion of our first meeting, the employee leaves with the understanding that during this journey they will not be walking alone, and that the Workforce Development team will be their biggest cheerleader.

Professional Development Coaching: In 1-on-1 meetings, we encourage the employee to share confidentially what they like and dislike about their current position, and where they would like to go within the organization. Much of the discussion focuses on what they already enjoy doing, with suggestions on how those interests could translate into other positions. At the end of the session we often develop a plan for transferring to another department where the employee’s gifts and talents could be an asset. By working closely and pro-actively with our recruiters, I help make these transitions much easier to achieve. Getting recruiter feedback on whether the employee is a good fit or not in potential new positions is integral to the process.

Educational and Career Expo: This annual event allows our employees to meet with representatives of over 35 colleges and universities in one place. Our employees have the opportunity to meet and talk with recruiters about academic programs that are available to working adults. As an added bonus, we also have set up booths where our employees can learn about areas of expertise needed for fields in allied healthcare. We also offer workshops where our employees can focus on Resume Writing, Interviewing Skills, and Professional Image. It takes a lot of planning and coordination to create a multi-faceted event of this type successfully. Volunteers from my division and staff from throughout the hospital all pitch in to make it happen.

In-House Training: Bringing training experiences on campus for employees makes many of their goals much easier to achieve. Some of the training we have offered on-site includes:

  • General Education Diploma (GED)
  • English as a Second Language (ESL)
  • Medical Terminology
  • Medical Billing and Coding
  • Spanish in the Workplace
  • Nursing Assistance
  • Computer Training

Career Development for Youth: I personally designed a program allowing us to partner with our neighborhood urban high school, providing career development training to selected juniors and seniors who were interested in pursuing careers in allied healthcare. This 3-week mentoring program consists of students shadowing our employees in various parts of the hospital, together with career and life skill instruction. As an added incentive and bonus, two participating students receive a $1,000 college scholarship for the best essay describing their 3-week experience. These students walk away with an experience of a lifetime that could not be found in a textbook.

This program has generated positive, measurable results; and as a consequence our hospital president recently spoke very highly of the “Grow Our Own” program. This makes it possible for us to now look forward to designing new training and development opportunities for our employees as we continue to “grow” our organization as one of the leading pediatric hospitals in the nation.


Denise Jenkins, M.S.Ed., is a professional speaker and trainer at heart, who enjoys motivating and encouraging people in all walks of life to fulfill their career and personal development goals. She has a part-time consulting practice called Professional Savvy (http://www.professional-savvy.com/), in addition to her full-time work as Sr. Workforce Development Coordinator for Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, OH. She can be reached at denise@professional-savvy.com or 614-330-5494.


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