As the senior population it serves booms, Classic Residence by Hyatt streamlined operations to more effectively reach its dispersed employee population.
Retirees, as a customer base, can be a demanding lot. After all, it’s reasonable to expect that one’s golden years be serviced with a certain level of precision and care.
Serving these retirees, meanwhile, is a growth industry. Due to an aging demographic profile, senior living is one of the fastest-growing businesses in the U.S. Almost 8,000 people turn 60 each day, according to 2006 projections by the U.S. Census Bureau.
According to the Administration on Aging in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, people 65 years or older numbered 38.9 million in 2008 — representing 12 percent of the U.S. population. And this percentage is increasing. The Administration on Aging projects the number of people in the U.S. 65 or older to number 40.2 million this year, 54.8 million by 2020 and 72.1 million by 2030 — 19.3 percent of the population and almost twice the number of people 65 or older in 2008.
This makes senior living facilities an extremely competitive field, and consumers have many choices, both national and local — with the U.S. Census Bureau counting more than 4,000 continuing care retirement facilities operational in the U.S. in the past decade. As such, Classic Residence by Hyatt, a national provider of senior living and care, places a heavy emphasis on learning, as it plays a key role in engaging employees to deliver on the company’s service commitment.
An independent, privately held company founded by Hyatt Chairman Penny Pritzker, Classic Residence by Hyatt currently develops, owns and operates 21 senior living communities in 11 states across the U.S. Until recently, the training function at Classic Residence by Hyatt was fragmented and not strategically coordinated. There was no centralized organization or governance structure in place to ensure that the learning and development function was aligned with company objectives and efficiently executed.
There are challenges to learning and development that are structurally inherent in the company’s business model:
- The geographic dispersion of employees makes it difficult to deliver and measure training in a cost-effective and consistent manner.
- By law, each community has to demonstrate that it has provided the required and regulated safety, compliance and privacy training. Compliance is subject to periodic audits by regulators.
- Many medical and nonmedical staffers have industry certifications that require them to earn continuing education credits annually.
- The communities are staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, so scheduling time for staff and management training can be a challenge, especially for classroom delivery.
- Classic Residence by Hyatt has a diverse workforce. Many community employees, especially line staff, speak English as a second language (ESL).
As recently as 2006, no single executive was responsible for the overall learning function at Classic Residence by Hyatt. As a consequence, there was no holistic strategy or budget for training.
Instead, training was developed and delivered by functional departments, as well as by separate training groups located in the communities. Managers made decisions about training and were given the latitude to do whatever they thought was best. This organic approach was uncoordinated and inefficient, resulting in high travel costs for one-off training programs. The company was not utilizing a learning management system, so all training was manually managed and tracked. As a consequence, HR managers had to rely on manual paper training and tracking reports required for regulatory compliance audits, while functional and community executives were unable to ascertain the total costs of manpower for training delivered. Moreover, all the training processes, best practices, templates, metrics and other elements were not documented or institutionalized. Talent management also was managed through manual processes. All of this made it difficult for HR and the training groups to respond quickly to the business needs of their internal customers.
Classic Residence by Hyatt reorganized the learning function around a federated model, which features a single, centralized, shared-services organization; multiple, autonomous local delivery organizations that report to business units; and subject-matter experts who reside in functional and operational groups. The shared-services unit, Learning and Organizational Development, resides under the HR department. Learning and Organizational Development is an unusually lean organization, with two team members — Judy Whitcomb, assistant vice president, and Brad Dexter, manager — serving a company of more than 4,000 employees.
“We have not found that a lean staff has inhibited us in any way in meeting our business needs,” Whitcomb said, adding that at times it’s a benefit, as it streamlines decision making and rollout.
One of the centerpieces of the redesign of the learning function at Classic Residence by Hyatt was the creation of an online university — E-Campus — hosted on an enterprise LMS implementation. E-Campus provides access to hundreds of educational resources on a variety of topics, including personal and professional development; business essentials; customer service and sales courses; software training; compliance training; and language skills courses. Employees can access these resources 24/7, from work or home. This e-learning platform also leverages functional learn centers to share best practices, online best practices blogs and progress on performance metrics.
Learning and Organizational Development spends a significant amount of time and resources on marketing to its audience. The broad goal is to increase engagement in and excitement about learning, while more specific goals include driving traffic to the online university to get the maximum value from the investment in technology.
To build compelling campaigns, the team starts out by developing an understanding of its internal customers’ needs and motives and then showing internal customers how the online university can assist them.
Whitcomb outlined some of these needs and motives within Classic Residence by Hyatt’s workforce and how the online university met them. “Employees in [the] food and beverage [department], certification is really important to them, and [it’s] the same thing with our nursing staff,” she said, explaining that there are state and national requirements for nurses to take a certain number of courses every year to be recertified. “In the past, a lot of our nursing staff would go to a community college or go find the courses online. We devised a system to categorize courses by state [and] by role, and now we offer free courses to them so they can recertify themselves.”
Better Than Normal
The reorganization of the learning function at Classic Residence by Hyatt was rapid and transformational and has had an impact on employee enablement and engagement.
According to an employee engagement survey conducted by the Hay Group for Classic Residence by Hyatt, its favorable response rate for training and development was 77 percent, with 92 percent of its employees participating in the survey.
The Hay Group’s research has established the national norm for a favorable response for training and development at 58 percent. Classic Residence by Hyatt was 19 percent higher than this. The Hay Group’s research has established the hospitality industry norm for a favorable response for training and development at 57 percent. Classic Residence by Hyatt was 20 percent higher here.
Just as essential as the favorable response rate, said Whitcomb, is the adoption rate.
“The level of participation using online learning courses has improved significantly,” she said. “We started out a year and a half ago with our online learning system with about 800 users. We’re almost up to 1,700 active users right now. When I first started, people said, ‘No, people will not use an online learning system,’ and over time it’s become part of our culture.”
Whitcomb pointed to Classic Residence by Hyatt now engaging its ESL employees in online learning through the language learning software Rosetta Stone. “These are people that for three years we were never able to reach, and now we’re giving them tools and resources to better serve our residents and work with our colleagues,” she said. “People feel that they’re being reached.”