Vi, a senior living facilities company based in Chicago, is dedicated to creating a quality environment and a quality experience for its 4,500 residents. The company makes a similar promise for its 2,700 employees. That’s a difficult promise to keep in an industry where attrition ranges from 43 to 75 percent.
“We know from new hire, exit interview, employee survey and participation in local Best Places to Work awards, Vi’s commitment to employee training and development is an employment differentiator and helps the company maintain a high-level of employee retention,” said Judy Whitcomb, senior vice president of HR, learning and operational development at Vi.
The company is committed to creating a strong learning culture and strives for high levels of engagement throughout the company. Vi offers its employees more than 1,000 online courses through an e-campus. New or aspiring leaders can take advantage of courses on this platform via the Management Development Program. More than 600 employees have graduated from this program, and more than a third of Vi promotions come from these graduates. Since the program began in 2008, internal promotions range from 15 to 35 percent of all position changes.
Vi incorporates learning initiatives in overall company goals as well as in department and individual goals. In fact, one of Vi’s leadership competencies is “employee development,” and leaders are evaluated on how well they develop their employees. Leaders also participate in Vi’s one-year Breakthrough Leadership Program, which includes classroom learning, virtual learning and emotional intelligence evaluation and training.
Vi tracks learning impact, and in the past five years, it has improved a few key business areas: resident and customer satisfaction, employee retention and internal promotions. Ninety-five percent of residents said they would recommend Vi in a recent survey, compared with 83 percent in 2010, according to the company. Also, 94 percent of residents reported they were satisfied, compared with 87 percent in 2010.
Vi also had the lowest employee turnover rate in the industry. Retention is important because the cost of turnover is sizable, $11,000 per employee, according to the company. Further, staff retention is linked to higher customer satisfaction. In 2011, attrition was 27 percent; by 2014, it had decreased to 20 percent, and Vi strives to improve that number, though it is well below the industry average of 30 percent.
Vi analyzed data specifically from its Breakthrough Leadership Program as well, and found this particular program had a great effect on the company, especially in retaining top talent. For example, several years ago attrition for nurse leaders was about 75 percent; since the program was implemented, that has dropped to 10 percent, according to the company.
Vi continues to move forward and make changes. The company partnered with DePaul University last year to more closely analyze each part of the Breakthrough Leadership Program, specifically the October 2014 to October 2015 cohort. The analysis focused on post-program results, participants ability to transfer new skills and knowledge on the job. This was a change; program effectiveness was formerly judged on criteria such as participant feedback. Findings revealed Breakthrough Leadership Program participants performed tasks 33 percent better at the end compared with the beginning. Emotional intelligence (20 percent) and skill (12 percent) also increased.
Every learning program at Vi is continuously re-evaluated and improved. To avoid falling behind on learning strategy, the company participates in conferences, classes and various professional organizations. Vi is also focused on keeping up with the most effective technologies and learning practices.
“While we have been proudly selects as a LearningElite organization since the inception of the program, we will continue to refine our understanding of what contributes to organizational success,” Whitcomb said.
Andie Burjek is a Chief Learning Officer editorial intern. Comment below, or email editor@CLOmedia.com.