Employee retention is an apex challenge facing L&D teams today—and what makes it so difficult to master is down to the fact that people leave their jobs for various reasons.
While there may not be a silver bullet to retention, there are initiatives that you can implement or use to help rethink your programs, along with metrics you should observe to drive impact.
At Flatiron Health, Laura Welch Nevarez, Director of Talent Development, increases retention by designing and implementing programs that ramp up engagement. In my latest interview, I spoke with Laura about her three initiatives for pushing engagement and retention and how each facilitates people’s career development.
So, how is Laura driving employee retention at a healthtech company like Flatiron? Read on to hear more.
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At Flatiron Health, Laura is on the Talent Development team and focuses on talent management, succession planning, coaching, and executive development.
“My team has a pretty broad remit,” she notes. “We wear quite a few hats—we do everything from DEI learning to onboarding to manager training.”
Like most tech companies, Flatiron faces the intertwined challenges of employee engagement and retention.
“To my knowledge, there isn't necessarily a silver bullet for retention because people leave for different reasons, but there is a correlation between engagement and retention. So, we really try to focus on the engagement piece,” she explains.
So, how has Laura been making an impact on retention through engagement? Read on to hear about her three initiatives for improving engagement.
Looking for more expert insights? Find out how L&D leaders at Amazon, WhatsApp, Klaviyo and more are driving growth with the right L&D strategy.
Laura shares three initiatives for driving engagement and retention, starting with a day program dedicated to learning.
The first initiative is Learn, Teach, Grow Day dedicated to learning and career development.
“Essentially, this creates a dedicated time and space for career development and learning. And what my colleague Winnie has done–she was the architect behind this–is give employees a menu of learning options,” says Laura.
During Learn, Teach, Grow days, we encourage people to truly focus on learning, which people can do in alignment with their goals. In the past, Laura and her team have offered spot coaching with external coaches, peer-to-peer learning sessions, and virtual reality training through a DEI vendor.
“The results have been positive,” she says. “We're coming up on our second iteration of doing a Learn, Teach, Grow Day. We’ve had great feedback and people appreciate having dedicated time to focus on themselves and what they want to get out of their career.”
Flatiron’s Learn, Teach, Grow Day initiative for driving engagement highlights the advantages of collaborative learning. By offering a dedicated day for career development and opportunities for peer-to-peer learning, employees are making the most of the day to focus on what’s important to them and how to get the most out of their careers.
By offering a dedicated day for career development and opportunities for peer-to-peer learning, employees are making the most of the day to focus on what’s important to them and how to get the most out of their careers.
Next up, Laura and the team hold what they call ‘Hybrid Working Week’, which came about as a result of Flatiron’s transition to a flexible, hybrid way of working.
“The program is all about provisioning people with the tools for hybrid work,” she says. “We’ve partnered with an organization called Charter that focuses on giving people tools to make the hybrid model work on a practical basis.”
Other offered sessions include using different collaboration tools such as Miro or Jamboard or Flatiron's new conference room technology. They also had a podcast where they interviewed employees on what it meant to be a hybrid employee.
“We also host mindful in-person events such as coffee chats, and Leadership Roundtables. We’ve had a really successful happy hour that our CEO attended as well as an in-person breakfast,” Laura explains.
Finally, Laura and her team have developed their internal coaching program.
“The program is a company-sponsored opportunity for senior managers and directors where we offer an internal coach on the Flatiron talent development team to provide individualized career development support towards an employee's leadership effectiveness,” she says.
Laura and the team created the program to ensure they were supporting the outcomes of the talent planning process by providing leadership coaching to more junior employees. There was also a need for more targeted leadership development support for their rising leaders.
Since Flatiron’s inception, Laura says, they have prioritized coaching. Flatiron has offered executive coaching to senior directors, VPs and SVPs, and they have partnered with GoCoach to provide any employees with coaching sessions.
Although all the internal coaching engagements are confidential, Laura finds it helps to identify themes that arise across the diverse cross-functional group of individuals at Flatiron Health.
“I look for common themes between doctors and engineers at different levels” she explains. “I try to find common challenges that they face so I can summarise those challenges, then share them with our HR business partners and other HR colleagues who are coming up with interventions.”
Are you already considering implementing one of Laura’s programs to drive engagement and retention? Read on to hear how Laura knows she is having an impact.
Laura has found that attendance and feedback are the best metrics to calculate the impact of Learn, Teach, Grow and the Hybrid Working Week.
“We had about a quarter of our company attend our Hybrid Working Week event, and we received great feedback. We also got enough positive feedback that we've been able to scale each and every one of these three programs.”
Laura and the team also received specific feedback from remote employees who appreciated all the options to learn remotely. For hybrid employees, people loved the in-person opportunity to meet with other colleagues.
“The results and feedback from these initiatives shows that we’re seeing success with meeting people where they are,” says Laura.
From an internal coaching perspective, people appreciated the individualized support. They said the coaching helped them drive closer towards specific business goals. “We were thrilled that we were able to route coaching initiatives, which sometimes feel fluffy, to actual business objectives,” she says.
“We're operating in an environment where people expect more from HR and L&D,” Laura notes. “It's almost become table stakes that you're going out of your way to support your employees from a learning perspective. So, we're really focused on driving innovation, and listening to our employees’ feedback.”
Thanks to Laura for sharing her three initiatives and experience with us!
For more expert advice on retention and engagement, check out our interview with Andrew Foote about Tricon Residential’s three-step playbook for nurturing the next generation of company leaders. And Sarah Larson’s three-step approach to promoting diverse leadership growth at the Stanford University School of Medicine.
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