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Initiatives at Central Health Enterprise target employee advancement and salary equity

Monday, November 4, 2019 by Katherine Corley

Central Health Enterprise will introduce its Emerging Leader program this fall, designed to train employees in the leadership skills they need to apply for supervisory and managerial positions. All employees of Central Health Enterprise – which includes CommUnityCare and Sendero Health Plans – will have until Dec. 6 to apply for the first iteration of the program, which will last five to six months, said Susan Lara Willars, vice president of human resources at Central Health Enterprise.

“We do a great job of promoting from within, but we don’t always have the necessary training needed to really develop those staff members. So, we’re hoping that through this program, we are one step ahead of that by providing them with the tools and knowledge to be successful within our organization,” Willars said. “Our hope is that we’re really building a pipeline of folks that are ready to jump into a supervisor or manager role.”

The program, which will start with a cohort of 10 employees, will teach seven leadership competencies, including financial management, human resources management and quality management. Participants will be assigned online homework and provided two paid hours every week to complete the homework. Additionally, once a month, participants will attend a six-hour class during the workday, for which they will also be paid.

“Central Health Enterprise executives (are) really wanting this to be successful,” Willars said. “It’s really a big investment … but I think it’s going to be very well worth it.”

Once the first iteration of the Emerging Leader program concludes in June, Central Health Enterprise will evaluate the program and hopefully open it up to more participants, Willars said.

The Emerging Leader program is just one facet of Central Health Enterprise’s systemwide push to increase advancement opportunities and salary equity for employees at all levels. At Wednesday’s Central Health board meeting, Willars and Betsy Good, human resources and compensation analyst for Central Health Enterprise, presented in-depth data about employee salaries, categorized by pay grade, race/ethnicity and gender, as part of an ongoing effort to ensure that employee salaries are both competitive within their industry and equitable across demographics.

The presentation sparked an ardent conversation among board members, who peppered the two human resources executives with questions. Board members Julie Oliver and Shannon Jones grilled Willars and Good about whether they had found any relationship between pay and race/ethnicity/gender; Willars and Good assured them that an extensive examination of the data had found no correlation whatsoever.

Jones and Vice-Chairperson Sherri Greenberg also asked Willars and Good about how Central Health Enterprise dealt with any structural/historical inequities that might prevent staff from advancing in their careers, such as lack of educational opportunities. Willars pointed to the new Emerging Leader program as an initiative that enables employees to gain managerial and supervisory skills, opening the door to higher-paying job opportunities.

“We are talking about equity in the community, and we want to make sure our staff are reflective of that,” said Jones.

Willars and Good also discussed efforts to ensure that Central Health Enterprise salaries are in line with industry norms, explaining that Central Health uses the Economic Research Institute Survey tool to gain data about salaries at comparable not-for-profit institutions. Board members questioned whether the list of comparables in the survey was appropriate for Central Health. “We want to make sure we are paying reasonable salaries,” Oliver said. Willars explained that Central Health does not have control over the specific institutions included in the survey.

Board members discussed the possibility of conducting an independent salary study that would include other hospital districts as comps, but had made no decisions by the end of the meeting.

Photo courtesy of Google Maps.

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