Inside-Up Strategies: Developing Intentional Pathways for Career Advancement at AtlantiCare

AtlantiCare Hospital

AtlantiCare is the largest healthcare organization in southern New Jersey. Between 2 hospitals, an ED, FQHCs, surgery centers, urgent care and pharmacies, it employs 6,000+ staff at 100+ locations. AtlantiCare’s accolades include being a Malcolm Baldrige National Quality recipient, obtaining HEI designation, 4x Magnet designation, and a 2022 Forbes Best Place to Work. The organization has a goal to deliver health excellence, by offering personalized care and support for healthier lives.

Besides just care delivery, AtlantiCare also focuses on being a best-in-class employer, in how it serves needs of its employees. AtlantiCare’s footprint is right in Atlantic City NJ, where casinos are a big competitor for frontline employees. To help compete for talent AtlantiCare embraced a strategy to differentiate itself with this group of potential associates, positioning itself as a “destination employer.” AtlantiCare began programs to provide upward mobility opportunity for frontline employees and to find talent from within to fill management and other positions of high need.

Talent Management Strategy Making A Difference

AtlantiCare quickly found there were roadblocks to post-secondary adult learning as many associates had issues balancing school and work. Half of frontline associates lacked the confidence to sign-up for L&D opportunities. Nearly half of the targeted employees were unaware of ways to advance their career. Additionally, many didn’t think L&D would provide any actual career value.

To break down barriers, AtlantiCare devised a detailed talent management strategy that includes paid education programs, mentoring, inclusive leadership training, employee resource groups, career and problem-solving workshops, and a Total Rewards program that focuses on retention and building motivation. As more programs were rolled out, many employees became interested in mentoring and professional development.

Building Intentional Pathways

AtlantiCare also has a front-line associate focused partnership with Catalyst Learning Company to bring upward mobility and career planning to entry and mid-level employees with Catalyst Learning’s School at Work (SAW) and Expanding Your Career & Healthcare Opportunities (ECHO) experiences.  SAW and ECHO provide on-the-job skills like medical terminology, critical thinking, and patient safety principles;  as well as life skills such as: communications, grammar and writing in the workplace.

SAW and ECHO are cohort-based experiences that provide an understanding of available opportunity in healthcare, customer service skills, confidence building, and help adult learners build a career and learning development plan.  

AtlantiCare’s commitment to workforce development is an integral part of our mission to make a difference in health and healing, one person at a time, through caring and trusting relationships. By offering paid education programs, mentoring, and inclusive training, we have been able to create intentional career pathways for our entry-level employees and help them fill positions of high need. Our talent development strategy has broken down barriers to post-secondary adult learning and we have seen tremendous success with our School at Work and ECHO programs. With a focus on the team member experience and retention, we are proud to be a best-in-class employer and look forward to continuing to grow, develop, and recruit our future workforce.

Michelle Keck, AtlantiCare, Manager of Talent Management

At AtlantiCare, career pathways isn’t a buzz word. Beyond clinical employees, emerging leaders participate in its STRIDES program, consisting of specialty project management and mentoring.

The organization tracks success on an employee-by-employee basis. See a few actual examples of role enhancement, a few adult learners and pathways taken:

AtlantiCare has analyzed outcomes of its 149 graduates from SAW and ECHO.  Half have been promoted, 49% made a department change, and 19% have furthered their education. To build on their success, AtlantiCare has partnered with Catalyst Learning to start new pre-course to SAW and ECHO, called “Building My Career at AtlantiCare.” This internal course helps with recruiting and retention by helping match employees with interests and skills. Career advisors meet with associates and support them with career mapping and additional resources.

AtlantiCare’s talent development team is in lock-step with organization Diversity Equity & Inclusion leadership, directly support DEI strategies with the SAW and ECHO, and “Building My Career” experiences. 35% of course participants are African-American and 26% are Latino, which reflects the diversity of the southern New Jersey area.

Partnering With the Community

And AtlantiCare isn’t just focused on its present-day workforce, it is recruiting and preparing its future workforce as well. The Asst. VP of DE&I and the Corporate Director of Recruitment partner with two local university Co-Op programs, offer clinical internships, and bring in students from local high schools, technical schools, and community colleges to participate in career exploration events. AtlantiCare also partners with the Atlantic City Boys & Girls Club, local veterans organizations, and the local workforce development board to form apprenticeships and on-the-job trainings. AtlantiCare even works with the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office to help court appointed individuals with substance abuse issues to seek opportunities.

AtlantiCare has 15+ years of intentionally developing the frontline to retain employees and move those associates to family-sustaining roles.  Being an advocate for frontline employees is a part of the mission at AtlantiCare.  As underscored by its membership in the Hospital Anchor Network, AtlantiCare’s progress isn’t fueled by a “this is nice to do” type of sentiment. AtlantiCare fiercely competes for talent in its community, advocates learning & development for their entry and mid-level workforce, and works to be the employer of choice for prospective employees of all ages.