New hire involved in employee engagement to make sure that employees feel valued and heard
By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant
As healthcare organizations feel even greater difficulty in employee retention, Oswego Health has created and filled a new position. Jennifer Coleman has come on board as the organization’s first employee experience manager in late 2020.
Coleman grew up in Vermont and has lived in New York since 2000. She attended Ithaca College as a music education major and stayed, first working as a teacher for seven years and then shifting to human resources in a variety of entry level and then mid-level roles for nine years. Coleman is a certified professional in human resources and a member of the Society for Human Resource Management.
“I love teaching and helping people grow and develop,” she said. “I found I could do that in HR.”
Her previous role was at EarQ in Syracuse as director of employee engagement.
When she saw the opening at Oswego Health, she felt it aligned with what she wanted to do. She also likes the values and vision for human resources at Oswego Health, including its view of employee experience.
“Right now, with everything we’re facing with the pandemic, some people are working from home and in a healthcare organization, there’s a lot on everyone’s plate,” Coleman said. “We’re trying to keep them happy and wanting to come to work.”
Beyond the pressures from the pandemic, she believes that healthcare is different than it used to be because of generational differences that necessitate an emphasis on employee engagement to make sure that employees feel valued and heard.
“The fact that we have employees spread throughout Oswego County, makes it critical that we can reach everyone in different ways,” said Marquand Brown, vice president of human resources for Oswego Health. “We needed someone who can focus on engagement with those employees, not only during the pandemic but to remain competitive.”
Brown added that he has heard of similar challenges facing other healthcare providers in the region. That is why he feels it is so important to “connect with employees to the point where they’re happy coming to work.”
Coleman represents the first point of contact for employees at all levels who need information. She also oversees seeking information from employees through means such as staff surveys.
“We manage those and analyze results,” Coleman said. “They all have different perspectives to bring to the table.”
She is also involved with rolling out Reward Gateway, an app and website that will help employees to recognize each other for good work and to facilitate communication in the organization.
“The idea is that we’re looking at any way we can to communicate with staff, and also patting each other on the back,” Brown said.
Coleman said that she has felt very impressed with how invested the organization has become in employee engagement.
“It was impressive to me that from the CEO down, everyone seemed they really wanted more employee engagement,” Coleman said. “They were excited to have a dedicate role.”
Brown views adding this role as a way to help Oswego Health offer “the best-in-class HR department. Also, it helps with recruiting talent across the organization. Having someone dedicated to this role creates good word-of-mouth and attracting talent we might not have before.”
Brown hopes that as more Oswego Health employees get to know Coleman, they will view her as a trusted resource when they need help.
Coleman echoed the sentiment, expressing that she “wants to be able to build relationships with more and more of the staff and leaders in our organization. It’s only been a few months. I’m still getting the lay of the land. I want people to feel comfortable coming to me.”
That aspect of her position has been more challenging, as face-to-face meetings have been limited and virtual meetings lack the same dynamics. But Coleman looks forward to using whatever means she can to engage with employees.
“Keeping all our employees engaged, even if they don’t have access to email or not involved in Zoom meetings, is important as every employee can feel valued and that they have a voice,” Coleman said.
Brown added, “I think Jen is going to do amazing things for Oswego Health. We are so happy to have Jennifer on the team and I look forward to improving engagement at Oswego Health.”