4 employees reach 9,000: Gundersen's career center tops 1st-year expectations

The Career Development Center at La Crosse, Wis.-based Gundersen Health System is small: four team members working entirely online. But that tiny crew zeros in on some of healthcare's biggest problems — talent attraction, retention and development — to have a substantial effect on its workforce. 

During 2022, the center's first operational year, its services reached 9,000 of the system's 19,000 employees — exceeding its goal of 25 percent of the Gundersen workforce. The demand for customized career development support was apparent, Susan Doughty-Smith, manager for Gundersen Recruitment Services, told Becker's.  

"It's [offering] full fledged assessments of the whole person and really helping them and teaching them how to build a career, not just getting that first career opportunity," she said. 

The idea for a career development center was born in February 2021 after employees requested more career growth opportunities in feedback surveys. In July 2021, the system brought on Amanda Busta, the center's program consultant. 

"We saw a real need for diversifying and coming up with something new for our retention and recruitment efforts," Ms. Busta said. "And so this was just a really nice pairing of both."

In September 2021, the career center rolled out a website for employees with online, self-directed development resources. Four months later, it opened its virtual doors for client appointments with certified career development advisors. Employees can also take online courses to learn more about job searching and filling out applications at Gundersen.

These career development resources have been embraced across the enterprise, from management to the front lines. 

"It's really been a confidence booster for a lot of folks," Ms. Doughty-Smith said. "We'll see a lot of people that want to get into leadership roles, or leaders that want to be vice presidents. And they will want to come for interviews and have their resume reviewed." 

Registered nurses are also drawn to the program, Ms. Busta said. The center points them toward growth opportunites that do not always require a higher license — clinical managers, operations directors, professional development nurses — to help each client work at their maximum potential. 

These resources are designed to help on both ends of the hiring process, acting as a draw for new workers while encouraging current employees to grow within the health system. 

"When we are recruiting people, the number one thing that they ask us about is, 'What are my professional development and career growth opportunities?'" Ms. Doughty-Smith said. "And the fact that we can talk about the Career Development Center and the process really engages them and makes them want to come here. And then when they are here, they feel engaged because someone cares about them. They're empowered to grow their career." 

"And at Gundersen, we want you to grow," Ms. Busta added. "We want you to continue your career. But we want it to be here."

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