Aug 2, 2022
Partnering With Education To Ensure Long Lasting Employer/Employee Relationships With Donald Bradburn, Director Of HR Strategy Design, Workforce Planning & Analytics At Kaiser Permanente Episode 75
As we look at how we have a relationship with our
employees, traditionally, American businesses, it's transactional.
And what I hear younger generations saying and what I see in the
workforce is they want a relationship. So, managers and leaders
have to shift their mind to be in it's not a transaction, but it's
actually, we want a relationship.
The workforce landscape is rapidly changing and
educators and their institutions need to keep up. Preparing
students before they enter the workforce to make our communities
and businesses stronger is at the core of getting an education.
But we need to understand how to change and
adjust so that we can begin to project where things are headed
before we even get there. So, how do we begin to predict the
Hi, I'm Salvatrice Cummo, Vice President of
Economic and Workforce Development at Pasadena City College, and
host of this podcast.
And I'm Christina Barsi, producer and co-host of
And we are starting the conversation about the
future of work. We'll explore topics like how education can partner
with industry, how to be more equitable, and how to attain one of
our highest goals; more internships and PCC students in the
We at Pasadena City College want to lead the
charge in closing the gap between what our students are learning
and what the demands of the workforce will be once they enter. This
is a conversation that impacts all of us. You, the employers, the
policymakers, the educational institutions, and the community as a
We believe change happens when we work together
and it all starts with having a conversation. I'm Christina
And I'm Salvatrice Cummo, and this is the Future
Hi everyone, and welcome back to the Future of
Work Podcast. I am your host Salvatrice Cummo. Today, we'll be
talking about workforce planning and development and what the
outlook for the next generation of workforce will look like.
We will also talk about what employers can do to
make sure they keep their employees coming back in this fast-paced
world with high rates of turnover. With that said, we are excited
to welcome back Don Bradburn, who has previously joined us for the
Future of Work Conference. Our first one, in fact.
Don is the Director of HR Strategy, Design,
Workforce Planning and Analytics for Southern California and Hawaii
markets for Kaiser Permanente. With over 12 years of experience in
human resources and workforce planning and development, Don
understands the need to support operational departments and the
importance of timely, responsive, and accurate advice from the HR
As an HR director, he developed his staff to
understand the primary role of human resources is to assist
managers, supervisors, and employees with problem-solving. Welcome
Oh, thank you, Salvatrice for having me back.
It's a pleasure.
Love it. As I was sharing the intro, I thought,
oh my gosh, that's right. Don was our first guest at the Future of
Work Conference back in 2019, right?
Yeah, it was the fall before everything took a
Took an immediate right-hand turn, right?
Well, the Future of Work conferences, one that we
are so proud to always host every year. And some of our audience
members might know who you are, others may not. So, I think it
might be really a good idea to share with our audience what led you
to this work in human resources and workforce planning, and
analytics, and why is this something that continues to really be an
interest to you?
Actually, I always start off by telling people
human resources was something I always had sworn I would never do.
For anybody who's in their college classes saying "I will never,"
that could become the exact opposite of your life, just because
that's the way paths take you.
But originally, when I was studying, I was
looking in business and talking about finance and accounting, and
those were things that drove it, but you also know I served in the
military, and one of the last assignments I had was doing training
and training and development.
And that actually brought out a certain part of
me that I really kind of connected with helping people grow and
progress. And then as I transitioned out of the military, it kind
of led a natural path into human resources and training and
development, organizational development.
And from there, it kind of grew. And I mentioned
the math part of it and the finance and accounting simply because
it leads back to where I finally come with the workforce planning
and analytics. I think over the time, I've had some experiences
that really drove and focus kind of my approach in HR, on
workforce, on strategy, workforce development, workforce
And one of those, I think that sticks out to me
that kind of really drives it was in 2008 when the financial crisis
kind of happened, I was in Southern California with the county of
San Diego and their department of health and human services. And in
2009, they were going to do a reduction and there was planned
reduction for about 300 staff. And there was a piece of me having
grown up kind of in the military, you don't leave anybody behind
and you want to make sure that you do right by everybody.
And all I said was "If this is what we're going
to do, then let's talk about it now. Give me a year," because as I
looked at the numbers and I looked at turnover, I looked at
retirements, and promotions, demotions, all those things - and I
looked at all those factors and I said we can place these 300
people if we just turn internally.
And there may be times where we need to go
external. But if these are the types of jobs we're filling, we need
to do it internally and we need to shift our workforce and keep
them engaged. Because it stems from a couple of ways. One, I
believe you have to do right by people and you don't leave them
behind. Everybody has that piece.
From an organizational perspective at that point,
it was a challenging time. You know, there was a lot of people, at
least one member of the family had lost a job after that crisis.
And to put somebody out that we could repurpose (for lack of a
better word), it just didn't seem right. And then there was the
fact that you want to make sure that you address what I would call
Anytime you do a reduction in force, the people
who are left behind had connections with the people who were gone
and it does drag on morale. The good thing was we were able to do
it. We placed all 300 people and that kind of drove a commitment to
say, we have to do better in human resources when we look at the
workforce; how we bring them in, how we treat them, why they're
here, and how we help them transition to retirement.
And so, those are some pieces that really stuck
out to me, as what drives my passion for the work. I often share
the other piece is I came from a low-income community in the
Midwest. I didn't know it at the time, but I got an internship
using what they called JTPA (Joint Training Partnership Act), I
think is what it stood for, which is the predecessor of funds that
still trickle down today.
That gave me a sense of work ethic, it made me
have a sense of purpose. And so, I also see it as giving back in
that regard that I once benefited from an internship with these
monies, and now, I have the ability to kind of bring that to life
for other people.
That's beautiful. You know, we use these terms,
HR strategy, workforce planning, all of these technical workforce
terms that are very fluid in my humble opinion, depending on the
industry sector, depending on who you're speaking with. Through
your lens, the terminology of workforce planning, analytics, HR
strategy, what does it really entail? What are all the weeds
involved in that? And what does that look like for you?
It's a very all-encompassing thing. And even some
days, I go, "Wait a minute ..." Like we seem to be shifting in what
we do, but it's really just adapting to the current environment and
analyzing our workforce on a micro level and looking at kind of
what movements we're seeing as far as turnover is a driver in
Also, we have in Southern California market, we
call it a churn. And this is where people are moving from one
service area to another maybe to be closer to home, but it causes a
disruption in the workplace. And so, we kind of try to like to be
able to manage that. And it also, for our line of work, it gets to
that continuity of care because you don't want different people
showing up every day at the patient's bedside. And so, that plays
We also look at when we expand in the market to
try to identify what are our true needs. And an example of that, as
we are getting ready to open an MOB, a medical office building,
sorry about that - I start using acronyms. And the question is, is
we know when we want to staff, but we don't know like how many of
those are external or how many people will want to move closer to
home from where they currently work.
And so, if we work in doing some predictive
analytics to kind of say where pieces might fall, because even
though it's opening in Marietta, the reality is the end state maybe
that there're more vacancies in Riverside or Moreno Valley, or even
San Diego where people are saying, "Hey, like I live in Marietta
and I want to be closer to home" because all of the changes in the
environment with COVID-19, one thing didn't change; people like
short commutes. So, that's been a constant through there.
So, we do those from the analytics perspective
and we try to kind of keep our pulse on what the needs of the
business are to deliver the service. And the strategy piece really
ties into how do we fill those gaps? And specifically with HR, it's
really, how do we fill in those talent gaps? But it also can be how
do we identify and fix performance gaps on an organizational
Yeah. You got me thinking, is there a specific
entity or who or what entity I should say, are you looking at for
the information you need to do some of that strategy work? Yes,
you're looking internally, but I have to believe you're looking
externally too, especially with all the stuff happening out in the
world. Who are you following that kind of helps inform those
decisions for you?
That's actually a great call-out because I didn't
go to the macro level, which is really driving a lot of what we see
today and a lot of the work we do. And I'm sure we'll get into it a
lot more later, but we're looking at we have a partnership with
Gartner Group. They provide a lot of healthcare-related statistics,
and then we also work with the American Hospital Association of
But we also work with our education partners, the
people that we're working with, and seeing what they're seeing on
the ground as far as ... specifically one of those is enrollments
and programs. And that sets the table for how we look at what our
future holds because we know there's a growing demand. Internally,
we see what exits happen, but the piece that you don't always have
and you have to go external is to say, what do those enrollments
look like? And are we going to produce and graduate enough talent
to fill those pieces?
And so, yeah, that's a very good call-out. We
look to a lot of people for benchmarking about where we are against
other organizations in our field, but also, to education partners
to see like what could be the future gaps and what demand do we
need to have?
So, it's interesting, you're looking at
educational institutions as one of the partners, as one source of
information. And then we're looking to you. So, it's like we're
doing this exchange of information, which is really helpful because
we can tell you through our perspective and our lens what we're
seeing as the ask and the demands from our participants, our
students, our adult learners.
And then you're sharing with us really kind of
the exact pulse and so that we can adapt to what you're facing and
ensuring that we're filling the talent gaps or trainings, or fill
in the blank - anything that you need, we can help. We can
certainly help with that.
You mentioned adapting to the current
environment. Like that's really the theme across strategy work and
planning, and with the support of the analytics is adaptation. And
there's been an enormous amount of disruption the last few
I cannot even imagine the level of intensity of
those disruptions within an institution like Kaiser, both at a
corporate level and a hospital level. What major changes really
have been made in the way that we look to the future of work, as
far as the future workforce, and what mindset change there's been
given all these disruptions?
I think we just live in a disruptive world right
now, if I was just to be completely honest. But the last few years
have been very challenging. You know, for us at Kaiser, we had
always embraced this virtual visit with physicians, and some of
them were just done via voice or phone, but we really started
upping the game as lockdowns occurred.
And the idea was there's still people with
chronic conditions that need access to healthcare . And so, what we
really started moving more towards was these virtual visits, where
they were video conferences between the doctor and the patient.
And then that took a change in what people had to
perfect as far as their skills, because it's one thing when you're
talking to somebody face-to-face and you can see all the nonverbals
of a patient who maybe is going through a very stressful time to
doing it virtually.
So, there is pieces that even though it becomes
more real than just a phone call, you have to tighten up your soft
skills and be able to read the room, so to speak, and understand
what's going on and how to carefully probe for the patient to
provide more information over that.
So, I think there was a big shift there and how
we look at it. We had a lot of administrative work where people
were actually just, we went virtual being, I being one of them. And
even that as simple as it sounds sometimes, can become with its own
set of complications about how you keep that connectedness with
your teams and with others and with operations.
So, there was a lot in that space, but I think
what's really disruptive in healthcare has been with the response
to the pandemic and being that it was so broad geographically, we
saw nurses and healthcare people moving more to this travel, what
we call travel nursing and travel staffing.
And so, they were basically more kind of like the
gig economy and healthcare came together. And so, we saw people
moving towards that. At first, people, I think say that was really
kind of about compensation, but as I reflect on it, I see and hear
younger generations talking about what they want out of the
workforce with more flexibility, they want to have a little more
I can see where that business model actually
appeals to them. And I think that requires organizations like ours
to start to think about how do we provide that same flexibility to
the worker, even in a healthcare setting because clearly, not
everybody can work remote when they need to be by the patient's
But do we have to go with the virtual or remote?
Or is there something else about how we deliver services that can
be repackaged so that it's more attractive to younger generations
for one; and two, how do we package it so that maybe people who
were thinking of retiring, maybe still have a commitment, still
want to work, but they don't want to work the traditional 40-hour
week or 12 hour days as we often see in patient care settings.
So, I think there's been disruption, there's been
some change. I've seen shifts in leaders who have said absolutely
no remote, actually go to more flexible where they're willing to
work with the employees to say maybe on these days for that type of
task, you can do it elsewhere, but other times, you come here.
So, I think the conversation still continues. I
think it probably should get broader and not just focus on the
context of the location that people are at, but also, the time, the
days, the hours that we ask of people. You start to see that
there's a shift going on in the workplace where people like to have
a little bit more work-life balance.
And I imagine it has to be challenging because
there's a level of care or there's a level of promise through
Kaiser's mission and servicing and caring for their patients. So,
it's like that delicate dance between repackaging, what you were
sharing earlier - repackaging the job. I'm going to just say it
that way, and still delivering the level of care that Kaiser's
super proud about. But I have to believe that's hard. I don't want
to be in your shoes right now.
That is definitely a challenge for that very
reason, because first and foremost, the commitment is to the
I like that you call them a member and not a
patient, I like that. I picked up on that. Well, through that,
through addressing these and seeing where the opportunities are and
adapting, is there one issue or challenge that rises to the top
when we speak about this fluidness within our workforce and the
adaptation? Maybe just not through the lens of Kaiser that you're
seeing, but kind of across the board in the healthcare sector,
might there be one?
I'm going to call it one, but it's got two sides
to it. So, if I can use some flexibility here myself.
And I think we sit here and the problem is we
have a critical nursing shortage, not just in Southern California,
not in California - across this country, there is a critical nurse
shortage that's only getting worse. You know, I think when I had
joined the Future of Work Conference in 2019, I had mentioned there
was a brewing talent war and I think some people thought that was a
little dramatic to call it that.
But here we are a few years later and you see,
you can't turn on the TV, open a newspaper and not see that
employers are struggling to keep, to retain, to attract talent. So,
I don't know what else to call it, because I'll tell you, that
talent acquisition folks feel like it's a blood bath. They are
probably the hardest job there is right now.
But it's twofold in the sense that I want to go
bigger because it gets to the heart of the problem is, and I think
it holds true for other occupations, but it's really important for
healthcare, as we have these factors as aging population, we have
baby boomers that are retiring. I think it's what 10,000 a day that
people are leaving the workforce of the baby boom generation. Yet,
we're not bringing in that same number of workforce.
So, the drain is pulling so hard and it's just
making the situation so much worse in nursing. So, I think there's
two things. One is we got a problem with low enrollments in career
fields or education programs that lead to this career. But we also
have this problem with people leaving.
So, this nursing shortage is really created by
this pull from both sides. But like you said, is it a problem or is
it an opportunity? And I think when we talk about it in a future
perspective, this requires us to stop, think about, and reframe how
we attract talent and how we retain talent.
And I'll say specifically, this is going to
require industry and colleges and education partners to really
coordinate. And it gets back to what we were sharing. We have some
information and you have some information. But at the end of the
day, what we both really want to know is how many people do we need
to get through these programs, to land in these jobs, to meet the
needs of the community.
And so, that's a piece of it, but I think the
other one is, is we have to rethink how we view the traditional
work-life. In the sense of we've always had this; you come into an
organization, you work, and then you retire, and it's that abrupt.
And that, for many years worked because you needed to free up the
openings for younger generations to take on the roles and to be
But that's not the case today. We need the older
workers to stay and we also need more newer workers. And so, I
think the challenge on the employer side is how do we change their
work so that they're interested in staying longer? What does that
look like? And how do you partner with the education? Because
there's opportunities there.
We know that a lot of people don't want to just
abruptly leave, but as an employer, we're often rigid to, well, you
need to work the full schedule or retire, but you can't have this
like flexible thing. I call it a transition to retirement, which is
good for them, but it's also good for us. I think we've got to
figure out that.
And then if I circle back to what I originally
said with the shortage in the community colleges and not getting
the enrollment or the other piece of the puzzle as we all know, is
clinicals. And community colleges can train more people but if you
don't have a place to do the clinicals, it's not going to work.
And so, there's an opportunity there. How do we
use these folks who are getting ready to retire, how do you take
those, and maybe they can help with the clinical rotations. Maybe
they can help the community colleges with having more educators.
There's a way to use their knowledge, skills, and abilities, and
their talents that they've accommodated over 40-plus years versus
just saying, "Well, here's your retirement gift, I hope you enjoy
What do you think is that hesitation, Don? Like
what do you think is that hesitation on the flexibility piece?
I think it's a hard shift for people to shift
from because we're so used to it, it's so ingrained in us over
years, but then operationally, people struggle with, I need to have
a schedule done and that can be complicated if I have to work
But I think at the end of the day, you know what,
life is going to get more complicated when you don't have anybody
either. And so, sometimes, you have to say maybe that's not easy,
but it's better than what I have. And I have to adapt to that.
Maybe it takes a little more creativity to do the
scheduling, but I think we got to start the conversation sooner
rather than later of this population, twofold, how do we get in
there? How do we make sure the younger generation says,
"Healthcare's the job for me? That's my calling. I want to do
And how do we say, hey, maybe you're thinking
about retiring and there are days that you think are better than
others. And sometimes, you're ready to throw in the towel. But what
if we had an opportunity for you to share with the next generation
what you've learnt and that be your focal point?
I think there's a lot of complex pieces around
it, but we know that from other dynamics, when you take younger
generation and older generation folks and you create like a
mentor-mentee relationship in there, that you often find that, that
younger generation will flourish with that.
And as well, it's also good for the seniors in
the community and people who are getting up there to be able to
still have that value, feel that worth, and actually make a
difference in somebody else's life. And I think it's right in
healthcare because that's really what these folks have done their
whole career, is help others.
Right. And be of service, and they're already
wired that way. Are there other examples that Kaiser is working
towards on internal growth? I mean, we talked about bringing in new
talent and retaining the talent that is in transition, but what
about those kind of in the middle? I'm curious to kind of see like
what programs are involved in helping grow and upskill everyone
else in between
Salvatrice, this is probably the most important
part of the conversation today with that. And I often hear, we talk
about talent acquisition and people will say, oh, we want to have
an early career initiative and bring in younger people. If that's
all you do, you're going to fall short. The math is just not on
More people are leaving than you can bring in.
And so, in 2019, we started doing apprenticeships. We have this
sterile processing apprenticeship that we do. It's an internal
pipeline. We take people who are in housekeeping, environmental
services, food services, and we upskill them with a program, give
them 600 hours of on-the-job training, then connect them with a
mentor in the line of work. We grow our own essentially in
There's still room to bring people from outside,
yes. The demand is ... you can't do one or the other, you have to
do both. It really changed the way we do it. We're now in our
fourth cohort. We continued those through the pandemic. We also do
upskilling programs for our nurses. We have programs so that they
can change specialties. So, if they're just in med surg, but they
want to go be a nurse in the ED, like we have a program for them to
change that specialty.
We also still had new grad programs. They kind of
got paused. And now, we're back with them again to bring in new
talent. We also did a wound astronomy care nursing program. Wound
astronomy care nurses are so hard to find. It was one of those we
identified and said we could keep searching or we can say, "Hey,
who do we have that wants to do this?" And our response was really
We had challenges during the pandemic with
different requirements for people to get into the clinicals. But
all in all, we got through it. They've graduated, they got their
certifications. They've all transitioned into the work. So, those
are a couple, we're always looking for ways to do it because at the
end of the day, we also know younger workers are looking for career
paths. They want an employer that's invested in their growth.
And I always tell people, they're not just saying
it, when they show up, you're going to have a retention problem if
you can't show it in action. And so, you have to be doing that with
your internal people. Otherwise, when they come in, they're going
to be like "They're not doing it for the people who are here, why
would they do it for me?"
So, it puts the pressure back on the employer to
really make good on developing staff. And the last piece that I
would just say to that is, is I have these conversations where
managers go "It takes time." Well, you can keep sorting through
resumes, scheduling interviews, have people cancel their
interviews, and go back to the drawing table over and over again or
you can invest a little bit of time in the people who are already
here and grow them.
But at the end of the day, the other one is, is I
always put out to people, when we talk about improving employee
engagement, workforce development, career development is at the
core of engagement. Nothing says engagement more than investing in
the people you have and giving them an opportunity to grow. That's
how you engage people.
It's not just some appreciation luncheon. They
have to see it, feel it, live it, experience it every day. And
that's the shift that I think we and other employers are starting
Do you think it's too little too late? Obviously,
it's something we should be doing right now.
I think for some, it may be a little too late as
far as keeping up with the competition. For us, I look at it and I
say, well, we have a foundation, we just need to scale up. We need
to make this a way of life. It shouldn't even be a challenge, it
should just be the first thing that people think of.
I use the example - I told you we did the sterile
processing apprenticeship. We filled internally. That was a job,
but that came about because we were having trouble retaining and
attracting sterile processing types. To this day, all of them are
getting filled internally through our training program.
We still get some that come in from outside, but
the majority of them are internal ones. And so, as we face
recruitment challenges, that's an example of where if we do it, you
have less of a strain because you have a pool of people that you
created, but then you can look externally too, but you're not
solely reliant on one thing or the other.
For sure. There's so many little like golden
nuggets from this conversation, Don. I really appreciate it. I'll
tell you what; I really hope that our listener is picking up on
those golden nuggets too. Oftentimes, we just said it - we spend so
much time concentrating on those who are departing and
transitioning out and filling in those gaps. But we spend very
little time, sometimes no time into investing in the people that
are already here to fill those gaps.
And I love the fact that you said - look, tell me
if I got this right; career development, invest in the people,
that's how you get employee engagement.
Absolutely, spot on.
These one-off cookies and coffee, and these
one-off appreciations, yes, they're helpful. You know, don't get me
wrong, but that's not part of culture. So, what I heard was this is
part of culture.
Yes. It has to be part of the culture. And I
would just share a little bit more on that and it gets a little bit
big. I go on the macro level. But I think as we look at how we have
a relationship with our employees, traditionally, American
businesses, it's transactional.
And what I hear younger generations saying, and
what I see in the workforce is they want a relationship. So,
managers and leaders have to shift their mind to be it's not a
transaction, but it's actually we want a relationship. And with the
relationship, a healthy relationship, you get good engagement, you
get outcomes, you get people who are committed. And that becomes so
And I will just end with this part saying it's
really critical in healthcare because at the end of the day, as I
have always said, our employees will treat the patients the way we
treat them. And so, we want the members of Kaiser Permanente to be
treated well, we have to treat our employees well.
We have to take care of them the way we want them
to take care of all of our members, because they're the face of the
business. The member-facing people have to realize there's
opportunity, there's growth, there's value. And that takes a lot
for leadership to get that.
Well, I'll tell you what, we couldn't have ended
in a better note, Don. I really appreciate that. This has been
absolutely lovely. Thank you again for all of your commitments, and
to your commitment to helping us as a system, solve all these
opportunities. We thank you very, very much.
I know this is not a one-and-done conversation.
I'm sure you and I will be chatting again. If there are audience
members that would like to connect with you, what would be the
appropriate place or appropriate way to contact you?
They can always connect on LinkedIn. I think you
have that piece on there, but you can also email us
email@example.com. Again, that's firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you so much. We'll make sure to put those
in the show notes. Don, it's been wonderful. You've got a busy
schedule. I want to let you to it. Thanks again. Thank you very
much. Have a good day.
No problem. Anytime Salvatrice, have a good
Thank you. Thanks.
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