When Nickie Hess started working at King's Daughters Medical Center 18 years ago, she slogged through a traditional classroom-and-videos orientation session.
"It was very long, very drawn out," recalls Hess, director of emergency services for the 536-bed facility in Ashland, Ky. "You had to drink a lot of caffeine. You got a lot of paperwork. You got a lot of information. There was very little interaction."
Although the orientation nonetheless received "lovely" reviews, "It was still sort of obligatory, rather than something that really captured their hearts," says Susan Graham, director of organizational and learning development. "They probably had low expectations coming in. Hospitals aren't known for dynamic orientation programs."
But King's Daughters has become known that way since implementing an interactive, sports-themed orientation called New Team Member Training Camp, which has earned it the Spirit of Excellence team award. "We wanted to get away from the traditional educational approach," Graham says. "It seemed to lend itself to a sports team. It's easy to play off of that."
New employees arrive to the sound of music and the sight of pennants and banners with inspirational quotes on the walls. Educator Ryan Finch wears a referee's uniform. "We get them with a little bit of a `wow' when they walk in the door," says Larry Higgins, vice president of learning and human resources.
Michelle Locey, coordinator of the diabetes program, remembers being impressed when she began her position in 2004. "I could not believe the feeling walking in the room for training camp," she says. Adds Hess, one of many vet-eran employees to help facilitate such sessions: "I was rejuvenated. I saw their excitement."
Several weeks of brainstorming led to the change, Finch says. "The whole class is based on adult-learning theory principles and how we create those interactive activities, to reinforce those topics so it doesn't go in one ear and out the other," he says.
Some resisted the change, Graham recalls, because the prior orientation had worked reasonably well and they saw it as "fixing something that wasn't broken."
King's Daughters measures the effectiveness through its 96% voluntary retention rate-above the 88% national average--and through a survey that showed 100% of new employees in 2004 said they felt welcomed to the organization, up from 92% in 2003.
"They wanted a group that was very, very motivated, had become part of the culture of the organization and were customer-focused," says Gary Riedmann, president of St. Anthony Regional Hospital in Carroll, Iowa, who judged the team category.