In companies’ day-to-day operations, stress is a given. When it gets too high, one way for employees to cope is to step back, take a deep breath and remember what they are doing is not a matter of life and death.
Those who work at the New England Organ Bank (NEOB), however, do not have that luxury.
“The bulk of our clinical staff don’t work 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. They are, what we call, ‘on call,’” said Diana Buck, director of learning development and workplace performance. “A donation event can occur at any time and can last up to 48 hours.”
And although there is a great deal of emphasis on and attention to learning and development, Buck said everything takes a back seat to the aforementioned events.
“Nothing, including training, supersedes a clinical event,” she said. “These events are what save lives and transform lives.”
NEOB is the oldest independent organ procurement organization in the country, covering a federally designated service area of all six New England states: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont. Through its nine regional offices, NEOB serves 12 transplant centers, which have the combined capacity to perform all types of organ transplantation.
The size of its service nature, Buck said, sometimes presents difficulties.
“Our challenge is dealing with the simple fact that our staff is geographically dispersed, and their work schedules are highly variable,” she said. “We’re always challenged with our geography and how we address it. We address it with a variety of Web-based, e-learning options for people.”
E-learning, however, is just one facet of NEOB’s training delivery.
“Our entire training philosophy is a blended approach,” Buck said. “Therefore, the way in which we deliver training is, in fact, blended. We do use some Web-based and e-learning opportunities. We have some instructor-led programs still — we’re kind of shifting away from that to the degree that we can — a lot of self-paced opportunities.”
The learning organization within NEOB is evolving, as well.
“Our overall learning philosophy is in a state of transition,” she said. “We are shifting from a largely decentralized system of providing staff training to one that is more centralized within a specific framework of ASTD’s (American Society for Training and Development) human performance improvement framework.
“Learning and development is one unit in a department, which includes performance management and quality system. We think that by integrating these three functions, which are typically fragmented in an organization such as ours, we intend to raise performance through learning and development, the full array of performance management strategies and then weaving into that the proven techniques of continuous quality. It is an integrated approach to learning and development. It’s not standalone.”
Buck said the transition began in April or May, and with it have come new resources for NEOB.
“We created the new department of learning, development and workplace performance,” she said. “We have hired a manager for learning and development, we have an excellent existing director of quality systems, and I currently am leading the charge on performance management. We’ve also hired an instructional designer.”
Because NEOB is a small, nonprofit organization with about 130 staff members, there are not very high costs in regard to learning and development. Buck said NEOB’s lack of competition also helps with this.
“We are an organ-procurement organization and a tissue-recover organization, and in many ways, we don’t compete with anyone,” she said. “There are many organizations just like us who have shared core values, and one of those is, ‘All teach, all learn.’ So we have well-defined and very active collaborative relationships and mechanisms for sharing best practices throughout the nation. This helps control costs for all of us. No one is creating the same course over and over again. We get to share with each other.”
This encouragement of collaboration also contributes to the mission-driven nature of NEOB.
“We believe that all improvement needs have varied ways we can address this, and not all improvement needs are actually a training solution,” Buck said. “Again, we’re tying together learning and development with performance management, which includes key performance indicators for our organization. Those work units, as in individual contributors, these are all tied together along with our quality systems. We have organizational goals that are developed based on our mission, and our mission is simple: to save and transform lives through organ and tissue transplantation.”
Additionally, Buck praised NEOB’s staff members for their desire to seek learning opportunities outside of the organization, as well as for their dedication to fulfilling the mission.
“Everyone who comes to work here is very clear about the goals of the organization and how each of their jobs contributes to the mission through the work that they do,” she said. “And as we fully implement our performance management and our L&D components (remembering this is a new department within a very old organization), we expect we’ll have even greater success.”
– Lisa Rummler, firstname.lastname@example.org