LMP Focus Areas

Helping UBTs Become Business Literate

Learning key business concepts and terms helps UBTs achieve higher performance

To help grow the bottom line for the benefit of their members and patients, frontline teams must know what the bottom line is. That’s the goal of a new Northern California program to build business literacy at the front line.

Launched in January 2011, the Business Literacy training program aims to build worker confidence—and trust—around Kaiser Permanente budget and financial discussions as well as stimulate new ideas for saving money and improving services.

"Our members want to partner with Kaiser in many ways in making and spending money," says Joe Simoes, the Kaiser Permanente division director of SEIU UHW. "Knowing what the numbers are—and what they mean for each facility—invests people in trying to work with management to make the numbers work."

Edine Davis, a senior workforce development consultant and the brains behind the program, says she came up with the idea for the training when it became clear that budget discussions were derailing efforts to achieve higher-performing unit-based teams.

The 2010 National Agreement commits the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions and Kaiser Permanente to doubling the number of high-performing teams between 2010 and 2011.

"Team members sometimes don’t understand the budget constraints that managers have to deal with," Davis says. That lack of understanding can sometimes create mistrust on the part of the frontline workers and frustration on the part of the managers, she adds.

Boosting worker confidence and knowledge

The training is delivered in 20-minute modules acompanied by written exercises and group activities. Basic financial concepts and glossaries are included in the modules. (See "Guide to the modules.")

"First we give the big picture and then we personalize it," Davis says.

The curriculum was developed by a multidisciplinary team from regional finance, learning and development, the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions and the Northern California office of the Labor Management Partnership.

Although the training incorporates data and materials specific to Northern California, the format can easily be adapted by any other region. Southern California is doing that now, Davis says.

Leveling the playing field

Unit-based team consultants, team sponsors or team members themselves can request the training, which is delivered in a just-in-time format that can easily be incorporate into team meetings or huddles and doesn’t require employee release time, says Diana Verhalen, Northern California LMP program manager.

Shirley Steinback, medical group administrator for the East Bay, recently brought the training to the 160 managers and shop stewards in Oakland and Richmond, who in turn will take it to their unit-based teams.

"The modules are very simple, easy to understand and engaging," Steinback says. The training "puts the co-leads on the same level of understanding so they talk about the budget together and staff sees that management and labor are an in sync, cohesive pair."

Delivering the training are Kaiser Permanente employees skilled at facilitation who learn the curriculum from "master trainers." Tami Miller, a senior HR site coordinator, recently completed the curriculum training so she can train her co-workers in San Rafael.

"It will give people a perspective of how they and their departments fit within the whole of Kaiser," Miller says. With that perspective, "people working in unit-based teams will make better decisions and participate more fully in decisions that affect the business."

Nearly three dozen teams have received at least the first three modules so far this year, Davis says. The goal is to train 144 teams in Northern California facilities by year’s end.

Fresno was one of the first facilities to receive the training. "It levels the playing field," says Kathy Arnold, Fresno business office manager and UBT co-lead in Fresno. "When we can talk about the budget together, it helps us to plan how we’re going to run the department and provide better services for members."

OPEIU Local 29 member Thelma Atkins recently completed the first three modules with her fellow UBT members in the Oakland Revenue Cycle department.

"Business literacy is how we’re going to meet the criteria of getting to a Level 4 unit-based team," says Atkins, a revenue collector. "I think everyone within Kaiser should take it."

Rich Alves, Fresno area finance officer, agrees.

"This literacy will be very helpful for frontline employees and others as we grow them into advocates and ambassadors of goodwill for KP in the marketplace,” he says.

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