BayCare Health System is a leading not-for-profit healthcare network that connects individuals and families to a wide range of services at 15 hospitals and hundreds of other convenient locations throughout the Tampa Bay and central Florida regions. BayCare offers tuition assistance to its employees in order to attract, retain, and develop highly skilled workers. Tuition assistance — whether through an upfront employer contribution or employee reimbursement — is an important education benefit in the healthcare industry. In fields such as nursing that have stringent continuing education requirements, tuition reimbursement is especially valuable.
Manager of Organizational Development & Learning
One of the major challenges that healthcare organizations face is finding qualified people. Even though the organization may be in an area that has an
ample workforce, there may not be enough highly skilled workers to fill highly technical positions. BayCare uses its tuition benefits to help the organization
recruit, retain, and develop top employees. The organization quickly saw its tuition assistance program grow after it was introduced. The program started out
with 1,000 employees requesting assistance. In just a few years, that number ballooned to more than 2,500, roughly 10% of BayCare's workforce. BayCare continued
to manage its tuition program manually even as it grew to a substantial size and investment.
"Today, we manage a budget of nearly $5 million worth of tuition assistance for our employees," explains Will Davis, Manager of Organizational Development and Learning. "Our challenge is to maintain a system that will allow us to manage all of those transactions efficiently."
Managing the manual process was tedious, time consuming, and a drain on productivity. It is an understatement to say that Will's department was drowning in paperwork from its manual process. There were application forms, receipts, and a lot of other required documentation to process a request for tuition assistance. And, it was all handled with paper.
BayCare's paper-based system was unable to keep up with the growing demand of its tuition program. At one point, they had a backlog of nearly 4,000 assistance requests. The burden was so heavy that they resorted to hiring contractors to help process them. Even with additional help employees had to wait as many as three pay periods to get the money they needed to register for a course or to be reimbursed.
The organization needed a new, more efficient process to handle its tuition assistance program and reduce the paperwork.
"Our goal was to find a solution that would get rid of all of the paper and speed up processing," says Will. "For us to make our workflow efficient, relevant, and consistent with our policies, we needed to put it all in the digital world."
After a quick Internet search, Will found HostedHR's TuitionManager which automates tuition reimbursement workflows by electronically routing applications and supporting
documentation through a pre-defined approval chain. TuitionManager's intuitive process makes it easy for employees to obtain approval for education activities and then
request reimbursement. And best of all for BayCare, TuitionManager is paperless. The electronic process is a zero-waste solution that eliminates the need for paper documentation.
TuitionManager is able to seamlessly integrate with any HRIS system and because the system is a web-based solution, employees have 24/7 access to the system from any device. BayCare employees can now submit their applications, receipts, and other documentation anytime and from any device.
Will is happy with the decision to move from their paper-based system to TuitionManager. The results his department experienced far exceeded their expectations.
With TuitionManager, Will achieved his goal of transitioning into a paperless system. "TuitionManager has allowed us to get out of the paper world and into the digital world," says Will. "On top of that, I was able to reduce the number of staff it took to handle reimbursement requests. That's a great outcome for us." Workflow automation not only improved productivity and efficiency, but also reduced overhead costs for BayCare.
Under the paper-based system, employees were always waiting on Will's department to process their requests. "That's no longer the case," Will explains. "The
amount of time it took us to do our job has decreased by more than 70%. It's just unbelievable."
Someone in Will's department accesses each request for the first time within two days of it being submitted. Before TuitionManager, it could have taken as long as four weeks before processing began. Administration is simple and easy with TuitionManager. Approvers are notified via email and on-screen alerts that an application is pending their review. The system enforces employees to submit complete information before submitting an application, so approvers do not have to go back to track down the information. An employee's full application history, relevant employment, and application information is displayed to approvers so they can make informed decisions about whether to approve or deny an application.
TuitionManager has been a hit with BayCare's employees. "You would think that the efficiencies we've experienced would mean that we are spending less money. The reality
is that we are spending more money," says Will. "We are spending more money because more people are utilizing the system. They are getting their money faster,
and without errors."
The efficiency and the popularity of BayCare's tuition reimbursement system has also helped the healthcare network maintain a competitive advantage in their area when it comes to hiring and retaining highly skilled employees. Tuition-assistance programs reduce employee turnover and help businesses identify the most productive workers. According to a study conducted by Lumina Foundation from 2010 - 2014, employees who used their tuition assistance benefit received more promotions and were less likely to leave than those who did not.
BayCare also experienced an unexpected benefit. They were able to modify their tuition reimbursement policies to achieve even greater efficiency. "For instance,
in the past we allowed employees to fax us information," explains Will. "Now that employees can access the system on their computers and mobile devices,
we don't allow faxes anymore."
Additionally, Will's department is now better able to enforce other important policies.
"TuitionManager has allowed us to be a lot more firm when it comes to deadlines," says Will. "We can confidently enforce deadlines for turning in documentation because we are doing our part. And, the system is doing its part. So, now it is up to the employees to do their part."
When asked if he would recommend TuitionManager to other organizations, Will replied "I recommend TuitionManager all of the time!"