Memorial Health System - From left: Aimee Allbritton, Audra Chestnut.
From left: Aimee Allbritton, Audra Chestnut.
Learning Elite 7
An MHS Employee’s Education Is Never Done
To keep up with the changing health care landscape, Memorial Health System strives to create a culture of continuous learning.
By Bethany Tomasian

The ever-shifting nature of the health care industry can be tricky territory for organizations and their learners. Not only do providers have competitive pressures, but they must also continuously evolve learning strategies to keep up with objectives.

Despite these challenges, Memorial Health System remains unflinching. The health care provider’s mission is simple: to improve the health of the people and communities they serve. MHS’ mission is reflected in its learning strategy, which is dedicated to continuously educating employees and the communities around them.

As evidence of the organization’s commitment to learning, an annual employee engagement survey conducted in 2018 measured employees’ response to the statement: “In the past year, I have had opportunities to learn and grow.” Survey results place MHS in the 100th percentile among a peer group of more than 394 health care systems with more than 1.5 million respondents.

“That was really exciting to see,” said Aimee Albritton, vice president of organization development and chief learning officer at MHS. “What we all want for the organization is continuous development of our employees. I want to know that it’s a culture of continuous learning.”

Albritton believes that what makes MHS’ learning strategy elite begins with the four key principles of their learning strategy: integration, competency, partnership and outcomes. The strategy is a key driver of business outcomes, and the culture of learning and continuous improvement is a competitive advantage.

Organizational leadership is integrated and on board with the learning strategy. Having leadership involved at all levels of MHS’ education and initiatives streamlines the efficiency of the learning model, according to Albritton. “When a new project or new effort, change and transformation happen, we’re right there,” Albritton said. Leadership is even present in the classroom and in educating employees. The senior executive team has logged almost 2,000 hours inside the classroom, which Albritton said is evidence of their commitment to supporting a culture of learning. “It’s different when the chief nursing officer is in every other week with the nursing team onboarding presenting and sharing information,” Albritton said. “That is backing up what [we] believe in with our behavior. We ask that of all our employees.”

MHS’ dedication to a continuous learning environment is also shown through its partnerships within its local communities. “We don’t, as a learning function, try to provide all of the education that people need,” Albritton said, “Instead, we partner and we integrate with other organizations.”

Memorial Health System

Memorial Health System

MHS launched the social, mobile, learning and communication tool “Workplace by Facebook” in 2018. This has allowed streamlined communication, strengthened working relationships, engagement and culture, increased knowledge sharing, and improved agility and decision making. Ninety-five percent of employees voluntarily joined the platform.

Company size: 6,917
Location: United States

MHS has maintained a strong partnership with Southern Illinois University School of Medicine along with partnering with other organizations around the community. Organizations include the American Heart Association and the Illinois Hospital Association. And it all happens inside MHS’s facilities.

“About 25 percent of what happens here on any given day is related to the SIU School of Medicine and about 25 percent of it is related to the community,” Albritton said. “We have all these different things happening here that aren’t just employee education — they are community education.”

MHS’s market share for SIU’s School of Medicine has increased from approximately 50 percent to 75 percent in the past five years. “That’s a pretty dramatic shift,” Albritton said.

One of the strongest elements of the organization’s learning strategy is its 127 learning initiatives. For fiscal year 2018, employees completed an average of 38.9 hours of learning. In order to ensure that their programs are continuously adding to an effective learning culture, MHS also measures their no-show rate. “If people feel like they don’t want to be there or they have to be there, then you tend to see higher no-show rates across the industry,” Albritton said. “We watch our no-show rate, which is 2.1 percent, comparing that to the health care industry, which is about 20 percent.”

From the beginning of the onboarding process and onward, an employee’s education is never complete. Even as employees achieve positions of leadership, MHS has invested in approaches to coach those leaders. “That environment says that we are here to help you and we don’t expect you to have all the answers,” Albritton said. “We’re here to help you as you learn and identify those answers.”

Bethany Tomasian is a Chief Learning Officer editorial associate. She can be reached at