TTMWL: Episode 14 — “Training During an Emergency: How NYP Innovated Through Crisis” with NYP’s Andrea Procaccino

Training the Modern Workforce Live is a weekly show discussing training and talent development solutions and best practices. Hosted by Allogy CEO Colin Forward, each episode features an informative conversation with a prominent guest in the training world.

Watch the full video interview above, listen on any of the platforms below, or continue reading to see the full transcript (edited for clarity).

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About Andrea Procaccino, CMT, Chief Learning Officer and Vice President of Talent Development & Diversity, New York-Presbyterian Hospital


Andrea G. Procaccino, CMT, is a certified, award-winning Talent/Learning/Culture/Diversity senior executive, with over 25 years experience in global corporate learning, emerging learning technologies, employee engagement, talent management and development, leadership development, Diversity, Inclusion and Equity, employee recognition/appreciation and developing corporate cultures.  She is currently the Chief Learning Officer and Vice President of Talent Development and Diversity for New York-Presbyterian Hospital in New York City, the number 4 hospital in the US and #1 hospital in NY. She joined NYP in 2014 and has oversight for Training & Development, Technology Learning Solutions, Organizational Development, Recognition and Employee Events and Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging.  Ms. Procaccino leads the enterprise-wide Diversity & Inclusion Task Force and the Learning Governance Council. 

Prior to joining NYP, she was the Executive Director for Global Learning & Development worldwide for Avon Products, headed up Learning & Development at Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceutical Research & Development worldwide, and held numerous leadership roles in Clinical Development for Johnson & Johnson, her tenure there extending over 23 years.  She is a well-known and engaging speaker globally and sits on numerous advisory boards for learning and talent management/development.  She is a graduate of Douglass College of Rutgers University with a BA in Biochemistry and holds numerous professional certifications in Learning & Development and Science Management. 

Episode Transcript


Adam Wagner:
Hello, everyone, and welcome back to Allogy’s podcast, Training the Modern Workforce Live, the show discussing training and talent development solutions and best practices. Each episode, we’ll talk about a different training topic, and make sure to keep an eye out for special guests and interviews from top training professionals!

With me, as always, I have Colin Forward, CEO of Allogy. For the last decade, Colin has provided major U.S. hospitals and federal agencies with distance learning solutions. He studied mobile technology at the University of Central Florida while earning a degree in computer science and his MBA.

And joining Colin this week is Andrea G. Procaccino, CMT. Ms. Procaccino is a certified award-winning Talent/Learning/Culture/Diversity senior executive, with over 25 years experience in global corporate learning, emerging learning technologies, employee engagement, talent management and development, leadership development; Diversity, Inclusion and, Equity; employee recognition/appreciation, and developing corporate cultures.

She is currently the Chief Learning Officer and Vice President of Talent Development and Diversity for New York-Presbyterian Hospital in New York City, the number four hospital in the U.S. and the number one hospital in New York. She joined NYP in 2014 and has oversight for Training & Development, Technology Learning Solutions, Organizational Development, Recognition and Employee Events, and Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging. Ms. Procaccino leads the enterprise-wide Diversity & Inclusion Task Force and the Learning Governance Council.

Prior to joining NYP, she was the Executive Director for Global Learning & Development worldwide for Avon products, headed up Learning & Development at Johnson and Johnson Pharmaceutical Research & Development worldwide, and held numerous leadership roles in Clinical Development for Johnson and Johnson, her tenure there extending over 23 years. She’s a well-known and engaging speaker globally and sits on numerous advisory boards for learning and talent management/development. She’s a graduate of Douglas College of Rutgers University with a BA in Biochemistry and holds numerous professional certifications and Learning & Development and Science Management.

And full disclosure, New York-Presbyterian is an Allogy customer, but today’s conversation will not be about that. We’re actually going to be talking about training during an emergency and how New York-Presbyterian innovated during a time of crisis. We’ve got some great questions on deck already, but feel free to ask any questions that may come up in the chat, and we’ll get to as many as we can. Alright, Colin, over to you.

Colin Forward: Alright. Thanks, Adam. And thanks for joining us, Andrea. I’m very excited to have you on today, not just because Allogy has been working with NYP for a long time but, even before we were working together when I met you down in Orlando at David Metcalf’s lab, I had seen that you were really trying to push the envelope in learning wherever you were, whether it was at Avon or J&J. You touched on some of the projects there when I was at the METIL lab. So I’m very excited to have you on.

And you know, your team at NYP is also a credit to your leadership. Having worked with Dennis Myers and Mary Beaudette, it’s really impressive what you all are able to accomplish at NYP. So thanks for joining us today.

Andrea Procaccino: Thank you. It’s my pleasure. My pleasure to be here.

Colin Forward: I actually learned a little bit about you in that bio. I didn’t realize that you had a science background. And when we spoke earlier, I mentioned that even I was a little bit confused as to the scope of your work at NYP. I have people in hospitals tell me all the time that they’ve forgotten more than they’ve ever learned because there’s just so much to know and they always have to keep learning. Patients have to be educated. There’s a whole academic component. So, for the audience, can you help us understand the scope of your responsibilities at NYP?

Andrea Procaccino: Sure, I’m happy to. We are responsible for learning and development as it pertains to the employees in terms of new orientation, new manager orientation, leadership skills, any type of soft-skill professional development that’s done. Also, we do a lot, if not all, of the regulatory and compliance-related training for the organization. Other groups may be responsible for the content, but we’re creating it and/or delivering it.

So, anything that comes up. If there’s a new initiative in the hospital, we’ll do the training of leaders and staff on whatever the new process is or the new components of that. We also do a lot of the training on a lot of the clinical systems that our staff has to use, whether it’s the system that delivers the medication or how to use different components that they use during their day-to-day jobs.

We also do some of the electronic medical records training as it relates to some of the old legacy systems. So there’s always something coming out, whether it’s, like I said, a new initiative, a new program, if there’s a new skill we want to develop, we’re doing things like that.

Colin Forward: Okay. So it is very very broad but largely focused on developing this, what, some 20,000-person workforce that you have across how many hospitals?

Andrea Procaccino: So we have 10 hospitals; we have four medical groups; we have a number of affiliate hospitals, and we also sit between the two Ivy League medical schools in New York: the Columbia School of Physicians and Surgeons as well as the Weill Cornell Medical College. In addition to learning, I also have responsibilities around talent management—which I share with someone that’s on this call, my friend and my colleague, David Crawford, who’s here today; so I’m so excited to see that he’s here—as well as I’m the diversity executive for the hospital. So I have a couple of hats, but we all do. Everybody. That’s the way of the world now. Really excited and honored to be part of the New York-Presbyterian family.

Colin Forward: I can certainly relate to wearing multiple hats. And I imagine that over the last 18 months or so, those responsibilities have changed quite a bit. Can you share a little bit about that?

How Did the COVID-19 Pandemic Change Training and Operations at NYP Hospital?

Andrea Procaccino: Yes, you know, we all say, “Did we really live through this?” This was just such an unprecedented time. As you can imagine, for a hospital it was even worse. And for New York-Presbyterian, we were at the epicenter of the epicenter through the early days of this pandemic. And the 47,000 employees at New York-Presbyterian are truly healthcare heroes. They saved the city, and that wasn’t lost on all of us as to what they gave personally and professionally to do that.

We came out of wave one in late spring/early summer, and it was an organization that had to heal itself because it had been through something so traumatic. And then, in the fall, we went right into wave two. We started coming out of wave two in the spring, and here we are, it’s August, and we’re finding ourselves in a third surge.

So this was a time where everybody had to band together. We had to all do whatever we had to do to help. We had people redeploying who were not clinical folks to help, whether it was run scrubs or meals or, sadly, morgue duty. So imagine being an accountant and somebody tapping your shoulder, “We need your help,” because we can’t keep up with this and having to then redeploy into one of the areas of the hospital.

And as a result of that, there was a lot of learning that had to happen, and it had to happen quickly. And you might’ve taken two weeks to develop something, to write a storyboard and get everybody to agree on it, and then you do the design, and then the testing and delivery—that went out the window. So there were some good things that came out of it, like very quick decision-making and collaboration that everybody put everything aside and was like, “Join arms. We’ve got to do this, and we’ve got to do this quickly.” You know, we saw some really interesting things happening from a skill perspective, from a teaming perspective, from a leadership perspective.

And, like I said, everything went out the window—your development timelines and all of that. You were fighting against the clock. You were fighting against an unknown foe, if you will, and having to make sure that the people in the hospitals that were on the frontline of this war—because it is a war, believe me, it’s a war—had to have that information about new CDC guidelines, new PPE requirements, whatever it was.

They needed that information. That was our responsibility. We were also getting nurses and doctors flying in from all over the country from other health centers to help us because they weren’t anywhere near the first wave yet. So when they came in, we had to orient them because we’re in a regulated industry, and besides all the work David’s team was doing in finding all these people to help us, we then had to train them, and we had to orient them to the hospital and the requirements and all of that. And we really had to move very very quickly. And we also had to keep our staff safe to help to be redeployed.

And I saw the question about what we did to pivot. Luckily for us, we always, as an organization, think about contingency planning. So we always had in-person orientation, but we also had created an online orientation just in case of a contingency, whether there was a natural disaster or someone was sick or there was some extenuating circumstance.

So we had that online orientation already. So when they said we’ve got to stop, we can’t do this in person anymore, we were able to pivot like that because we had it already. And I think that’s one thing that was so great for us was because, as an organization, we try to think of every scenario and be able to meet that situation, we were able to. You know, other people were scrambling to create online learning or an online orientation, and we were able to just move.

Colin Forward: I want to focus on that for a second because I’ve seen a lot of people do what a lot of people do in a crisis, which is hunker down, try and survive it, and get through it—just keep doing what they’re doing. And now, kind of like you’re saying, the third wave isn’t hitting everywhere yet, and it feels like people really want to get back to the way things used to be done. But it sounds like the work that you all put in ahead of time to be ready for distance learning, to have flexible methods for delivering your training, really paid off over the last 18 months.

Andrea Procaccino: Absolutely. And having an in-house eLearning team that I think is the best in the business. I think they’re just amazing. They worked around the clock, and they were developing training in a matter of a few days instead of our normal process timelines. They were literally working around the clock, getting people to review things, test things, QA them, put them in sandboxes, make sure it was able to be accessed by people coming in externally from an external-facing LMS versus an internal—they thought of everything. And we were able to, as needs came up in the hospital, work very quickly and get things turned around.

And because we also have a group of instructors that do instructor-led training and instructional design, they could work very quickly to pivot everything they had to to change the design to fit virtually. So they were delivering things virtually over Zoom. Somethings needed to go on to eLearning. Again, the eLearning team was just responding so quickly. Everybody just banded together, and it’s an eight-person team, the eLearning team, made up of whether it’s graphic designers, instructional technologists, you name it, they all banded together. And we were turning things and cranking things out really quickly. And it was engaging, and it was pleasing to the eye.

That was the incredible part. It wasn’t just slap something up and get it out there because that’s not them. They would never do something like that.

So it was something that was still engaging and really keeping people’s interests, and people were learning through it. So it was remarkable, I think, what they were able to do. And it’s because of how their dedication, how we’re set up as a team, and how everyone’s so mission-driven at the hospital. And everybody knew this is our part. So we weren’t taking care of patients, but this was what we needed to do. We needed to do whatever we could.

Colin Forward: Can you share some specifics about how they had to adapt the content that they were making? Because we talk to folks a lot of times who think, “Well, we’re just going to take our PowerPoints and throw them up on the web, or we’re just going to take all of our material for in-person training and hanging them on an LMS is going to make it remote.” But, I mean, this is like the most extreme case of that. And it sounds like, you know, like you said, the accountant who’s working the morgue—these are whole new protocols. So how does the team adapt to that and manage to crank out content on time?

How Did NYP Hospital Successfully Pivot from In-Person to Virtual Training?

Andrea Procaccino: That’s a great question. So all of our training—like, for example, our classroom training—was very interactive. And we use the project levels of evaluation. So we make sure that we have a lot built in to show that there’s a transfer of knowledge during that training program. So very interactive types of things where people are practicing, whether it’s a skill or a process flow or whatever the case may be.

A lot of that doesn’t translate well over a Zoom. You can’t just slap that up onto a PowerPoint or have the instructor kind of walk people through that. So we had to really take a step back and look at what is going to be the attention span of people. How much time are people going to be able to devote to something? Because knowing that we couldn’t keep people away from their jobs for very long at all, we had to maximize the learning time.

So we had to look at how’s the way we’re going to deliver that content going to change to get to the heart of the matter. How can we do that using breakout groups in Zoom to get them to talk about it? What do we have to put in in terms of post-training support, whether it’s office hours, virtually, or whatever?

We had to really change the design very quickly. Say we had a two-day classroom on a topic like having difficult conversations, you’re not going to have people on Zoom for two days in the middle of a crisis, especially in a hospital. So, they did an incredible job with that.

Colin Forward: You mentioned post-training support, which even when it’s not a crisis is a great way to make sure that people are retaining information. What worked? What do you think were the most effective tactics that you employed?

Andrea Procaccino: Yeah. I think, for us, there are a couple of things. There were a couple of instances where we had apps created. We had done work with your organization and had put together apps to support, for example, our regulatory work and for preparing for a joint commission survey.

So a lot of that regulatory training that was changing because of the changing requirements, we were able to pivot to that very quickly from an eLearning perspective and get that out, not only in the learning center but also in this app so that people had that training with them when they needed it. Knowing what their days were like, we had to make sure that training could be accessible wherever the person was wherever they were working. It was making sure that everything we created was mobile-enabled so that they could access it from their phones, whether it was on an app, whether they were accessing the learning center—we have a learning center, which is supported by our learning management system—that they could see it, support it, be able to see whether it was a video or a job aid or an actual quick eLearning, whatever the case was. We had to make sure that everything was accessible on the fly, able to be seen on the go.

So that was part of all that testing and things that they were doing. It added another element of complexity to the work that they had to do, but it was so important because, in the middle of a crisis, that learning has to be portable. That learning has to be at your hip, in your hand, at the bedside if you need it to be, or if they’re commuting or whatever the case may be. They didn’t have a lot of time to say, “Oh, I’m going to devote an hour or two or three to sit at a computer.” Not going to happen.

Colin Forward: Right. And a good chance that now that folks have seen how we can support their needs in terms of the time they dedicate to this, they probably don’t want to go back to the old way, do they?

Andrea Procaccino: No. It’s interesting. We were talking a lot about that, and with our orientation, the fact that we went virtual in the old way, pre-pandemic, in the old world—I sound so crazy saying that, but that’s what we’re living through—we used to do it every Monday. There was an orientation one Monday, it was at Columbia. The next Monday it was Cornell. It was an all-day orientation, very interactive, very fun and engaging, engaging the new employees to the culture and to the leaders, et cetera. Obviously, that changed, and we went to online learning.

So David’s team was working tirelessly to bring people in from all over—traveling nurses, traveling doctors, people that were willing to volunteer, whatever the case was—and instead of having to wait for a Monday like you would have in the previous situation, we’re now getting it out to them, they’re taking it a couple of hours that day. We could get them onto the units much quicker. So it was helping us mobilize that staff quicker instead of having to wait to when your start day was. As it was happening, we’re orienting them and getting them off to the departments to have their department orientation and dive right in.

So, for us, that added an element of agility to get those people that we needed so badly onto the job. And training played a big piece in that with David’s team. We work very closely with our talent acquisition family members. It was like one, two, here you go. Here’s the list, send them the training, get them what they need to get, pass them on to their department.

And for us, that was important as well. Same thing with people being redeployed. We had to reorient people being redeployed. We had to make sure that we were training people that were typically at our corporate building either doing it or HR or finance or work communications, whatever the case was, they’re now going to be on a hospital unit, hearing alarms going off, hearing codes being called, seeing some really intense things happening. We had to orient people to that even, to emotionally, mentally prepare them for what they were doing.

Colin Forward: And I’m glad you went there because that was my next question. The logistics and a lot of the practical considerations are front and center for all of us. Folks have been on lockdown. Everyone’s been living on Zoom, except for folks who work in a hospital and can’t live on Zoom. They have to be there in person. But for those of us at home, we might read an article six months into this whole thing that says, “If you’re not feeling productive, it’s okay, you’re not the only one.” And people were processing what this meant for us emotionally, what this meant for us psychologically. So what have you learned about the needs of your staff and your learners in that sense? How has that changed?

How Did NYP Hospital Account for the Emotional and Psychological Needs of Its Team?

Andrea Procaccino: Oh, the effects of this pandemic are going to be felt for a very long time. Our CHRO likes to talk about the tail of the pandemic, or the next pandemic, which is the emotional piece that you’re talking about. There are going to be emotional ramifications from this for so long. Whether you work at a hospital or not, we’ve all been dealing with so much. We know family members and friends that have been affected or lost to this horrible disease. In a hospital, we lost teammates to this disease as well as everything we went through.

So I think anything an organization can do to support the emotional wellbeing of its people is paramount to it being successful. We’re very lucky. We have an incredible well-being team that has put together just a whole host of resources.

But in training, we also had to—as a learning team, especially for the people that were doing virtual, instructor-led training—understand that they could ask a question about the content and people would answer it completely different and just want to be able to talk and have the space to talk about what they were going through or what they were feeling. So we had to really make sure that people understood that as well, that our trainers were creating an environment where people felt safe, and if they needed to say something, they were in a safe space, we could connect them to resources. So we had to understand that.

As an entire HR organization, we also looked at what else we needed to do. What types of focus groups do we need to do to find out what worked, what didn’t, what resources did they like, what ones do they need more of?

It might not be learning-specific, but another part of my team worked with our wellbeing team to do all of these focus groups just to give people a chance to talk. We did pulse surveys to find out what’s working in terms of communication, what’s working in terms of wellbeing support. There was so much that was done to really make sure that employees knew that they were in an environment that cared about them. And we cared about the whole person, not just the professional working person. We cared about them; we cared about their families.

And even in a lot of the diversity and inclusion work that my team also does, we created safe spaces for people to talk. And then, on top of all this, in wave one of the pandemic, we had all the racial injustice that we were all witnessing and horrified by. So on top of all of this, we were just constantly stacking this up on these poor people. It was like how much more will they have to deal with?

So we even did a lot of learning around understanding. We did a session across the organization with our psychiatry partners, trying to break the stigma of trauma and post-traumatic stress and understanding what that looks like and what that feels like so that you could understand your own symptoms.

Colin Forward: So let me ask: as a technology vendor myself, I’m super conscious of the conversation around what kind of impact technology has on people in this sense. And there are all kinds of studies that. Like social media, for example, tends to exacerbate depression or psychological maladies. And I’m sure that people can feel the same way about distance learning. Did you notice any ways that technology was especially helpful or, perhaps, harmful in trying to accommodate the emotional needs of folks in this difficult time?

How Has Technology Been Helpful and/or Harmful in Overcoming the Challenges of the COVID-19 Pandemic?

Andrea Procaccino: I think that technology is a double-edged sword. We’re all living on Zoom. In a way, it’s great to connect us, and we can visually see one another, and you can see someone’s expressions or emotions or at least just feel like you’re connecting with them. But it’s also a double-edged sword because you are dealing with so much emotionally that you didn’t want to be on camera all the time.

And people were like, “Why isn’t so-and-so on camera? We need to have everybody on camera.” And we had to really take a step back because, after a period of time, people were fatigued. They were fatigued from talking to a screen day in and day out.

You know, there are different styles of learning that we have to deal with. Some people are introverted; some people are extroverted. Some people don’t want to let everybody into their personal space. You know, we had some learners saying, “No, I’m not going to go on camera because I don’t want everybody looking into my house. They’re seeing my sacred space. I need to have that home/work separation.”

So it was really a double-edged sword. It helped us, but it also was difficult for a lot of people. And now, it’s to the point where we’re saying, “Hey, if we can do something as a phone call, as an organization, let’s do it as a phone call,” because people are just tapped out 15 months into this, constantly being on Zoom.

So we had to marry what was appropriate and what wasn’t. Do we need to do everything as training, per se? Can it be done in different ways? Can it be done in a very visual job aid? Can we do things as train the trainers and have people going out within the units and talking about things in huddles?

So we didn’t just look at the traditional methods of eLearning or classroom or job aids. We wanted to see how else can we get out there and get people talking, whether it was creating discussion guides for leaders to have conversations to continue the learning at the bedside in the unit. We looked at a lot of ways to do that, to continue this conversation in a different way and keep it fresh in people’s minds and get people to change behaviors. Because that’s why we do the learning, right? Teach new skills, change behavior.

So we were looking at a lot of ways to do that differently and continue that within the department setting—add a team huddle around a vision board or a goal board, in a timeout situation in the middle of a procedure. We were looking for different ways to, like I said, continue that learning now. How do we use learning circles? How do we create online communities, again, to continue and be there supporting one another in that learning journey?

Colin Forward: Yeah. So I think you’re hinting at it now, but you were obviously very prepared going into this. You were able to use a lot of the processes and tools that NYP was already using to get through this. But were there any new skills that you or your learning team had to pick up in the course of this to feel like you were being effective?

Did NYP Hospital’s Innovation Lead to Acquiring Any New Skills Among the Workforce?

Andrea Procaccino: So many. Within our training teams, we had our trainers observing one another, giving each other tips, because some people are more comfortable in training over a computer than others. Some people are very animated in the classroom and just have this great rapport and are able to draw people in in the classroom. And we had to make sure that was translating and they were able to connect with people online as well.

They were supporting one another. They were tag-teaming with one another. If they wanted someone there to give them feedback, our director was jumping on, giving people feedback. They were sharing skill-building amongst themselves. So, you have to kind of amp it up a little bit when you’re used to being in front of people live and you can interact with people and feel that energy. You have to ramp up differently to do that over virtual.

I think another skill we all acquired, whether it was the learning team or everybody else in the hospital, was quick decision-making. What worked before didn’t work now. So why is it working so quickly now? And I think it allowed us to take a step back and say, “You know what? Some of our processes were creating too much bureaucracy,” and we needed to take that out. And we learned from that as an organization as well. I know my team did.

I saw my eLearning teams and training teams—one team sits under one director, one team sat under another director—coming together very differently and helping each other out. So the people that were doing the clinical systems training were reaching out to their virtual, instructor-led training partners, saying, “What do you think I should do with this? What ideas do you have? I want a fresh pair of eyes.” So it caused us to collaborate, I think, without lines of distinction, if you will. You just saw people coming together to really help one another.

I think it also helped that a lot of my team members were redeployed onto our hotline, so they were talking to employees that were scared that were testing positive themselves for COVID or that we’re having a hardship in their family and were pursuing our hardship fund. And it created a level of compassion that was just amped up, I think, in the training staff to really be able to better relate what they’re doing to what people were facing. That now that we’ve come out of wave one and wave two and gearing up for wave three, unfortunately, in their classrooms, their virtual classrooms, they have a deeper understanding and appreciation for the constraints that people are under because they were delivering them scrubs or meals, and they’re witnessing the sheer audacity of just a glimmer of what these folks were facing.

I think it makes us more compassionate. It makes us more in tune with our learners. I think that’s a positive skill that’s come out of this, besides all of the technical.

Colin Forward: No kidding. We constantly encourage folks to do more listening. Instructional designers, a lot of the time, are used to being very didactic and pushing the content out. And I know that’s a common complaint from clinicians about hospital administration. But, I mean, working the hotline and talking to folks who are asking for help, that’s a whole new level of empathizing with your learner population.

Andrea Procaccino: Yeah, I’ve just seen a whole different side to how they approach training, as a result of this. For example, one of my trainers—who we always tease and call the mayor because he is just the most engaging ball of light in a classroom and connects so incredibly well to his learners—volunteered on morgue duty. It changed him. It changed him in such a profound way that I had him speaking to our entire team, and he spoke about what that experience was like, and it humbled all of us. And he got us to talk about, “How do we need to understand our learners differently, and what do we need to do?”

And I think that’s a wonderful thing that came out of this. As designers, we always want to talk about the purity of the content and the learning methodology and all of that. As my director of T&D says, “We become our learning geek selves, and we love that.”

Colin Forward: Academic.

Andrea Procaccino: Yeah. It’s causing us to take a step back now and say, “Stop. What does that learner’s day look like in this new environment, and what do we have to do differently, and how can we enhance that and engage them still knowing what is swirling around them?” So it’s caused us to look at design very differently.

Colin Forward: I can completely relate. Some of our folks who spend a lot of time talking to the customers have helped me cut out words like pedagogy that don’t necessarily relate to the work that folks feel like they have in hand with our product. So kind of along these lines, you’d mentioned something that I thought was really interesting about how your operation changed. You spend a lot of time and energy on recognition, and again, we try and encourage people to listen and to make sure that there is a two-way conversation going, but beyond just hearing employees and hearing the audience, can you talk about what effort you put into recognition and how that changed the work you do?

Why Is Recognition So Important, and How Did NYP Hospital Implement Recognition?

Andrea Procaccino: So recognition is something that’s near and dear to my heart. I think it’s so important. I think it’s a forgotten element to a lot of what we do to engage employees. You know, I refer back to a book called Great Work by Dave Sturt from O.C. Tanner, and we use the O.C. Tanner platform. They’ve done some incredible research around the things that drive great work. And there are three things, three components. First, people want to make sure that they have a mission that they can align to and feel part of.

Colin Forward: Engaged, yeah.

Andrea Procaccino: We’ve got that at NYP. Because you don’t come to healthcare without being so mission-driven for the human condition. The second thing is they want to be able to do their best work and know that they’re having an impact. Again, here we are, especially in a pandemic, right? The third thing is they want to know that somebody sees them and appreciates and recognizes them for their contribution. So if you have those three things, you’re going to get that great work.

We also look at it from an engagement standpoint. Gallup tells us that you have to do engagement every seven days for an employee to feel continually engaged, that you know what they’re doing and you react to it and you respond to it and you acknowledge it. In a crisis, Gallup said that goes down to seven hours. You have to do recognition every seven hours. That’s crazy when you’re fighting this global pandemic.

So our eLearning team and graphic designers created some really engaging, visual e-cards that were kind of to the heart of the matter, like celebrating frontline heroes, that we were all in this together to save New York, that there was strength in unity, that we were all going to get through this together. Very inspirational, very visual, very emotional, if you will, graphical designs that we put onto our recognition platform.

But it didn’t stop there. We started doing recognition challenges. So we created this virtual high-five program that just randomly sent out a recognition to someone, and it was just a virtual high five. “I see you. I see what you’re doing. Thank you for what you’re doing.” And then, you had to send it on to someone else, and it was a way to start getting recognition to spread in a great way. And I know it sounds something so simple, like an e-card, you think, “Yeah, what’s that going to do?”

Colin Forward: I mean, it’s kind of like the 2020 version of chain mail.

Andrea Procaccino: Exactly. I remember I sent one. I would sit down at night, and before I would go to bed, I would sit there with my app, my recognition app, and just start sending them out and just trying to think of inspirational things to say to people and to just let them know I care, I’m here, you’re amazing, you are a hero. I sent one on a Friday to our chief nursing executive, and I just said to her, “I know how hard this is on you and your team. You’re heroes, and we’re behind you. We think you’re amazing.” And she called me right away, and she was choked up, and she said, “How did you know I needed this tonight? I needed to hear this.” She said, “You will never know how much that meant to me.”

And I was so taken aback, and I’m like, “It was just a little thing that I could do.” And it just showed the power of that. And we started doing other things. Within HR, even, we had these moments of inspiration, where every Monday to start the week and every Friday to end the week, one of the executives was sending out something. We did this for several months, just whether it was a song, a video, their thoughts, a graphical image, just to tell everybody, “I know how tough this is.” We have to be there for our teams in the hospital. And it just kept people going. And it was just those little things.

We did a lot on social media. Our social media team was amazing. We had things that were on social media just celebrating our heroes. The community was amazing. We had community children drawing chalk pictures and making drawings and taping them outside the building so that as people were coming into work, they were seeing this. It’s those little things that were just like, “Wow, okay. The city is behind us.” But we wanted to make sure that we were constantly driving recognition and making sure that leaders weren’t losing sight of that.

Colin Forward: Yeah. That story about the chief nursing executive, I think that drives home the value of those kinds of efforts. But at the risk of sounding a bit cynical, did you worry at all about things like alarm fatigue or people feeling like it was impersonal or insincere?

Andrea Procaccino: You know, we didn’t just because what they were battling, you had numbers rising so ridiculously. We were putting up field hospitals within a couple of days. There was so much happening. You know, you had to do whatever you could to let them know that they mattered, that there was a moment for them to smile.

Our well-being team set up recharge rooms throughout the hospitals, just to be able to go and sit somewhere and take their mask off alone in a room, with aromatherapy being piped in and spa music, just to breathe. We would get cards from all over. Our vendors were sending us drawings and cards, and we were just putting them around wherever we could. It meant so much. It was that little push to keep people going.

People constantly kept saying, “Thank you so much. Thank you so much. It means so much that you see how much we’re doing.” Even when we were providing meals around the clock for people, they were putting little messages in with the meals of, “You can do this. You are a hero.”

It’s those little things that when you’re that fatigued, that just means so much. It means that somebody knows not just, “Keep going, keep going,” but, “You’re a hero. We’re behind you. We think you’re amazing.” It meant a lot.

Like we had nurses saying, “Thank you. Just thanks for acknowledging this. Thanks for making sure we had food. Thanks for making sure that somebody was running the scrubs to us, that we didn’t have to leave the unit.” When there was the clapping for people, some people are like, “Yeah, I don’t have time to go outside and hear people clapping at seven o’clock every night.” Others were like, “This is amazing. This was just the recharge that I needed.”

So we had to do things in different ways to engage what’s going to work with different people. Right? Because nobody’s the same way. Everybody’s going to react to different things. So it was a matter of how creative can we be? What can we do differently to keep people going on?

Even in the guides we created and learning to give to people coming in from other hospitals, we put different things in there for people. My team worked with the well-being team to put together a staycation guide for people so that when they were home, there were things they could do with their kids, whether it was a free museum, virtual tour, or a virtual Broadway production that was being done virtually that you could sit there with your kids and do. Different games to do around the house, icebreakers, fun things to do.

Colin Forward: I feel like I could use one of those guides.

Andrea Procaccino: Yeah, we’re hoping we don’t have to use it again, but we had to think of whatever we could do to support that individual, not just as a nurse or a doctor or a transporter or a therapist but them as a person, as an employee who was worried going home to their families and worried about their kids being home having to be homeschooled and they’re in the hospital. We had to look and surround that full employee with support, and I’m just so proud of the HR team for the work that they all banded together. It didn’t matter whether you were in talent acquisition or talent development or total rewards or HR operations or site HR, everybody was just banding together. “What can we do to help? What do you need?”

Colin Forward: Yeah, and so, I know that this is a smaller portion of your population, but it sounds like we’re talking a lot about how we can support the majority of folks that are at NYP just doing what needs to get done, but what has changed about how you do leadership development in the face of this crisis?

How Did NYP Hospital Advance Their Leadership Development During the COVID-19 Pandemic?

Andrea Procaccino: That’s a great question. You know, we looked at how we are developing leaders and took the time in between wave one and wave two to refresh our leadership training because what we saw was people needed authentic leadership in a way that they never thought they needed it before. We needed leaders that led with compassion, that led with authenticity, that listened very differently, that were engaging their staff differently.

So we had to look at not only the nuts and bolts of what a leader needs to do and what they’re responsible for and the competencies that we identified in our competency framework as leaders needed but how do we frame it so that we can also have them learning how to be an inspirational leader and how to inspire differently. So there’s a program we created on becoming an inspirational leader. How do you coach differently in this setting, knowing that there are such heightened emotions and fatigue and things like that? So we had to really look at our content and change some of that up.

A lot of it was leaders had to re-engage their teams very differently. They had to refocus their teams differently. They had to help them go back to find their why. What was their why? What was their purpose? What was the reason I joined healthcare in the first place? So we had to get leaders thinking differently about what they were doing.

Colin Forward: It sounds like some pretty difficult stuff to teach.

Andrea Procaccino: And we’re still there. We’re still inputting it. It’s not like it was like, “Oh, we just designed it and we’re done.” No, this is an evolving process that we’ve been working on. But that’s where we’ve been piloting some things with some groups that were struggling, and that’s what it really came down to. How do I refocus my team? How do I re-engage my team?

We also created learning supports for leaders in between wave one and wave two. Like when we’re coming out of wave two, how do you get people to get back to doing some of the day-to-day that was coming back online after what they’ve been through? So we had to have supports for leaders from a change perspective, from an inspirational perspective, from an HR perspective.

So we spent a lot of time working on that and creating these post-COVID, if you will—and I say that with a chuckle because I don’t know that we’ll ever be post-COVID at this point—but coming out of wave one, as we were renewing a lot of the day-to-day work and different work was coming back online, you have to refocus your team.

Colin Forward: So, likewise for your team, I’m sure that there might be some things that you feel have fallen out of focus. Is there anything that you’re worried that we need to get back to or that you’ve lost focus on?

Andrea Procaccino: You know, I do worry. That’s a great question, Colin. I do worry about the fact that we’ve created things so quickly. We had people working around the clock and were able to put something together that was engaging in like 24-48 hours. And people are like, “Oh my God, this is amazing. Thank you.” And people were just cranking. I get worried that people are like, “Well, you did it before, so you can continue to do that.” That’s not sustainable when you have a small team. So I do worry about the timelines getting shorter and tighter and smaller. So that is my concern that some of those expectations are not sustainable.

Colin Forward: And so, are you planning to, say, manage up or manage that expectation for your team? Are you hiring to meet the new expectations? How do you navigate that?

Andrea Procaccino: Yeah, we’re not hiring, as you can imagine. Our focus needs to be on staffing at the bedside and staffing in the clinical areas, but we’re managing that as leaders. So that’s part of the negotiation with, “Here’s what we can do. If we need to do that, here’s what has to come off our plate.” So that’s something myself and my directors and my peer vice-presidents are having to reset some of those expectations across the organization.

Colin Forward: Looking forward, like you said, we may never be post-COVID, right? Hopefully, at the very least, we can get to a point where the strain on the folks that you serve is reduced and we’re able to manage these waves as they happen. But what do you think is the most important thing for learning teams, in hospitals or otherwise, to continue to succeed and to grow as high-functioning learning and development professionals.

What Is the Most Important Thing for Success and Growth for Learning Teams and L&D Professionals?

Andrea Procaccino: That’s a great question, Colin. I think there’s a couple of things. I think we always have to stay close to our learners and understand what our learners are facing, what they’re up against—not just assume that we know. We need to be out there. We need to shadow them more. We need to talk to them more, and we need to listen to them more.

And I think this showed us that we needed a deeper connection to our learner basis and what their challenges are on a day-to-day basis. It’s one thing for them to tell it, but it’s another thing when you see it and experience it for yourself. So I think that showed us that we have to have just that much closer connectivity when we’re working with a group to really understand what it means for them.

I also think that—and this is something I’ve always said with my learning teams, whether it was J&J or Avon or now at NYP—we always have to keep one eye 10 to 15 years out. So we have to always look at what are the technologies, what are the different ways people are doing things, what’s coming down the pipe. And we have to know what that landscape looks like because it’s our responsibility to bring those types of things into the organization.

How can we make our learning more effective and more efficient? Because as the world gets more and more complex, there’s not a lot of time, there’s not a lot of people to do the work, and there’s not a lot of money to do the work either. So we constantly have to be innovating our approach to keep up with the challenging environments. Regardless of what the industry is, we’re all up against that.

So I think that’s something that I’m constantly telling the teams: we have to constantly keep one eye on the future because you have to see what’s coming. You have to see how you can use that because you never know when you’re going to be called upon to have to bring that in, and it’s going to solve a problem that you’re facing as an organization.

So I think it becomes even more critical now that we’re constantly looking at the future to create processes that allow us to be as agile as possible. I hate to say that word. I know that’s a new corporate buzzword, but we have to be. We have to be as agile as possible in our processes to be able to pivot at whatever’s coming at us, and the last 15 months have shown us that.

Colin Forward: Yeah. Well, I really appreciate you sharing that last little bit of wisdom with our viewers, and I’m sure that the folks at NYP feel really lucky to have you leading the learning programs at your organization.

Andrea Procaccino: I’m the lucky one. It is truly an honor to be part of this organization and to even be associated with these heroes. They’re incredible.

Colin Forward: It’s obviously taken a lot out of everyone over the last 18 months or so. And on behalf of everyone watching, thank you for the work that you’re doing supporting those folks on the frontline because, at some point, any one of us may be depending on you to make sure that we can get back to doing our jobs. So, really appreciate everything that you’ve shared with us today.

Andrea Procaccino: We are all in this together, but thank you. It’s been an honor to be here and speaking with all of you. And my wish for everybody is great learning and please be safe, and I wish safety for everyone’s families as well.

Colin Forward: Well, thank you very much, Andrea. And thanks, everyone, for joining in. I’ll hand it over to Adam to take us out.

Adam Wagner: Yeah, thanks, everyone. This was Training the Modern Workforce Live, presented by Allogy. If you’d like to explore previous episodes, subscribe to our YouTube channel or like us on LinkedIn and Facebook. And if you’d like to connect with one of our learning specialists to see how Allogy could help improve your training, head to allogy.com and schedule a demo.

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