Shari OwensVetter Health Services, which offers long term and post-acute care in Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, and Wyoming, offers many programs to support employees in their career paths, including a company-wide tuition reimbursement aimed to promote higher education among its employees. Once team members have—with administrator approval—completed their courses at a secondary institution in one calendar year, Vetter awards part-time team members up to $1,500 and full-time team members up to $3,000. 

Within the past two years, the program has grown via a partnership with Bellevue University in Bellevue, Neb., that also reimburses participants attending the university. Full-time team members can receive up to $6,000, and part-time team members can receive up to $5,250. And any immediate family members of Vetter employees can receive up to $2,500 toward education expenses.

Bellevue University also partners with rural community colleges to offer online programs, which is a win for Vetter employees. “Since Vetter has facilities in a lot of rural communities, this gives opportunities to those team members outside the Omaha metropolitan programs to take advantage of their online programs,” says Shari Owen, talent development coordinator at Vetter. Belle-vue has a percentage of their programs that are almost completely online. “This helps our team members that are seeking home and work-life balance,” she says.

Doing It Right

Owen works hand in hand with a mentoring council on another one of Vetter’s programs designed to support employees in their career paths. “We go out and we train mentors that are here at the home office or at different locations to work with all of our new team members,” she says. “Once a new employee walks through the door, they are assigned a mentor. After their general orientation, that employee works with their mentor to complete a job skill checklist out on the floor.”

The beauty of Vetter’s mentorship program is that it is what the mentor and mentee make of it. “Vetter doesn’t define how long the two work together, they just give mentors the tools they need,” says Owen.

Parameters are that the two team members have a relationship. “The relationships are typically ongoing,” says Owen. “We want to give new employees a friend at work, someone who will gently walk them through their roles and responsibilities and celebrate their successes. And you see the comradery between them.”

About a year ago, employees gave feedback to Owen asking that the mentorship training be taken on the road. “So of course we did, and this benefitted those team members who were not able to travel to the home office,” says Owen. “Maybe they are a single parent or work another job, but they still want to be part of the Vetter family. That really made a big difference in enrollment.”

The mentorship training program is offered four times per year. And all mentors receive extra compensation for their participation.

Leadership training comes directly from Vetter’s President Glenn Van Ekeren and is offered every year. The general theme is leadership skills, and it is popular, with employees waiting in line to enroll.

“We believe that we need to constantly evolve with our programs,” says Owen. “Our president says it’s like dancing on a moving carpet. We use feedback to constantly build and tweak the program to build the objectives that our team members are asking for.” Those objectives include training on managing a crucial conversation and managing stress, for example.

The outcomes are what really matter. “When you empower people to lead and be a part of making a difference in the way of growth and development, it goes very far,” says Owen. “We empower them, and it makes a difference with our residents and families.”