When Lindsey Schoenborn and husband Travis learned they were going to have a child, they got a head start on the baby’s arrival by putting their name on waiting lists for day care in the Bemidji, Minnesota, area.
Lindsey Schoenborn is a quality coordinator for Sanford Health of Northern Minnesota who gave birth to a baby boy in April of 2022.
They were not unique in needing to address child care. They soon discovered that Bemidji, like much of the rest of the country, was dealing with a shortage of options for families with young children.
In the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, not being able to find day care for children has in some cases limited employment options for people like the Schoenborns. In response, Sanford Health, which employs more than 44,000 people, is offering possible solutions.
“When COVID came, we sent people home in droves very quickly because safety was our No. 1 priority,” said Ashley Wenger-Slaba, Sanford Health vice president of employee experience. “That thrust us into the idea of working flexibly that we had not adopted as much as an organization to that point. It’s also just not as common in the health care industry. Seeing the success of working differently led us to adopt a working flexibly policy and toolkit that we formalized this past year.”
Though the Schoenborns didn’t know it at the time, this formalization of policy was going to make their lives better.
Long wait for child care
After their son Cayde was born, the wait for suitable day care persisted. Lindsey spent 12 weeks at home with her baby, hoping and expecting that during that time, the child care situation would be resolved. Instead, it continued.
Travis had to leave his job and cared for Cayde when Lindsey was at work.
“We figured it was a short-term solution,” Lindsey said. “There had to be an opening eventually with all the waiting lists we were on, right? We figured we’d give it six months and see what happens.”
Six months later, with no local day care options in sight, the couple knew they were going to have to come up with a different plan.
This led to a conversation between Lindsey and her director, Alyssa Carlson.
‘We can make this work’
Lindsey read up on Sanford policies regarding work flexibility. She came into the meeting with a few notes about what a possible solution might look like.
“My big question was: ‘Is there any chance this would work for Sanford and our team?’” Lindsey said. “And she’s like, ‘Yes, absolutely we can make this work.’”
Among Lindsey’s many duties as quality coordinator, she is responsible for collaborating with staff on completing projects and programs associated with quality initiatives, safety standards and continuous improvement programs.
The fact that she would be able to shape her duties to fit her life was a big win for the Schoenborns, who were contemplating significant quality-of-life changes in order to be able to spend time with Cayde.
“I really enjoyed my job and I didn’t want to have to quit,” Lindsey said. “It was great that they were able to do this and so much easier than I thought it was going to be. Even after she said ‘Yep, we can do this,’ I figured there was going to be a long process we’d have to go through. Instead, literally, we took care of it before the next pay period.”
Responding to employee needs
The speedy and thorough response to Lindsey’s circumstances was indicative of Sanford’s enterprise-wide emphasis on listening to employees.
Recent employee engagement surveys revealed that Sanford ranks in the top 25% in the health care industry in meaningful work. The most recent Net Promoter Score – a metric used to measure how likely employees were to recommend Sanford as a place to work – was 13 percentage points above the industry benchmark.
“We were very happy with the results of our survey from this year,” Wenger-Slaba said. “I think employees are starting to see that we are listening, and not just listening but responding with actions and initiatives. … We want people to feel like there’s purpose in their work and that they believe in the mission and the vision of Sanford.”
Lindsey and Travis were able to map out a child care plan. She still works in the office at least three days a week, and sometimes four, but she is now able to coordinate parenting with her professional responsibilities.
“I really just enjoy having that extra time with Cayde and I’m so appreciative we were able to work something out with Sanford,” Lindsey said. “It’s great not having someone else raise my child.”
Navigating the Schoenborns’ and others’ work-family balance can be difficult. But in this case it began with a conversation with both sides motivated to find a solution.
“We’re listening to the feedback we get from employees and we’re taking it to heart,” Wenger-Slaba said. “We’re watching trends and reading comments and categorizing those comments so we can have our initiatives and programming respond to what our employees are telling us they need. It’s a bit of a moving target but we want to be responsive to employees and want them to know that what they’re telling us matters.”
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