Jess ElmquistDecember 5, 2023
Topics: Customer Stories

Think It’s Easy to Hire 3,000 Certified Teachers? Bright Horizons Did That and More.

I come from a family of educators. In fact, I was one myself many moons ago when I taught U.S. history and economics at a public school in Minnesota. Maybe that’s why I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for two things — teachers and great stories.

The two came together nicely when I took the stage with Stephanie Worley at the Gartner ReimagineHR conference in Orlando. She’s the Vice President of Talent Acquisition at Bright Horizons, an education and care provider which is commonly associated with child care but does so much more. Employees embrace the culture with such fervor that it was named a Best Place to Work

Bright Horizons’ post-COVID comeback strategy is nothing short of inspirational. It should be a required case study in every business school on how to draw talent back to an organization using mission as the carrot and artificial intelligence as the enabler.

Let me set the stage. The pandemic hit, Bright Horizons shut down its child care facilities but kept the ones in hospitals open to care for first responders’ children. Teachers quit en masse to find jobs in other industries in the meantime. The facilities eventually reopen and it’s time to bring all the teachers back.

“That was a big challenge for us,” Worley said. “How do we attract them back?”

Adding to the challenge? The company needed large volumes of certified workers (not just anybody off the street. Combine bringing back alumni employees with the sourcing, screening, scheduling, and interviewing of undiscovered candidates, and traditional manual recruiting processes simply don’t cut it. 

“I Want to Come Back”

The Gartner audience went still when Worley shared an epiphany about realizing the talent acquisition process to bring back former employees needed to improve.

At the time, the company was holding a remote job fair and things suddenly got busy. Worley logged on to help recruiters when she started talking to a candidate.

“I want to come back to Bright Horizons,” she recounted the candidate saying. “And I said ‘Why do you want to come back?’ and she went through this whole spiel about how it changed her life and how she wanted to come back and serve children.”

It was then that the company realized it had to do something to make it easier for alumni to return other than the TA team calling lists of people. “So we really went to Phenom and said ‘This is an opportunity for us and we think it can be a game changer,’ and we went after it.”

They sure did go after it.

Step one was to take their career site and content management system out of the hands of their marketing team and own them outright. “With Phenom, we can update it on the fly. We can build landing pages if we want to. There's just been a lot of things that we've been able to do that we were not able to do before,” she said. 

A few of those things that have been critical? Their new-found ability to attract and engage job seekers with exactly what they’re looking for — personalized job recommendations and content that matches their skills and interests to help them apply faster.

The next step was to bring in people to lead recruitment marketing and candidate experience, dual roles that have since been combined into one and are now optimized by their Phenom suite of tools which are all unified in one platform to manage it all (Bright Horizons uses our Career Site, CMS, Chatbot, Talent CRM, Campaigns, SMS, Events, AI Scheduling, and Alumni Portal).

I was reminded of the importance of that role at HR Tech when I ran into my Talent Marketing Manager from my days at Life Time. It was great to talk to him about all that we were able to accomplish together when we finally had tech that worked with us, instead of against us. 

Another must-have for Bright Horizons that Stephanie hit on was addressing integrations with their ATS and enhancing the experience of their apply process and communications with candidates. Hiring in large volumes is difficult enough without having a line of sight into incomplete applications and real-time analytics.

Once Bright Horizons had all of that, they could take full advantage of all of the automations and campaigns at their fingertips.

“It’s just been super helpful for us as far as converting,” she said of the process of turning leads into applicants, “and it gives such a better candidate experience.”

The Goal: Hire 3,200 Certified Teachers

With all of their key components in place, including AI scheduling, change management, and a convenient alumni portal,  Bright Horizons was ready to engage.

The hiring goal was 3,200 high quality, fully certified teachers by the end of December 2022. “We did that and more,” Worley laughed.

There was a 96% increase in completed applications thanks to an easier application process. But even when people still fell off, the re-engagement in the CRM was huge, helping the TA team reconvert those folks.

When employees leave Bright Horizons, whether they've worked there for five years or 25 years, they still want to know what’s going on, such as the opening of a new center. 

“We went back seven years in terms of employees that had left us and invited them all back in,” she said. “We had phenomenal results, and we continue to optimize that alumni portal every month.” 

Bright Horizons even added new flexibility for senior alumni people who don’t necessarily want a full-time role. They choose the work hours that fit their life. This is a major achievement when you consider that two-thirds of older workers said they were extremely or very satisfied with their job overall, a higher percentage than their younger counterparts. They also found their jobs to be enjoyable and fulfilling at a higher rate than younger workers.

That flexibility opens up a portal much larger for alumni to step back in and create a caring environment for both themselves and the children they care for.

Flexibility is a boon in healthcare, too

On a parallel note, I’ve been strategizing quite a bit this year with healthcare providers around the nursing shortage. We’re offering them more optionality to diminish the costs of traveling nurses, which can eat up a large portion of their labor costs.

Giving nurses schedule flexibility brings them off the sidelines and back into hospitals without having to sacrifice time away from their families. In essence, we’re helping hospital systems open up a portal again for more nurses to jump back in, so not dissimilar from the Bright Horizons situation.

One hospital system in the Midwest has actually reduced year-over-year spend by 21% thanks to its partnership with Phenom and standing up its own internal travel team.

If you’d like to have a conversation about how your organization can see savings like that, connect with me on LinkedIn. I love the idea of people coming back to workplaces they love and making it easier for them to do it.

Jess Elmquist

Jess Elmquist is the Chief Human Resources Officer and Chief Evangelist at Phenom. In a previous career as the Chief Learning Officer at Life Time, the healthy way of life company, Jess hired more than 200,000 people and spoke to hundreds of his executive peers about talent trends.

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