You’re running your own child care center for employees, you can clearly see its strategic value, and you know what it says about positive culture for your people. But there are questions about whether the center is delivering on its full potential value…or whether it’s sustainable.
So what do you do — keep handling it in house…or outsource to someone who runs child care as part of their core business?
That question can answer itself by addressing three key components:
- What does the center mean to our business?
- Is the center as cost effective as it could be?
- Does a child care expert bring built-in infrastructure that we can’t supply?
A Case Study in Maximizing Employer-Sponsored Child Care
An illustration is a situation faced by St. John Health System.
The healthcare provider out of Oklahoma and Kansas had been self-operating its own child care center since the 1950s. Child care was a smart decision, and pretty forward thinking considering the era it was established. But costs were rising and enrollment was falling off and there were doubts about sustainability. The question was where to go from there.
Question one: Is Child Care Important to Our Business?
The clear answer to the first question was…yes. “The center has been an important part of the organization,” says St. John Corporate Vice President Page Bachman.
In fact, the center is also part of St. John’s talent strategy, easing staff concerns about finding and keeping quality care for young children.
“I have never looked for another job because I do not want to interrupt Jake’s experience at the center,” says St. John Recruiter Deedra Hammons, who enrolled her new baby at the center. “I know a lot of moms come here and stay because of it.”
Question Two: Is the Center as Cost Effective as it Could Be?
Since its inception, the center had become critical to the hundreds of St. John families who’ve used it.
But enrollment was an issue. As a healthcare organization running a child care center, St. John was operating in an area out of its expertise. Equally important, the center was competing against the highly regarded Pre-K program in their local school system. “We were seeing fewer and fewer students in that group, which hurt our bottom line,” says Page. “And we were losing teachers to public schools.”
Running a center with minimal enrollment was not a sustainable business model, with the shrinking ranks and rising operating costs leaving St. John to fill in an increasingly large shortfall. In order to maintain the center, they’d need to become more economically efficient.
Question Three: Does a specialist bring built-in infrastructure that we can’t supply?
As associates of a health system that owns one child care center, employees of the center had limited options for growth, says Page. That was an issue when it came to recruiting or retaining teachers who could find greater mobility in the local public schools. But one of the things Bright Horizons could offer was access to the company’s educational resources, accreditation support, and other growth opportunities. “As employees of Bright Horizons,” says Page, “the team’s opportunities expanded tremendously.”
That infrastructure would benefit families as well, with training for teachers and a team of educators to implement proprietary curriculum that continually enhance the center’s quality.
And there were other plusses. Bright Horizons had the capability to enhance usage by opening the center to back-up care, a program that enables employees who weren’t enrolled to use the center (and so, get to work) when their regular care wasn’t available. Additionally, by opening spaces to parents outside St. John, the organization not only engaged in community outreach, they also expanded enrollment even more. The result: the center reached full enrollment in its first year, with a projected five-year investment reduction of $1.3 million.
The Bottom Line:
For St. John, outsourcing child care management was clearly the answer. Page calls the partnership an unqualified success, providing an avenue to sustain what was clearly a critical resource, and to revive the center’s strategic potential on every front that mattered.
“Our Bright Horizons team has done a great job of increasing enrollment and maximizing this resource,” says Page. “The financial savings speak for themselves.”
More than 100 clients have transitioned the management of their child care centers to Bright Horizons to maximize their centers’ potential and help reclaim vital resources for other areas of their organization. Read the case study and get the full story of how Bright Horizons helped the St. John child care center deliver its full potential.