By Gloria Lombardi

jExpecting high levels of engagement can lead to disappointment, but Jennifer Bollinger (pictured right), Vice President of Corporate Communications and Public Relations for Ochsner Health System, is ambitious and results focused.

Bollinger has worked resolutely to revamp Ochsner’s approach to employee communications, and give life to the company’s vision to inform their many different audiences in a more personalised way. With over 85 health centres, and 29 owned, managed or affiliated hospitals across Louisiana, the approach needed to be all encompassing.

“Our vision at Ochsner is to save and change more lives, and technology is the only way we can scale to the number that we want to achieve. We have a big focus on engaging our workforce in a fully digital workplace; the organisation has invested in many different tools – Office 365 and SharePoint, various HR systems, payroll systems, and more. Without a modern, fully integrated intranet, none of those tools would be connected together, enabling us to be effective and productive in our daily work.

“We used to have five different online sources of content – each featuring differing information. Today, we just log in to one source of truth to get everything we need. The intranet has become the central nervous system of the organisation.”

It takes due diligence

The new intranet rolled out to the entire workforce in September 2017, but the story started two years ago, when Bollinger and the team invested time and effort into the assessment phase, which included determining the appropriate platform vendor.

The communications team had a clear vision and a shared understanding of the capabilities needed to create a personalised digital experience. “We did a lot of due diligence and interviewed and investigated multiple companies. It was apparent that ElevatePoint understood the real needs of a health system. They were able to provide us with the right platform as well as guidance on the best intranet practices that we needed.”

Among the various services provided along the journey, ElevatePoint helped Bollinger and team develop and clarify the business case for the intranet, finalise the intranet design, assess four different intranet environments, and execute content migration.

Employees’ needs come first

Homepage[45211]As part of the assessment phase, the team interviewed over 400 colleagues. They spoke with all the different audiences such as physicians, nurses, administrators, ward managers, contractors, and knowledge workers, to understand the tools and information needed as well as their current frustrations, “instead of us thinking that we already knew”.

Bollinger believes that one of the main success factors of the new intranet was this initial approach where staff were invited to share their requirements.

The previous search engine gave unranked results, and so was barely useful and barely used. Hearing people’s frustrations, Bollinger and team ended up building three search centres on the new intranet, each uniquely focused, and based on the excellent Office 365 / SharePoint search engine.

Mobile access came up time and time again. “Mobile was one of the primary considerations because many workers, such as nurses and physicians, do not sit in front of the computer on their desks. So, we really needed to make sure that the new intranet would be easy to use on their phones and tablets.”

Staff also expressed the importance of accessing all the tools, systems, and information resources their unique roles needed. “They wanted to log in and go straight to their own portal, accessing all the clinical resources that they need on a daily basis to do their job.” The old intranet was structured around the organisation chart, so unless you ‘just knew’ that Patient Relations was under Nursing (rather than reporting to the Patent Experience Team) you’d have a hard time finding patient information, for example.

Now, information is organised around end-user needs. Ochsner’s intranet offers multiple starting points suitable for different roles; there’s a Nurse portal, a Physician portal, a Leader portal, and an Advance Practice Provider portal. “We’ve reorganised the structure and content and so the new Service Center offers all self-help resources in one place, rather than making them hunt through the HR section, the IS section, and the Compliance section.”

The ‘Power of ONE’

2016_06_16_PoO__0044[47293]The benefits section of the intranet is popular so far. Easily found within the mega menu, staff return frequently through the month as the information is kept up-to-date and relevant content is published as needed by the Benefits team. Everything about payroll, health benefits, career development opportunities, and staff discounts and deals is maintained in one main section. The in-site search box is configured to search only the benefits section, so staff can find exactly what they want.

Considering Ochsner’s vision, the culture section of the intranet is vitally important; Ochsner has developed a robust employee engagement initiative called, the “Power of ONE’, to unite the entire organisation, underpinned by multiple annual engagement events.

“Every single person makes a tremendous difference at Ochsner,” says Bollinger, “and together they generate the power of ONE Ochsner. Even while we have multiple campuses and our people are working in different ways, it’s our unity that strengthens the power of the individual.”

The culture section provides everything around the Power of ONE initiative – the mission, vision, and values; how staff can be involved in volunteering opportunities; and all the ways that people matter beyond their job title.

The Power of ONE Ochsner Employee Experience

2016_06_16_PoO_-513[47295]Internal surveys indicate that employee engagement have risen from 31 per cent to 48 per cent over the past three years. Bollinger believes that part of the increase is owing to the  Power of ONE initiative.

The annual employee events bring about 7,000 people together and are a big part of Ochsner’s engagement strategy. The intranet is the central hub for event information, before and after.

“The half-day event shows people that they are all connected to something much bigger than the clinic they work at.” It’s an opportunity to understand the innovations that are changing the industry and how the organisation embraces them. For example, the partnership with Apple to manage chronic diseases and to improve the inpatient experience, and the partnership with the Epic electronic health record to advance care connectivity through new delivery models. “To complement the connected digital workplace, we feel it’s important to bring employees together in person so they can meet other colleagues and understand our overall direction.”

During the day, attendees watch powerful patient stories via videos that highlight care teams’ dedication. Staff are given prizes, such as football or basketball tickets, and they receive a custom designed t-shirt that they can wear to work on Fridays.

A focus on wellbeing

Perhaps not so surprising for a business committed to improving health, an important organisational value is “being committed to the wellbeing of myself and my team”. Ochsner has developed a number of programmes dedicated to reducing physician burnout, and ensuring that caregivers going through difficult experiences can talk to their peers. There are also a number of initiatives relating to preventive care and ways to receive discounts on health benefit premiums.

In the past, it was almost impossible for staff to know about all those programmes and groups. Now, all the information can be easily found through browsing or searching the intranet. Home page news stories often highlight such initiatives.

The Cafeteria never disappoints

The home page is news driven. Employees particularly love patients’ stories as well as innovation stories. For example, news on how Ochsner monitors people’s hypertension and diabetes through Apple watches, so that patients do not have to go to the doctors as often.

Recognition is another popular topic. Staff like seeing colleagues recognised and rewarded for important work and seeing their pictures receiving the prizes.

Bollinger shares another light, yet interesting example of why people come back to the intranet every day, which will not surprise seasoned intranet managers. “One of the most popular things is the cafeteria menu, so we’ve made the cafeteria details easy to find on the home page.”

Wanting to check the menu is a simple and clear need, and the intranet provides the right menu to the appropriate people based on their set location.

Content must be useful and relevant

Portal[45214]The stories shared on the intranet spark engaging conversations within and across the different divisions. The communications team want content to be useful, to support action and productivity. For example, a recent case study about supply ordering highlighted how stocking ‘standard sets’ of supplies reduced costs and helped physicians offer more consistent care. Rather than ordering whatever individual physicians preferred on an ad hoc basis, the cardiology team worked with physicians to develop a standardised approach to supplies and to ordering. Once the story ran on the intranet several other departments asked for help to do the same thing in their areas because they realised it was possible.

“They would not have thought to do it without reading our story.”

Sharing is caring

Before the new intranet, leaders would send a great many emails out to staff. Since the launch, channel use is being streamlined. Now, some leaders use blogs or forums within the intranet to share updates, research, observations, and reiterate operational matters, and the team is researching additional options.

“Starting and publishing a blog article is really easy, and so our leaders have taken to blogging quite quickly. Style and topics are wide-ranging, it all depends on the leader’s approach.”

The Chief Nursing Officer (CNO) maintains a strong presence within the main discussion forum for nurses. She writes a forum post (similar to a blog article) every week, reminding nurses to take care of themselves, and she acknowledges the incredible work they do. Her posts spark a long-threaded discussion from forum members.  Some nurses respond by liking the post and others use it as an opportunity to ask her a question. “Other nurses will sometimes jump in to answer the question even before the CNO responds. It’s a place where they can help one another.”

Generational differences

2016_06_16_PoO__0009[47290]As with many established businesses, Ochsner has workers who have been with the organisation for over 35 years. These baby-boomers work alongside Gen Xers and Millennials of course. Bollinger believes that some generational differences can be seen in the way they approach the new intranet. Younger employees seem to get more involved, updating the customisable menu, adding their most useful links to their home page, and contributing feedback. Older employees, so far, are mostly consuming content – getting only what they need from the intranet.

Bollinger is very aware that the intranet must suit people of every generation and of every skill level.

“Our goal is to continuously improve our digital workplace and look for new opportunities with the intranet and the entire suite of tools, which some of our people have not fully embraced yet. Little by little, we’re going to promote the use of new online tools with proper guidance so our people can choose the right tool, and know everything our workplace offers. The intranet is a personal productivity suite, and we need to redevelop our ways of working.”