Your company is growing! That’s the good news…but…it’s growing faster than you can effectively onboard new employees. That is the situation Conifer Health faces every day, challenging its HR team to implement a brand new strategy to manage the organization’s talent in supporting the business’ goals. The results? An effective HR strategy that not only reinvents the company’s talent initiatives, but the progress so far has also earned it an Axis Award for Strategic Planning.
Curious to learn how Conifer aligns its HR/Talent strategy to the Company’s vision of providing “the foundation for better health,” I connected with Cole Brown to learn more about their story. What I found was a multi-faceted approach that is singularly focused on creating and reinforcing Conifer’s brand promise “We are Better Together as we live the Conifer life.”
Q: Why was creating an employee “brand promise” so important to Conifer?
A: To drive consistency and excitement and build trust quickly. We had to learn what differentiated Conifer as an employer. We had to understand our team member value proposition, and answer the question: why would someone want to work here? That’s where the brand promise came in. We can promise more than just a paycheck. We can now promise career growth and almost unlimited opportunity because we are doing amazing things as a healthcare services firm – better together. We promise that we are better because of our new team members, and they will be better because of us. That’s our promise and our commitment.
Q: How do you go about developing an HR Strategy that tangibly supports and promotes the brand?
A: We must listen to our team members, and did so, through focus groups and interviews with all levels from multiple locations around the country. We asked three questions:
1. What differentiates us as an employer?
2. What can we own in the marketplace as an employer?
3. What promise can we make to our team members and deliver on every time?
From there, we developed a team member value proposition that connects with, and is relevant to, our business purpose and strategy. If our business purpose is to be the foundation for better health, then our value proposition must support it and our team members. That’s why Better Together makes a great connection. Better Health means we have to be Better Together as a team. From there, we analyzed our organization to identify gaps and barriers – what was keeping us from being Better Together? Once we identified those gaps, we started to build out our new talent strategy. That work continues today – getting Better Together and honing our talent strategy as we grow.
Q: How did you roll it out to ensure the new strategy would be adopted by team members?
A: We started by hosting a number of Town Halls to keep team members informed about the transition each step of the way. We then hosted special Orientation events followed by thank you notes and a formal welcome letter. Finally, we rolled out bi-weekly videos to support the transition of new team members and leaders, and provided a half-day leadership workshop for the new management team. But more than that – everything we did was to create a compelling new hire experience that connects people emotionally to our purpose, to other team members, and to the exciting possibilities ahead.
Q: There is a lot of talk these days about the impact of ‘story telling.’ How did you use stories to make sure the brand promise really resonated with employees?
A: We didn’t want to communicate with typical “business speak,” which can often be void of emotion. We needed buy- in and excitement from team members. Storytelling is the way to drive emotion. It helps our approach get beyond the pure logical connection to what we’re doing, and it engages the heart. Change can be hard, and our team members will deal with it better when their hearts are in it.
Q: What one or two pieces of advice would you give to other HR/Talent functions who really want to connect employees to the organization’s goals/vision?
A: First, this doesn’t start in the board room; it starts in the field. Talk to your team members. Listen a lot to what they are saying – and then be prepared to do something about it. Second, adopt some marketing principles. Don’t just be informative with your communications, be engaging. Capture their hearts as well as their heads. Finally, make sure it connects to the business in a way that drives the business forward. Our work in HR/Talent Management has to be of strategic value. We’re only of strategic value when we move the needle of real business metrics.
To learn more about Conifer's Award Winning initiative, visit the 2016 AXIS Awards Winners Webpage.