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Need a post-merger talent management strategy? Try Jam

Can 14 hospitals function as one happy unit? It's early days, but Jefferson Health CHRO Jeffrey Stevens is betting on his unconventional approach to talent management.

Jeffrey Stevens was looking for the opportunity to change everything when he arrived at the Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals system almost three years ago. He perhaps got more than he bargained for: In that time frame, Jefferson grew from three hospitals to 14, from one university to two and suddenly had a combined workforce of 35,000.

Mergers are always an HR challenge, but in the traditionally siloed healthcare field, the problems are more obdurate. Stevens, executive vice president and chief HR officer at Jefferson Health, had to blend disparate cultures, technology systems and corporate identities and create an entirely new talent management strategy at what is now known as Jefferson Health.

To find the answer, he turned to his alter ego -- an artist. It turns out an art background can be a very useful attribute in HR and perhaps particularly during and after mergers. "I'm an artist," Stevens said in an interview when asked to talk about who he is. "I build crazy artwork, and I bring a very creative streak to my role."

He came to Jefferson not only expecting "chaos" but actually looking forward to it. He was tapped to create a talent management strategy and pick the right talent management tool, and he was given free rein to rethink practically everything. "I was able to do mostly by design what most HR departments struggle to do by consensus," he said. "I was able to use technology to deliver on a talent management strategy and on connectivity in the organization."

How to bring it all together

Jeffrey StevensJeffrey Stevens

Stevens chose SAP SuccessFactors for Jefferson and settled in to consider not only how to rethink a talent management strategy but also performance management, learning, onboarding, leadership training and culture. This had to be done across a large number of organizations, each of which had its own identity. To make it even more complicated, many of the newly merged entities had been competitors.

So, he started with the concept of identity and turned to what would become one of his favorite parts of SuccessFactors: SAP Jam. Using Jam, Stevens hosted a four-day online conversation about values, ideals and mission statements. He tapped subject matter experts in each organization to facilitate the online discussion, and in the end, over 9,000 employees participated. Then, the Jam convo was word-mined to create a new vision statement. "When we shared that with each organization, they all said, 'Yeah, that's us,'" he said.

It was at that point Stevens' alter ego, the artist, really kicked in. While shopping for talent management software, he'd been impressed by the technical depth but disappointed that none of them really "understood the simpler needs of the audience and what the user experience should look like." SuccessFactors had the bells and whistles, but Stevens realized he could essentially whisk those out of sight if he was creative about how he used Jam in his talent management strategy.

A portal of the future

If we delivered the 'same old, same old,' it was not going to be an improvement. We would have been missing the boat.
Jeffrey StevensEVP and CHRO, Jefferson Health

Jefferson Health needed a portal that would make the employee intranet obsolete and would, at the same time, be a tool for every part of an employee's career -- from onboarding to "future career-proofing" to the extensive education required in the healthcare field. "The truth is: This would all have been for naught had we not been also thinking how we could create much better tools with more engaging content," Stevens explained. "If we delivered the 'same old, same old,' it was not going to be an improvement. We would have been missing the boat."

Jam became the front end -- and the heart and soul -- of Stevens' new talent management strategy. All the necessary HR functions could be dropped as widgets onto an employee's Jam page. The page would also be a gateway to ongoing education (from mandatory to onboarding), career planning, performance reviews and, of course, community and culture building.

Stevens and his team took two months to build myJeffHub, and it's been in soft launch mode for the last three months. He is thrilled with the results and credits "purposeful design" for getting the company this connected this quickly. "You want to energize as you come together as a new entity. You're expecting a reinvention, and here's the tool to do it. It has something for everyone: leadership, patient safety, new employees, wellness, diversity, philanthropy and culture."

SAP's Jam in use in communities at Jefferson Health
A look at how Jefferson is using Jam for talent management and community building

People-driven community building

When it comes to Jam communities, Stevens is expecting a lot from grassroots efforts, but to get the ball rolling, staff were assigned to relevant communities across the entire organization based around themes like leadership or around job titles. That's quickly led to new communities forming -- 170 pharmacists now have a new community focused just on battling the opioid epidemic, he said, while some of the wellness members have created a group for those interested in gardening, including Stevens.

The reinventing isn't finished at Jefferson Health either. Stevens wants a brand new process for employee reviews -- "The idea of 50,000 performance reviews needing handshakes from managers? I want none of that" -- and he wants to empower staff to take charge of their careers. "There's a huge promise for employees to understand 'What's my learning gap?' and 'What's my career path?'" Stevens said. "We want them to see their jobs as collections of competencies. MyJeffHub is going to showcase our new values: people first, be bold, think differently and do the right thing."

This was last published in June 2018

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