Changing how we collaborate is a ‘marathon’, says health insurance provider Humana

Profile picture for user ddpreez By Derek du Preez May 4, 2017
Humana is using Jive to both improve the efficiency of its sales teams and to change the way the organisation collaborates. But it takes time.

US national health insurance provider Humana is changing both the way that it collaborates as an organisation and the way that its sales teams source information, through the use of communities create on the Jive platform.

Whilst the US health market is privatised and patients rely on health insurance to access care, lessons on collaboration and efficiency can also be gleaned for the NHS in the UK, which is currently under an incredibly amount of strain due to an ageing population and a reduction in spending per head.

The NHS in the UK is looking at digital solutions improve the way that it operates and collaborates across a number of silos, challenges that Humana is addressing here in the US.

I got the chance to speak to Sabrina Deitch, Digital Innovation Manager at Humana, and Chuck Stephens, a lead in Humana's digital centre of excellence, both of which are responsible for Jive communities at the health insurance provider at Jive's annual user conference in Las Vegas this week. Whilst Deitch is charged with improving the way that sales teams access company resources to do do deals, Chuck is looking more broadly at how employees can get out of working in email and other traditional silos.

However, as Deitch explains, the goal isn’t just about profit, it’s about improving the health of its members - a goal set out by the Humana leadership team. She said:

Humana is a health insurance company. But really we are about improving the health of our members, so we think about being more than insurance. The vision the past few years, that our senior leaders came up with, is around wanting to improve the health of our members in the communities we serve - 20% by the year 2020. We have different communities on Jive, and whilst each of the communities have the same Humana vision, we each have different audiences and goals and objectives that help support through that.

This improvement in health is measured via a member survey, which assesses the amount of healthy days that members have each year - the aim being to reduce the number of unhealthy days.


Deitch’s community is called Fuse and has been set up as an internal community to support sales associates, with the aim being to help them collaborate with one another, as well as collaborate with business partners. Fuse is intended to be a place where all sales associates can find all the information that they need in one place and is available on the go, via a mobile app.

Whilst it isn’t currently integrated with Humana’s CRM system, because the insurance provider is currently assessing options for a new CRM system, the Fuse community has proven to be incredibly popular with the associates. Deitch explained:

It is the one place that they can go to to find the information that they need. The big win that we’ve been able to take away is the silos and emails that people are using. We launched in May 2015 and we have seen metrics that it has been a 60% improvement in the time it takes from when someone asks a question to when someone answers a question. For them, that’s been huge.

And that’s created a domino effect. Once the sales people saw that, then they started to trust that they could ask the question there, rather than hunting down the person that can answer it - ask the community. We’ve seen a 200% increase in the number of questions being asked since we launched.

We knew that questions were being asked, we just didn’t know where. Now if we can harness them in the one place, it kind of captures the essence of it.

There are 1,500 sales associates using the Fuse community and Deitch says that it has an impressive 92% engagement rate, well above industry standards. This is not only helping sales teams speed up their performance, but it is also guiding marketing and product teams on what information is important. Deitch explained:

Our goal is to be able to be able to go back to the product and marketing team and say ‘look at these metrics, this is what is being viewed’. You are spending time and resources creating these documents, which are either being seen, which is fantastic, or no one is looking at them - so why is that? Do we need to raise the visibility or are these documents not necessary?

Broader collaboration

Whilst Deitch’s community is focused specifically on sales, Stephens is looking more broadly at changing enterprise collaboration from within Humana’s digital centre of excellence, via the Hatch community.

This agenda was driven by a change of leadership, which charged Stephens and his team to think differently about how Humana employees can work a little bit better. Initially it was thought that this would be done via a traditional SharePoint implementation, but Stephens had other ideas. He said:

I challenged that thinking and said we should really look at something like Jive. We got the green light on it and it was very bare bones, we only brought 350 people on initially. Trying to get them to work differently, out of email, out of SharePoint, real time collaboration, really connecting people more.

However, since launch, Hatch has grown in popularity - which is largely down to how senior leaders are interacting with the platform. Stephens said:

It has been wildly popular. We have got about 700 people on now. We have gone up to different orgs within Humana, to not necessarily recruit people on to the platform, but word of mouth spreads. People may get pulled on to a project and they get to work on the platform and then want it. So we have been able to bring on other teams along the way.

A lot of it has really centred around our leaders. Our leaders iterate on weekly documents, so we’ve seen a lot of use around weekly reports that go out to our C-suite leaders. They now don’t have to swap back and forth over email.

We have been amazed at the popularity and how well it has been taken up. We measure three different verticals - adoption, engagement and collaboration. The industry standard adoption rate is 35%, we are 50%. The standard engagement rate is 18%, we are 36%. And the collaboration industry standard is 22%, which we are on. We have seen across the board adoption and engagement, they want it.

Driving change

Anyone that has carried out a collaboration platform implementation will know that the technical challenge around delivering the platform itself isn’t the concern. The concern rests in getting employees to actually use it and changing the way that the company works - the people factor.

Deitch and Stephens took two different approaches to driving adoption and engaging employees in change. Whilst Deitch took a more top-down approach, highlighting the benefits, Stephens’ community grew more organically by making it an attractive option. Deitch said:

Ours was kind of a forced upon thing. We said that this is the only place as a sales person that you are going to find the exclusive information that you need, so if you’re not on it, you’re telling your customers wrong or old information.

But getting sales to use it still required a lot of leg work. She added:

For us, it has been a real behavioural change. We want our sales leaders to be leading the pack. But they’re the same people that aren’t comfortable with change as much, they’re used to email. I’ve done buddy calls, with each of our leaders, one on one, to get them comfortable with using the tool and committing to just doing one blog a week. I’ve tried to say that don’t feel like it’s all on your back, share it with your team, put up an editorial calendar and each person does something once a week. Planting ideas is what we’ve been working on to bring them along.

Meanwhile, Stephens' Hatch community relied upon starting small and finding users that would be advocates for the product. He said:

My cohort, who is not here, she did a fantastic job on the strategy for how we would build engagement really early. She spent a lot of time up front bringing 20 or 30 people on at a time that we knew would be super users, or advocates, and really built it at that way. But we also utilised using exclusive content from executives that you wouldn’t get anywhere else, to try to humanise them. And so folks were like ‘wow, our EVP is on here’.

However, Stephens warned that companies should be prepared to put in a lot of work to make collaboration successful. And said that businesses starting out shouldn’t be too drawn to all the shiny toys that a platform like that Jive can offer. Rather think about what outcomes you are looking to achieve and pick a few tools to get there. He said:

I think the biggest thing I would say is, just remember that it’s a marathon. And think of it in that way. What we learned when we rolled ours out is that we wanted to see everything turned on at one time, because we thought we were going to be missing out - we had the FOMO.

We have really changed our strategy quite a bit as we bring more teams on, as we say let’s focus on the top two or three things you are trying to do here. Jive has a tonne of things you can do, but let’s focus on the two or three. And it really has changed a lot about the way the success goes up much quicker.