Hospital’s intranet brings order to chaos

Turns out Norton Healthcare employees wanted quick information on raises, vacation days and discounts, not floods of email. And what about when a patient wants his dog to visit?

A few years back, employees at Norton Healthcare in Louisville, Kentucky, were pleading for mercy.

“We get so many emails, we don’t know what to do,” internal communications director Mary Jennings recalls hearing. “We don’t know what’s important. We don’t know what’s not important. And we get five minutes in front of a public computer, and then I’m off on a patient computer, charting, etcetera.”

The solution? The 13,000-employee hospital system overhauled its intranet, Nsite, creating a one-stop portal with information on everything from benefits to dealing with a patient’s stroke.

In a business where 75 percent of employees work out on the hospital floors, Norton shows how a simple-looking but well-organized intranet can address communications needs.

Whereas the old design drew 252,000 views a month, that number now tops 3 million, Jennings says. Nsite has afforded the hospital system significant savings in printing and mailing costs; Norton has decreased its employee publications from a bimonthly to quarterly. The organization also hosts the employee handbook there, so it no longer has to print and distribute it when changes are made.

“We are able to target our messages more easily and send them more frequently,” Jennings says. “We can tie initiatives together through links. We know we increase engagement, which is an important measure for Norton Healthcare.”

Designed by SharePoint

The re-launch of the SharePoint-designed tool began with focus groups, Jennings says. Communicators asked employees where on the intranet they were spending their time, as well as what they wanted from the portal. Someone in the focus group even drew up what eventually became Nsite’s simple, boxlike design.

The site includes headlines linking to stories such as, “Take a moment to verify your work phone number,” and “Dr. Meredith C. Sweeney joins Norton Healthcare.” Employees can comment on the stories. Some of the most popular areas, however, can be accessed from a bar across the top.

“Employee Services” includes everything Norton employees need in one spot, Jennings says. The design is simple, with six colored rectangles where staffers can click on the following:

  • Time, money & benefits
  • Career & learning
  • Reward and recognition
  • Health & wellness
  • Resources & contacts
  • Employee 911

The time and money section is a catch-all for the kinds of questions employees tend to pester HR or the payroll department about.

Jennings says those include inquiries such as: “Where do I go to find how much vacation time I have? I want to figure out where to go for my retirement—where do I go for that? I need my paycheck stub where do I go for that?”

It’s all in that box.

How about that scholarship?

The career section provides information on questions such as: “I really want to get a scholarship. Where do I go for that? I want to see what jobs are open; where do I go for that?” Jennings says.

Nsite is also targeted by the job the viewer holds. A corporate executive sees different boxes (and information options) from what a nurse does.

As the intranet grew, analytics provided some surprises, Jennings says. For one thing, a section listing employee discounts has been hugely popular. Then again, maybe that makes sense.

“An intranet is all about me,” Jennings says. “If I can get 20 percent off on my pizza so I can grab dinner on the way home, it’s making my life easier.”

Anything related to pay or benefits also gets high engagement. At Norton, employees tend to get an annual pay increase. The hospital decided to make a big deal out of that on Nsite.

“We made it a celebration,” Jennings says. “We posted it on the intranet as one of our stories. We said, ‘Hey, pay increases are coming. Celebrate.”

It was the most engaged story on the site. If you take regular events and make them celebratory, employees will read and interact with them, she says.

A place to squawk back

On the flip side, some benefits changes weren’t so popular. Jennings says when employees are going to be unhappy anyway, it’s best to allow them to react.

Another popular story offered information on the American Cancer Society’s Great American Smokeout, which took place this week. Those employees with a recalcitrant nicotine habit could ask for information, such as whether the hospital had a class that could help them quit smoking.

In the comments, nonsmokers encouraged their colleagues. “I quit three years ago, and I’ve been so much healthier ever since,” one wrote.

Another area of high hit counts is called the Convenience Center, which offers traffic and weather reports. Employees check road conditions before heading home. Before sending a patient rolling out the door in a wheelchair, staffers can see whether it’s sunny or sleeting.

Departments also have tailored sites where they post requirements for particular jobs. In communications, the department page offers tips for how to build a SharePoint page or where to find a logo they need.

Making it easy to learn

Hospitals require a great deal of annual learning, and Nsite helps employees to stay up to date on what they need. Nsite allows, say, a nurse to ask a quick policy question (“A patient wants to get a visit from their dog. Can I do that?”), and ambitious staffers can find out how to move up to a job they’ve been eyeing.

“Let’s say I work in the cafeteria, but I really would like to be a nurse,” Jennings says. “We have a career development system that can help you with the process to get there.”

Norton has also built a Stroke 911 section. This provides go-to information if an employee says, “Oh, my gosh, I think this patient is having a stroke, and I’ve never dealt with this before.”

Finally, when Norton announces a change to a significant policy, it can see whether employees check out the page. If not, communicators can say: “OK, they’re not getting it. We need to do a different kind of communication.”


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