The world of work has changed dramatically since the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic. Lack of face-to-face meetings, the introduction of remote or hybrid working, and rapid changes to company policies and procedures mean organizations are finding it increasingly difficult to stay in touch with their employees and keep them updated with important information. This is driving companies to search for new and better ways to communicate with their workers.
That’s why Tower Health, a regional healthcare provider with 7 hospitals and over 14,000 employees, 2,200 physicians, and serving 2.5 million people across 230 locations in the State of Pennsylvania, decided to expand their use of Dovetail Software’s HR Case Management and Knowledge Management capabilities, with the adoption of Dovetail’s Employee Portal. Dovetail’s Employee Portal is an online employee communications platform that improves two-way communication between HR and employees.
The following is the story of how Mick Schoenberger, Vice President Total Rewards and HR Operations, Tina Aquilini-Batten, HR Operations Manager, and the HR Services team at Tower Health, overcame a number of challenges brought about by the pandemic, to successfully improve HR Services and HR-employee communications by adopting Dovetail’s Employee Portal.
In 2017 Tower Health acquired five hospitals which not only created a more complex organization but also a need to rationalize HR systems. Mick said:
“At breakneck speed, we needed to get all five hospitals up and running in 3 months and we needed the right HR technology in place to achieve this.”
This was the trigger for acquiring Dovetail HR Case Management with HR Knowledge Management and Reporting capabilities, part of Dovetail’s range of HR Service Delivery applications. Mick explains why he decided to purchase Dovetail HR Case Management:
“I wanted a tool that could track employee questions and requests, had metrics on our activity to gain visibility of our workload, and the ability to monitor our HR Services performance. I also wanted to deliver more consistent service to our employees, and I could see the potential of Dovetail’s Knowledge Management capabilities to enable us to provide consistent answers to questions. It was also important that the system was built for HR and that HR was in control of change management. The system had to be good value for the investment too. I felt Dovetail HR Case Management met these requirements.”
Fast forward to 2020, and Tower Health was facing a whole set of new challenges, brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic. Mick said:
“Like every organization during the COVID-19 pandemic, we experienced adversity and a massively changed environment, which changed the needs of our employees and created some new pain points. We needed to adapt fast.”
To do so, and meet a number of core challenges, Tower Health added Dovetail's Employee Portal solution to the Dovetail HR Case Management solution that had already been implemented.
1. Shift to Remote Work
Tina estimated that about 25% of the entire Tower Health workforce went remote/hybrid during the pandemic. Prior to COVID Tower Health did not have remote workers except for a few positions in IT where the individual lived in another state.
Mick and Tina felt the organization could lose touch with its remote working employees. Tina commented:
“Because of COVID and the ‘new world’ of work that it created, we had to shift the way we kept in touch with our employees. There's no longer in person, face to face contact as before. More communications are virtual. By offering employees an online communications platform, we felt we could mitigate this risk, while improving HR services for employees.”
2. Need for Faster & More Engaging Employee Communications
Employees needed more and more information to stay up to date with what was going on within the organization and the wider world. Tina summed up the need for improved HR-employee communications:
“Employees needed access to information more quickly in order to stay up to date with rapid changes within the organization (particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic when we were in the ‘eye of the storm’ so to speak, and changes were daily).”
Tina had to decide how to get employees the information they needed faster when HR Services couldn’t physically see them or throw “town halls” or similar. “You can only send out so many email communications before people stop reading them, and the speed at which things change on a daily basis at Tower Health is so rapid”, she said.
3. Mitigate Risks to HR Service Levels and the Employee Experience
Even prior to the pandemic, Mick and Tina were always looking to continually improve the employees’ experience of HR Services. With the complexity brought about by new hospital acquisitions and COVID-19, there was a risk to the quality of these services. It was felt that an Employee Portal would not only mitigate these risks but also improve services. The time was right to expand the use of Dovetail HR Case Management with the introduction of the Employee Portal and get the benefits of its features and capabilities.
Features & Benefits
The Employee Portal is Dovetail’s online communications platform for HR and employees. It has a range of powerful features and capabilities that help HR communicate better with its workers. They include:
- A Welcome Page
- Most Visited Pages
- Knowledge Articles (Solutions)
- Instant Knowledge Search
- HR Articles & Guides
- HR Policies & FAQs
- Videos & Images
- Live Chat & AI Bots
- Ask HR Questions
- Case Tracking
- Employee Feedback & Ratings
- Portal Configuration
- Deep Linking
(For a full description of Dovetail’s features and benefits click here).
Dovetail’s Employee Portal has provided Tower Health with a number of benefits, including:
1. Employee Self-Service Enables Employees to Find Answers to Their Questions
The HR Services team at Tower Health receives a wide range of questions from a wide range of employees, including clinical and nonclinical employees, hospital leadership, environmental services, and dieticians to name a few. Question topics range from the most frequent: Benefits, Educational courses, FMLA, and Rewards & Recognition, to the most banal such as ‘How do I update my address?’.
By offering employees answers to these questions on the Employee Portal, as well as a Knowledge Base of over 325 Knowledge Articles, employees can now find many of the answers they are looking for by themselves, without the need to contact HR. This not only means employees have access to the information they need faster, but also 24/7, 365 days per year. At the same time, HR’s time is freed up for improving the portal’s content and other higher value activities. Mick commented:
“We’re delivering HR Services more efficiently, and doing it 24/7 (it wasn’t before), and getting great feedback from employees. In fact, we’re doing it more cost-effectively and better”.
2. Meets the Needs of a Remote Workforce
An Employee Portal meets the needs of a remote workforce when there’s no way an employee can physically go to HR for answers to their questions. By using the portal, remote workers can stay in touch with HR. Mick explained how this capability also widens the potential pool of talent:
“This type of technology opens up the world to new remote working talent, as HR can provide great service to employees as well as onboard new employees, even though they are living in another state.”
3. Targeted Employee Communications Increases Employee Engagement
Effective employee communications have never been more important for keeping employees engaged. One way to do this is to tailor content to the specific needs of diverse groups of employees, which the Employee Portal enables HR leaders to do via its Filters and Employee Persona features. Tina explains how this has been of benefit to Tower Health:
“I like how you can customize the Employee Portal to the demographics with whom you're communicating. That's very helpful for embedding our company culture and for making diverse employee groups feel that it's made for them and that it's not just ‘out of the box’, standard communications. Employees really enjoy the fact that the Employee can be updated and changed too, and that it can be fun. In fact, it's fun and informative, the best of both worlds.”
4. Central Hub for All Employee and HR Content Provides Fast Access to Information
Tower Health has named its Employee Portal the MyHR Solution Center. Tina describes how the Solution Center has provided a central hub of information for employees:
“The Solution Center built on Dovetail technology has allowed us to consolidate all HR information in one place quickly so that people can get to them immediately when they need them. It’s awesome that the Employee Portal has helped us bring everything together. “
5. Employees Kept Up-to-date With Changing Work Practices
The Employee Portal provides better communications with employees, helping them stay up to date with rapid changes in company information. One recent example of this at Tower Health was the adoption of a vaccine mandate policy which meant COVID-19 vaccination (or submission of one of the exceptions on medical or religious grounds) became a condition of employment for employees, new hires, and contract staff. The problem here is how you communicate such an immediate and significant change to a large workforce (a substantial proportion of which are working remotely) across a large geographic area.
Tina and Mick were able to use the portal to communicate the new mandatory vaccine policy via Knowledge Base Articles (i.e. answers to employee questions), and adding Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) content to the MyHR Solution Center pages, which made available to all workers the necessary vaccine mandate forms for employees to complete. Tina said:
“This was a great use of the tool, as we were able to provide the employees with everything they needed to understand the new vaccine policy in one place. The result was we were able to communicate a complex and significant change to employee contract policy, quickly and without any issues.”
6. Employee Feedback Enables Continual Improvement of the Employee Experience
Every time an employee views content on the Employee Portal they have the option to send feedback (online via the portal) to HR, which gives Mick and Tina immediate employee reactions to portal content. For example, one employee suggested breaking down a page’s content in a different way and adding a chart in order to make it more easily understood. Tina was able to evaluate the request, have a conversation with the employee, and make the necessary content changes. These employee requests can be turned around within a day or less, meaning HR can demonstrate their responsiveness, meet changing employee needs and improve the employees’ experience of HR Services, all at the same time. None of this would have been possible without Dovetail's employee feedback feature. Commenting on its benefits, Tina said:
“I think the immediate employee feedback, where employees can tell us how we're doing, is great. Feedback on the Knowledge Articles is very helpful also, and I know the employees like that, as they know they can reach out to us and get an immediate response from us, and then see their suggested changes published.”
7. Dovetail Enables Tower Health’s New HR Services Operational Model
After the implementation of the Employee Portal, Tower Health adopted a multi-tiered HR Services Operational Model as shown in the image below.
Tier 0 - Self-Service
- Employees go to the MyHR Solution Center to find answers to their own questions.
Tier 1 - HR Agents
- When employees are unable to find what they are looking for on the MyHR Solution Center, they can submit a question, which goes to First Line Resolution Agents. These are a group of individuals who have basic knowledge on all HR topics. Case numbers for FY22 show that out of 52,313 cases 34,768 (66%) were answered by the HR Agents.
Tier 2 - Subject Matter Experts
- When an Agent is unable to assist the employee, the case is escalated to one of Tower Health’s Subject Matter Experts, including HR Managers and HR Business Partners. 17,545 cases (34% of total cases) were answered by Subject Matter Experts.
Tier 3 - HR Vice Presidents
- When a case needs to be escalated further it will go to one of our HR Vice Presidents, these tend to be cases that require someone with more authority.
Tier 4 - Chief Human Engagement Officer
- When a case needs to be escalated further, it will go to the Chief Human Engagement Officer (CHEO). These are rare instances and lean towards involving legal issues or authorization above the HR Vice President level.
Note: Most cases that need to be escalated to VP or CHEO are handled outside of the system with notes documented and cases closed by Agent or SME. However, this is a very small number of cases.
Employee Portal: Set Up & Implementation
Tower Health followed Dovetail’s step-by-step Employee Portal Design Process to get the portal configured for their needs with the right look and feel. This entailed design sessions with Dovetail’s Implementation Manager, which covered Global Setup and Branding, Portal Configurations, Content Structure, Portal Case Management (including case entry and case workflow), and Live Chat.
Mick and Tina put a lot of thought into getting the right content in place before launch. That’s because the real ‘power’ of Dovetail’s Employee Portal is its capability to share relevant, engaging, and tailored content with employees. Content that can be easily updated as, and when, needed. They decided the following content was required prior to launch:
- An HR Knowledge Base containing 350 Knowledge Articles with answers to employee questions
- Site content:
- HR Guides and Forms
- COVID-19 information
- Links to internal HR systems including Rewards Portal, Performance Systems, LMS
- Links to external websites (based on the topic)
- All the communications that have been sent out via email
- 6 core HR areas including My Benefits, My Health, My Retirement, My Pay, MyLife and MyCareer
Once Mick and Tina were happy with the portal design and content, it was time to roll the Employee Portal out to the business.
Rolling Out the Employee Portal to Tower Health Hospitals
Over the course of 6 weeks, starting at the beginning of July 2021, Mick, Tina and their team rolled the Employee Portal out to the six Tower Health hospitals, with each hospital taking 2 weeks to implement. There were also separate roll-outs for Tower Health’s Urgent Care and Tower Health at Home entities. At this point, Tower Health had acquired a seventh hospital, St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children, and Mick and Tina wasted no time in rolling out the solution to this hospital also.
Prior to the roll-outs Tina and Mick made sure they got buy-in from the business leaders of the hospitals. To do this they held meetings with each of the hospital’s C-Suite team (including CEO, CFO and CIO) and HR leaders, kicking off by explaining the implementation plan, its objectives, and why it was being done. Then, Tina carried out a demo of Dovetail’s Employee Portal and obtained feedback. Mick said:
“After seeing the demo, the leadership teams were very excited about it, saying it was a great tool while loving the Employee Portal’s look and feel and functionality. It was also decided to roll out to the hospitals by greatest need, that is, those hospitals that had the greatest number of employee questions, requests and inquiries, rather than by total number of employees.”
By mid-August, the Employee Portal was live in all the hospitals. Talking about the ease of implementing Dovetail’s Employee Portal, Tina said:
“The implementation of the Employee Portal was very easy, and so is the maintenance of it. It’s very user-friendly and actually it was fun to do!”
The results of the adoption of Dovetail can be measured quantitatively through usage data and Net Promoter Scores and qualitatively through employee testimonials.
Dovetail HR Case Management & Employee Portal UsageSince the adoption of Dovetail’s HR Case Management system in FY2019 and the MyHR Solution Center Employee Portal at the start of FY2022, employee calls into HR decreased significantly. From 40,606 calls received in FY2019, Tower Health HR Services received only 18,736 calls in FY2022, a decrease of 54%. This has freed up HR resources making HR Service Delivery operations more efficient while ensuring cases are easier to track and manage. Tina said:
“The reduction of calls coming into HR has really helped our resources focus on other responsibilities which has been necessary due to changes with COVID.”
(Note: Total Dovetail cases in FY2022 include a small percentage of test cases).
Data provided by Tower Health also shows that in FY2022 there were 11,384 employee visits to the new MyHR Solution Center Employee Portal, showing employees are highly engaged in the new platform.
Employee Feedback: Testimonials
Employee feedback on the new MyHR Solution Center has been great, with mentions of ease of use, faster responses, and accurate Knowledge Articles:
Employee Feedback: Net Promoter Score
HR Services also calculate a Net Promoter Score (NPS), the leading metric for measuring customer satisfaction and loyalty. It goes beyond measuring how satisfied Tower Health employees are with Dovetail as the NPS score is designed to gauge their willingness to recommend it to others. Tower Health achieved a NPS of 53 which Tina said was within the “excellent” range.
Future of the Employee Portal at Tower Health
As well as ongoing improvements to the portal (largely made possible by employee feedback) and the continuing creation of Knowledge Articles, the future of HR Service Delivery at Tower Health is bright with a number of innovative new projects on the Employee Portal Roadmap, including:
A New Leadership Persona
Tower Health kicked off with just one employee persona. But Dovetail gives you the option to have as many as you like. Employee Personas can be understood as a set of attributes that are used to differentiate a group of employees for more targeted content. These groups of employees usually share common characteristics, for example, HR Business Partners, Employee or Manager. Personas can also be based on locations or entities, such as Business Unit, Legal Entity, Location, and Cultures. Using Employee Personas, HR can use configurable options in Dovetail’s Employee Portal to tailor content to groups of similar employees enabling HR to create a more relevant content experience for their employees. Mick explained how a new leadership persona will help leaders at Tower Health:
“We went from ‘Hey, this is great for the employees, let's put another item on our menu bar for leaders to, wait let's set up a leader persona that enables leaders to immediately view the content that is relevant to them, such as leadership training materials and performance improvement plans and guides.”
Live Chat Roll-Out
Tower Health already has the licenses in place for Dovetail’s Live Chat technology, which enables employees to chat with HR representatives via a Live Chat interface. Features include: customization of Chat interface ‘look and feel’, place on hold/or transfer employee, internal HR team chats, uploading of attachments, sharing of screens and geographic locator (determining from where the employee is currently chatting with HR). Once the Live Chat service is switched on, the consumer-like digital experience will be enhanced and HR Service Delivery efficiency will again increase.
Creating a New Employee Center for Onboarding and Orientation
Tina and Mick are working on delivering new onboarding and orientation content for new starters. This will require creating an Employee Center on the portal where new employees can access different guides, videos, and other onboarding content. It will enable employees operating in different locations/hospitals to view the content that is relevant to them.
Mick explained the importance of the new Employee Center in a remote working world:
“We used to get all new starters in a conference room, where they would get up and give presentations. Well, those days are over, even if we're starting to get some people back into the office. The new online Employee Center will enable us to onboard and orientate newly hired workers when a face-to-face environment is no longer appropriate.”
Introduction of a Service Level Commitment (equivalent to an SLA)
The Employee Portal enables HR to adopt a Service Level Agreement (SLA), that helps HR define and manage the level of service it can provide employees by laying out the metrics by which HR Services are measured.
Tower Health is looking to use Dovetail to implement a Service Level Commitment (SLC), that is similar to an SLA, in order to continue their drive for ever higher quality HR Service Delivery.
Evaluating AI Chatbot Technology
Last but not least, Mick and Tina plan to evaluate Dovetail’s AI chatbot technology, which is designed to eliminate mundane tasks, such as the repetition of basic questions from HR Service representatives, while improving the employee’s experience with 24/7 support, 365 days a year. Understanding the potential significance of AI to HR Services, Mick said, “We definitely want to evaluate how AI chatbot services can help us perform better.”
Change is inevitable, but the COVID-19 pandemic brought with it massive and overnight change on an unprecedented scale, both for humanity and businesses throughout the world. Companies had no alternative but to adapt fast in order to survive. On top of the COVID challenge, Mick Schoenberger and Tina Aquilini Batten at Tower Health were dealing with the organizational transformation necessary to amalgamate six newly acquired hospitals. All of these challenges were making HR-employee communications more difficult which could have led to a negative impact on the employee experience. To mitigate this risk and improve the employee experience, Tower Health implemented Dovetail's Employee Portal as their new MyHR Solution Center. Commenting on the success of Dovetail's software and its impact on the employee experience, Mick said:
“The acquisition of six new hospitals required a huge transformation effort on the part of HR. However, even adding in the pressures brought about by COVID-19, we were able to adapt and respond to the challenges we were facing by adopting Dovetail’s Employee Portal technology for our MyHR Solution Center. The result was a significant improvement of the employee's experience of HR Services."