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by Mimi O'Gara

  • Writer's pictureMimi O'Gara

Employee Audience Segmentation: Implementing Workplace By Facebook in a Health Care Setting

Excerpt from “Implementing Workplace By Facebook in a Health Care Setting” by Michelle O’Gara, a 2017 thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in Public Relations, Iona College.

For traditional marketing campaigns, communications professionals identify a target audience through a process of connecting demographic/psychographic data with the unique value proposition of a product and then using a funnel approach to narrow market selection. One of the greatest pitfalls in determining a target audience is thinking a product is for everyone. However, the SBH Health System Workplace by Facebook implementation campaign is intended for all 3,300+ employees across several service locations. At SBH, a person is either an employee or they are not – so how can communicators avoid the common pitfall of marketing to the masses (everyone!) when targeting an employee population?

Communications professionals must take audience demographics into account as they develop internal communication plans. Employee communications are like bathing suits: one size does not fit all (Gillis, et. al., 2011). The workforce is not a homogeneous mass. People respond differently to communications based on a wide range of factors including location, role, history or fundamental attitude to their employer. What works for one group may not work for another, and a communicator should be ready to look at their audiences in a variety of different ways (FitzPatrick, et. al., 2014).

Communicators must consider several factors when starting the process of defining the target audiences. First, is to distinguish how not to segment the employees. SBH is an organization that values diversity and inclusiveness. As an equal opportunity employer, SBH does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, creed, sex, national origin, citizenship status, age, disability, ethnic predisposition, carrier status, marital status, sexual orientation, transgender status, gender identity, veteran status or any other characteristic (SBH Health System, 2017). The use of segmenting the staff by any of the categories listed in the EEO statement must respectfully be omitted.

Age and generation segmentation – two of the most common buckets used for social media-based campaigns – is considered unethical, what other methods can be used?

Existing Database Segmentation

SBH has four employee databases used by other departments in the organization. Human Resources uses Position Control to manage employee status, title, salary, and reporting structure; Information Technology (IT) uses Active Directory Domain Services to assign, authenticate and enforce security policies on the SBH network and manage telephone extensions; a module of ADP software is used by Finance department to manage time and payroll records; and the Medical Staff office uses MD-Staff credentialing software to manage physician privileges and compliance. None of the four databases are connected or synced to one another. However, each database contains ethical ways to group employees. Position Control, ADP and MD-Staff can sort employees by job status – union/non-union, contracted vendor/full-time, operational/professional/managerial, licensed staff/community physician. Active Directory Domain Services contains groupings of task force groups, boards and committees, and department heads. All the information provided in these databases is relevant and must be considered when determining audience segmentation and messaging.

Department and Service Site Segmentation

The public-facing website is organized like a building directory guiding patients and visitors to a specific location, department or service. Clinical services, specialty centers and support services are distinctly separated. Service locations are categorized by ten main sites and two affiliate sites. The main navigation menu on the SBH wiki is organized by clinical department, non-clinical departments, boards and committees, and external locations.

Additionally, the wiki contains a phone directory of St. Barnabas Hospital and four of its off-sites. The directories list departments by name, with the name and title of the department staff members. The phone directory is a rich source of classifying information. However, the phone directory is not synched to any of the four databases, and the information may not be current. All entries are manual; upkeep is dependent on submissions from each department head.

Occupation Type Segmentation

The SBH workforce encompasses the full spectrum of health care roles at its seven sites. In a hierarchical model of concept classification, the workforce can be segmented into two main superordinate categories – clinical and non-clinical staff. Each superordinate category contains basic groupings. For clinical staff, basic grouping encompasses nursing staff, doctors, social workers, residents, frontline staff, etc. Whereas c-suite, administration, human resources staff, patient relations and kitchen staff are examples of basic non-clinical staff groupings.

On the subordinate level, both clinical and non-clinical staff can be organized and grouped by degree, specialty, service area, licensure, and occupation level. For instance, although all nurses are part of the nursing department, the certified nurse-midwives who work in the OB/Gyn department are different from a senior nurse practitioner in the pediatrics department. Another example is a part-time administrative assistant in the finance department is not the same as the administrative assistant to the CEO.

Frontline health care workers (FLWs), ranging from nursing assistants and patient care technicians to mental health counselors and respiratory therapy technicians, comprise over 50 percent of the health care workforce and provide a wide range of direct patient care and supportive services across health care settings (Schindel et al. 2006).

Organization Cascade Segmentation

SBH Health System has cascade-style table of organization (see Figure 4). Each Senior Vice President is accountable for their area of operation. Each area has monthly, weekly and daily staff meetings where information is shared and disseminated through the various levels of managerial status. However, cascade-style message dissemination is a top-down, one-directional model of communication – the antithesis of engagement.

Nurse managers and department heads on the managerial level play a critical role in the communication process. Department heads are the de facto human filters in the vertical messaging process between senior management and the employees (Jones, 2013). At SBH, the managerial level are key influencers.

Understanding what motivates all employees and providing them with means to positively affect their work environment and the bottom line of the organization drive the engagement of a diverse workforce in an inclusive organization (Gillis, et. al., 2011). In the health care industry, and specifically at SBH, three important factors must be considered to understand the characteristics, behaviors and attitudes: mobility, digital attitude, and level of engagement.

Mobile Workers

Health care workers perform a multitude of computer-related tasks, dependent on the nature of their role. In contrast to other populations such as office workers or clinic-based health care workers, hospital workers are highly mobile during their working day. Nursing staff are perhaps least mobile, spending most of their day moving around their home ward. Medical staff may have to move widely across a hospital campus. Senior medical staff may also have to move off campus, to attend other hospitals or clinics (Coiera, 2006). On the other hand, grounds keepers, security guards and kitchen staff seldom access a computer to perform their job, but do carry a personal smartphone device (not required by their supervisor). Although every SBH employee is assigned an email address, staff members who do not use a computer to perform their job have never been trained how to access their email, and have never accessed their email.

Digital Attitude

Forecasted trends for the health care industry show the importance for communications professionals to understand the communication behaviors, attitudes and characteristics of Generation Z and Millennials (also referred to as digital natives) aging into the workforce spectrum. Segmenting the SBH workforce by age or generation is unethical, but this data supports another method for segmentation – by digital mindset.

The SBH workforce is made up of people with varying degrees of computer literacy and technology competency – independent of their age or generation. The digital age gap arises from a conflict between people and technology: their expectations, their experiences, and their priorities, in their ways of understanding work and the world (Salkowitz, 2008).

Digital natives possess a radical view of normative communication expectations. This generation is redefining the scope of social interactions and personal relationships to include inanimate objects of every kind—your toaster, TV, car, lawn mower, salt shaker—basically anything without a heartbeat. Plants are tweeting when they need water. Health devices are posting metrics to your Facebook wall. Home security systems are texting you. (Semmelhack, 2013).

However, by lifting the generational boundaries, being a Digital Native is not just about what block of years you were born – it’s a conscious choice to adopt new behaviors (Koulopoulos & Keldsen, 2014).

A survey would need to be conducted to measure how each employee self-identifies their level of tech-savviness, but this concept can be used when defining the audience segments.

Level of Job Engagement

Truly engaged workplaces are rare. Engaged employees are emotionally attached to their organizations, and when employer reputation changes, so do relationships of employees with employers (Gilbert, 2011).

Gallup research shows that worldwide, just 13 percent of employees are engaged in their jobs – they are involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work, coworkers and workplace. The remaining 87 percent of employees are either not engaged or indifferent – or even worse, are actively disengaged and potentially hostile — to their organizations (Gallup, 2016). However, SBH employees demonstrate a unique set of characteristics and behaviors.

From an ethical viewpoint, people working in public health share a strong commitment to social justice and equity, balanced with an appreciation of the role of individual autonomy and decision making (Breslow, 2002). The SBH Standards of Performance encourage employees to have a sense of ownership of the brand and mission (SBH Health System, 2017). SBH employees understand the complex needs of the Bronx community, are willing to commute long distances, and often think they are there for the short-term, but end up staying for the length of their career. A kitchen worker recently celebrated 45 years of service. Several non-clinical staff are related family members. Many know each other from their Bronx neighborhood where they were born and raised. In a 2013 commercial, Dr. Ernest Patti, President of the Medical Board, describes SBH best: “At SBH, you’re not a number. You’re part of the family.” (SBH Commercial, 2013).

Campaign Outcome

The overarching intended outcome of the Workplace campaign is 100 percent employee compliance and engagement. The sequential flow model of the campaign contains a series of key phases, going from awareness to engagement (see Figure 5 below).

Engagement Outcome Flow Model
Figure 5

The intended outcome or state of each phase creates a progressive context providing insights campaign message development. As an employee moves through each key end-state phase – regardless of job grade or type, access or attitude – their level of awareness and engagement transforms.

The employee buy-in process adds another layer to the engagement flow model (as shown in Figure 6 below). Within each state of the buy-in process, employees can be further segmented by their attitudes and behaviors defining the state, or preventing them from progressing in the flow model.

Audience Segmentation Strategy
Figure 6

Benefit Segmentation

Workplace offers employees a dynamic set of tools to enhance productivity, streamline communication, and manage projects with transparency. A benefit segmentation approach for an internal communications campaign would focus on the advantages employees receive from tools rather than the behaviors and attitudes of the employees. For example, a message strategy could use the benefits of Facebook Live for department heads to broadcast staff meetings.

All in all, the SBH employee population can be segmented using several methods. Applying Metcalfe’s law to the Workplace, as more employees onboard, the value of the network will strengthen. Facebook’s consumer platform has already demonstrated this network effect – the strength of a communications network exponentially increases as the number of user increases. Therefore, selecting a segmentation and message strategy that causes the greatest amount of onboarding at launch is highly recommended.



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Mimi O'Gara writes about diversity, women in the workplace, PR, healing from trauma, and the poverty that grew up sitting right next to you. Dear Boss Lady and The Word Shepherd are her recurring columns in development. Be forewarned – She is not a fan of the Oxford comma.

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