Capturing Employee Stories at Sutter Health

In 2018, Sutter Health rolled out an external campaign with the theme “It’s a Thousand Things, Big and Small” that highlighted what makes the healthcare system special. It made a big splash on social media, TV, print, radio, and billboards.

Then, Sutter Health got really creative. The communications team launched an internal engagement campaign to connect employees to that external message. It did so by tying the theme back to their organization’s values, such as compassion, innovation, and excellence. The goal: encourage staff to express their Sutter pride by sharing stories about how they and their teams embody those shared values—in “big and small” ways.

The idea was strong. The execution? Absolutely stellar.

Carey Peterson and Michelle Grant were thrilled with the response in the first two activations of the employee campaign. But even they couldn’t believe what happened in the third chapter.

Carey Peterson Sutter HealthUsing Team Sutter, a mobile-device app for communication and engagement that’s popular with Sutter’s on-the-go workforce, they asked employees to describe how they make a difference through the Sutter value of teamwork. In return for sharing a story, employees would receive a Sutter beanie cap with a built-in LED light.

“Our headline was ‘We See Your Light— Now Let it Shine,’ and they came through!” said Peterson, Sutter’s Director of Internal Communications. “We had almost 1,100 submissions come in.”

In the first six days.

Let’s let that sink in.

Michelle Grant - Sutter Health“This is the largest internal communications campaign we’ve ever launched using the app, so this is a big deal for us,” added Grant, a Sutter Health Communications Program Manager. “The pride behind these stories is the real star of this campaign. But the app has allowed us to do something that we couldn’t have done before.”

The one thing you consistently hear about Sutter Health is this: Employees love where they work. It’s the type of place where the organizational values aren’t just words. Sutter Health implemented the Dynamic Signal platform ­– which powers Team Sutter – to ensure that all 53,000 people across more than 100 facilities and offices have access to real-time information that reinforces those values.

With 60 percent of employees registered for Team Sutter, the app has grown into something more. It’s become an interactive gathering place where employees can celebrate achievements, recognize the work of colleagues and build closer connections among teammates who work in Northern California, Utah, and Hawaii.

So, it’s pretty clear why Team Sutter was the perfect vehicle to ask employees for their stories about delivering exceptional care and service through collaborative teamwork.

Here’s what’s great for us: Sutter Health shared exactly how they did it.

Activation No. 1

The first activation of the internal campaign, which launched in November 2018, centered around the concept of “Give Thanks.” Posts on Team Sutter asked employees to give shout outs to teammates who deserved special thanks, which also included a giveaway of movie tickets to help promote participation.

Employees didn’t need much encouragement. They couldn’t wait to praise and appreciate their co-workers.

“We had more than 1,300 views and 500 comments in the app,” Peterson said. “It was a great kickoff.”

 (It also was just a hint of what was to come.)

Activation No. 2

The second activation, during the December season of giving, was summed up by one question asked on Team Sutter: “How Do YOU Give Back?” The prize for employees contributing stories this time was a cool lanyard that highlighted the Sutter Health values.

Nearly 700 comments rolled in.

“There were so many heart-warming stories about how people volunteer time and give back to their community,” Peterson said. “We selected the best-of-the-best, and now we are in the process of creating really great, inspiring videos around those stories. We plan to share them internally and externally because we want others to get a glimpse of some of the amazing people working within Sutter.”

Activation No. 3

For the grand finale, in late February, employees were asked to share stories about teamwork. Employees could click a link on Team Sutter and provide their answers on a separate form (to give their responses a similar structure). The giveaway item this time around – that light-up Sutter Health beanie cap – proved to be a compelling draw.

“This time our request was more involved,” Grant said. “Instead of just leaving a quick comment on the app, employees clicked into an online questionnaire, where they answered prompts to share their story. I remember thinking, ‘We’ll probably get close to 500 responses.’”

But within in a few days, 1,100 stories had rolled in — and by the end of March, the count had climbed to 1,710.

Leaders have decided to share a couple of those teamwork stories at an upcoming management symposium. In fact, they’re bringing two teams to the main stage for recognition in front of 4,000 attendees based on the responses in Team Sutter.

For Peterson and Grant, the campaign showcased something they already knew—Sutter’s employees put their heart into their work. Now, those same employees have a way to “shine their light” and express their pride.

Team Sutter has given them a way to show and tell how they make a difference at work. And Sutter Health can collect, curate, and amplify that personal storytelling.

“It’s not easy to find employee stories, especially if you have a fast-paced organization where employees would rather help others than talk about themselves,” Grant explained. “Through this campaign, because of the quantity of the comments and the quality of what people are sharing, our leaders are gaining a greater appreciation of the value of this tool for the entire organization.”

After this raging success, app engagement campaigns are bubbling up organically. Grant said she is working with other internal groups to brainstorm ways to use Team Sutter to raise awareness around ideas such as safety, ethics, and inclusion.

“Our team has long recognized the potential of this app,” Peterson added. “But now it’s opening the eyes of others around the organization. There’s a better understanding that this app offers something for everybody.”

After all, everyone has a story to tell. They just need the right opportunity.

Want to learn more about how they did it? Attend our webinar “The Power of Employee Storytelling at Sutter Health” on Thursday, July 11 at 10 a.m. Pacific time/1 p.m. Eastern time to hear Peterson and Grant share how they set up their campaign for success.

Post Author

G.I. Sanders

G.I. Sanders is Senior Director, Creative Services at Dynamic Signal. He specializes in entrepreneurship, digital and social media, design, and marketing. G.I. is based in Dallas, TX with his wife and two sons. Passions include technology, startups, music, fitness and sports.