Michelle Grant: 2019 Communicator of the Year

Michelle Grant knows how most people at Sutter Health would probably describe her role as a Communications Program Manager.

Oh, Michelle writes up and edits posts, and then publishes them on our employee app, Team Sutter.

While that is true, it’s hardly the most significant part of what she does. Grant is a one-woman Team Sutter evangelist who preaches the benefits of the app for Sutter Health employees – anywhere, anytime they want to listen.

“Getting people to adopt any tool is challenging,” Grant said. “Team Sutter is always going to be voluntary for us. That means I need to talk to people at meetings, at events, and even one-on-one about what’s in it for them—and why they should take time from their busy day to check it out.”

Let’s just say that Grant can be persuasive.

Team SutterTeam Sutter, which is powered by Dynamic Signal, has seen a remarkable 64 percent adoption rate since it launched in 2017. Sutter Health’s employee app has become an integral piece of the engagement strategy at a healthcare system that spans 100 Northern California communities with more than 53,000 employees working alongside 14,000 aligned clinicians and 5,000 volunteers.

That success helps explain why Grant was honored as the 2019 Communicator of the Year at the recent Summit by Dynamic Signal conference in San Francisco.

She also will be joining Dynamic Signal on Dec. 4 for a webinar titled, “How to be an Evangelist for Your Employee Communication Platform.”

“Michelle is living proof that an optimistic voice, compelling data and a desire to connect employees to what’s really important can have a tremendous impact,” said Becky Graebe, Senior Director, Communication Expert, at Dynamic Signal. “What she has done at Sutter Health hasn’t been effortless. Far from it. But her integrated efforts have been remarkable in uncovering individual stories and experiences, and in bringing the entire workforce together around the important work they do.”

Grant’s enthusiasm is infectious.

That’s in no small measure because Grant not only loves Sutter Health but believes she was destined to work for the not-for-profit organization.

It was a circuitous route, though, with twists and turns “that I’m sure panicked my parents,” Grant said, laughing. She originally intended to be a teacher. But one semester of teaching at a community college was enough to show her that maybe her skills would be put to better use in a business setting.

She held a variety of jobs that included a role with a healthcare lobbyist group. But it’s when Grant was in a sales position at Comcast that she confronted a life-changing wake-up call – a serious health scare.

“I was a Sutter patient, and my doctor was just so amazing,” Grant said. “Everything ultimately worked out fine. But I had this weird lightbulb moment where I thought, ‘Yes, I’m going back to healthcare. And yes, I’ll be working for Sutter Health.’”

She joined the system in 2011 and led the marketing effort for one of the nation’s largest Epic Community Connect electronic health records programs for independent physicians. Then, when a communications role opened up at Sutter’s headquarters office, “I said, ‘Pick me!’” Grant added.

Michelle Grant Sutter HealthIt’s a mammoth task reaching all of those on-the-go deskless and remote workers throughout a widely dispersed organization that serves 22 counties and 100 communities. Grant is on the front lines helping to keep Sutter Health employees engaged and feeling valued. Team Sutter is an ideal vehicle for delivering information directly to employees – especially on their mobile devices – and giving them the ability to provide immediate feedback.

“Luckily, I’m not all alone,” Grant said. “I work alongside some really amazing teammates who continuously use and talk about the app with their colleagues across the system. I couldn’t do any of this without their support.”

About 30 percent of Sutter Health employees immediately enrolled on the app after the initial announcement was made with much fanfare at a company event for managers and senior leaders. And the growth rate has continued a steady climb ever since as Grant champions Team Sutter with employees.

“It’s always an uphill battle,” she said. “It’s never taking a simple no for an answer—and never giving up. I see that as the No. 1 priority of my job. It’s not about making posts go live on the app. It’s about connecting with people, really listening to why they may or may not like the tool, and providing them with the information they need to see that this really is for them.”

It’s also become embedded in the Sutter Health culture.

One recent example is how the app was used to collect thousands of employee stories about the power of teamwork with their colleagues.

“Employee stories matter,” Grant said. “It’s the very heart of human nature. We all want to know that we’re making an impact and that what we do with our day has meaning. Sometimes you need a reminder, especially when you’re in a large organization. That’s the role of internal communications. We’re reminding you that the eight hours that you put in every day is important. You’re important. You’re making a difference.”

Delivering that message throughout Sutter Health each day is how Grant makes a difference.


About Michelle

Honor: 2019 Communicator of the Year at the Summit by Dynamic Signal
Position: Communications Program Manager for Sutter Health, which recently was named by Forbes magazine as No. 26 for best places to work in California – and No. 1 for Sacramento
Home: Elk Grove, Calif.
Family: Husband Russ; daughter Hailey (1)
Education: Bachelor’s degree in English from California State University at Chico; Master’s degree in English from California State University at Sacramento
Career: Editorial assistant with the California Medical Association, Senior National Sales Coordinator with Comcast Spotlight, Sales and Marketing Coordinator for Sutter Health Physician Services, now called Sutter Health Shared Services.
First job: Day camp counselor at a health club
Favorite Movie: The original “Ghostbusters”
Favorite apps on her phone: “I’m on LinkedIn a lot because I like to look at the metrics from the posts that I share from our Team Sutter App, and I end up reading other people’s posts. I also like the fashion app, LIKEtoKNOW.it. I don’t often buy anything, but it’s fun.”
Fun Fact No. 1: Tap danced for 11 years. (“You’re welcome for that fact!”)
Fun Fact No. 2: Can play the clarinet and is a jazz vocalist. “I have a real soft spot for standards like Nat King Cole and Ella Fitzgerald.”
Fun Fact No. 3: She won’t reveal her Twitter handle. “I’m a TV junkie, and that’s where I deliver my commentary on all the terrible shows I watch.”
Superpower she wished she had: “Wouldn’t it be cool to stop time? Maybe you need a nap. You could drive home without traffic and take a nap in your own bed. Is that so wrong?”

Five Questions with Michelle

Why do you see your role almost as a product marketer?
“We’re competing for the time of employees. Think of all the apps you have on your phone. You have so many choices. I have to be a product marketer and tell our employees why they need to use it and the benefits they’ll see. I’m marketing it every day to make sure we’re in front of their eyeballs.”

Why can adoption be so tricky when the app clearly has benefits for employees?
“I don’t think that just because the tool exists, it needs to be part of someone’s life. It’s my job to show people the app and to talk to them about why they should consider taking the time to be on it. You’ve got to be empathetic. Everyone already has so many apps on their phones. So, it’s always a personal conversation. You have to find the ‘why.’ You have to talk to people and find out what’s holding them back. Not everyone is going to use your tool, and that’s OK. But at least have a conversation about it.”

How do you handle tough questions from skeptical employees?
“I love meeting someone who says they don’t like it. Because that’s my opportunity to address the ‘why.’ Those conversations are so interesting. One person once said, ‘I’m not going to download this app because I have all of these privacy concerns.’ I was like, ‘OK, do you mind sharing some of them?’ It ended up that she had a job that involved IT privacy and security. So, I was able to say, ‘Well, I totally respect where you’re coming from, but let me give you just a brief rundown of the security in place with Dynamic Signal.’ That’s how you earn trust and win at adoption.”

 Why do you like Summit?
“I love conferences that get people having similar challenges in a room together. My goal is to be helpful. I want to provide information and just brainstorm. I don’t have all the answers. But no matter where we’re all working or our different industries, we all have a lot in common. We’ve been in that same place, trying to solve the same issues. So, we can really learn from one another.”

 What makes you most proud about what you do?
“I love that I get the chance to make people happy. The great thing about this app is it really does help people. It makes them feel like they are heard and that they have a voice.”

You can hear more from Michelle when she joins Becky Graebe, Dynamic Signal’s Senior Director, Communication Expert, on Wednesday, Dec. 4, at 10 a.m. Pacific Time/1 p.m. Eastern Time for a webinar about driving adoption and usage, “How to be an Evangelist for Your Employee Communication Platform.” 

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.