shifting the differenceSituation: A large hospital system had grown through acquisition over a number of years. As the system expanded, it adopted a market-based compensation philosophy. However shift differentials were never adjusted to market rates. In addition, there were inconsistencies in how shift differentials were applied across the system. The system’s Compensation Director decided to tackle the issue and develop one market-based shift differential plan that would be used for all employees across the system. The change impacted thousands of employees, some who would get increased shift differentials and some who would receive less. It was critical that employees clearly understood the change as well as the system’s rationale for making the change and the new process that they would be required to use. Concerned not only about the effect on morale but the potential for the compensation change to become a public issue, the hospital system reached out to Tipton Health Communications.

Solution: Tipton facilitated a number of working meetings with Human Resources and department managers representing every hospital in the system as well as the major employee groups affected by the change. From these meetings, Tipton developed a comprehensive communications strategy and messaging. Tipton identified six different target groups and created customized plans for each. Tipton also provided counsel that led to a change in timing of the shift differential as well as increased transition compensation for those employees who would receive a smaller shift differential. Tipton’s strategy relied on clear, consistent messaging delivered in small group face-to-face meetings by the affected employees’ direct managers, who were supported by Human Resources team members. Managers were provided education as well as talking points. Companywide information was distributed after the face-to-face meetings took place.

Results: The hospital’s Compensation Director and Vice President of Human Resources reported that the communications campaign was completely successful. Employees reported that they understand the plan change and how it affected them. The Compensation department received only a handful of calls about the change. The issue was effectively managed internally and never became and external media problem.