The crisis of Senior Health Plus
The general situation of Senior Health Plus can be characterized by the frictions, which often accompany the period of transition for the companies. Senior Health Plus has entered the phase when rapid growth and development of the company dictates the need to change its internal structure and culture. The first signs of the problem were already visible when Jamie Richards was hired as a VP of Human Resources. The company was not able to embrace the new dispersed structure and to formalize communication among company managers and its employees. Moreover, the introduction of the new external brand for Senior Health Plus exacerbated the problem of miscommunication, reduced motivation and triggered hostility and mistrust among the employees.
The Core Issues
The development of a solid brand image and a value system is one of the key milestones in the life of most companies. While small entities can rely on the informal norms and beliefs, company growth requires a more formal framework for brand development. Senior Health Plus always functioned as a small entrepreneurial business, where creativity and fresh perspective have given it a competitive edge over the rival HMO organizations. However, their successful growth and the increase of the customer base have created the need to expand also geographically and to open several area offices to serve customer needs in a better way. Geographical dispersion, relocation of the headquarters and the increase in the number of employees could no longer be supported by the informal organizational culture at Senior Health Plus. Moreover, as the business has become more mature, it was important to enhance control over the company and to align the aspirations of all the stakeholders through a more formal belief system.
Organizational culture can be subdivided into 3 levels: observable artefacts, stated values and basic assumptions. It is hardly possible to immediately change the deepest cultural level, the basic assumptions of stakeholders in the organization (Jones, 2009). Therefore, it is necessary to target the artefacts and the stated values, which over time may form a new culture and develop commitment of all the stakeholders to the new company values. Unfortunately, Senior Health Plus’s marketing department and its VP Rita Lansing did not consider the effect basic assumptions may have on the success of the creation of the new company brand image. She was under the assumption that once the new brand is released, all the employees will automatically follow the new way the company would like to move. The failure to appeal to the basic assumptions of people, the inability to explore the potential problems of the new brand’s fit into the existing company culture and the one-side brand development made it hard for the employees to relate to it. Therefore, Senior Health Plus staff perceived the new brand and vision as an imposition, as a threat to the company spirit and a limitation of their freedom. Such perception of the stated values could not lead to a successful brand introduction, therefore becoming one of the core problems of the new Senior Health Plus.
While the lack of employee involvement was one of the core problems of the brand development project, the overall lack of communication is a company-wide problem, which is likely to persist in all projects undertaken. As the former company culture implied more informal communication, rapid growth made it hard for people to find common grounds and to communicate. However, Senior Health Plus failed to develop more formal communication channels, which could enable easier information flows and transparency. Thus, Rita Lancing and the Marketing department were the sole developers of the new brand, which was not discussed even among the key managers in the company. Similarly, Jamie Richards strongly believed in the need for reorganizing the company structure, and she started with the restructuring of the workstation without discussing the plan with the CEO. Such approach was both unsuccessful and unnecessary, since the company moved to a new building after the workstation reorganization. Therefore, the lack of communication channels on the senior management level is one more core problem of the Senior Health Plus, which contributed to the current situation in the company and may continue to hamper company development in the future.
Key Events and Alternatives Actions
Although the situation in Senior Health Plus is quite critical at the moment, a number of steps could have helped the company to avoid the crisis it faces now. Firstly, the CEO of the company should have demonstrated more leadership and coordinated company communication in a better way. His irresponsiveness to the Jamie’s concerns about Rita’s management style only exacerbated the conflict between the two managers and hampered communication even further. Since the position of the CEO is key in coordinating departments within the company and in creating a balanced flow of information, the CEO of Senior Health Plus should have facilitated communication among the managers of the company on a regular basis. Thus, weekly meeting with the participation of all the functional managers, including VPs of Marketing and Human Resources could have given the opportunity for everyone in the company to have the most up-to-date information about the undergoing projects, to provide their feedback and to voice concerns. If Senior Health Plus has had such meetings in place, information transparency would have fostered seamless communication in the company and aligned the interests and activities of the functions.
The second problem of the new brand introduction at the Senior Health Plus was the lack of employee involvement. Despite the fact that Rita Lansing considered employee brand acceptance secondary to the brand creation itself, the increasing conflicts in the company proved such approach faulty. Therefore, it could have been helpful for the marketing department to explore the opinions of the employees about the brand and to introduce intermediate results to all people in the company. Such approach to the project could have achieved multiple objectives. Firstly, it could have provided marketing with a valuable feedback and some fresh ideas on the internal brand perception. Secondly, it could have empowered employees by giving them the opportunity to impact the new brand. Employee empowerment would have affected the formation of the new basic assumptions of the organizational culture, facilitated brand acceptance and improved motivation. Lastly, employee opinions could have helped to understand the best way to introduce the new brand internally and to anticipate the possible problems with brand acceptance. Moreover, employee communication before and after the brand introduction should have been conducted in close cooperation with other departments, especially with Human Resources, therefore full information transparency and continuous communication between the VPs of the departments on a weekly basis was absolutely essential for a successful project implementation.
Recommendations for the Current Situation
The current situation at Senior Health Plus is not an easy one. Employee morale has been shattered by the lack of trust and limited communication. Misalignment of the objectives of the departments and conflicts further hampered Senior Health Plus’s growth and development. One possibility to improve the situation is to unite people in the company by the newly introduced brand. Thus, the CEO should provide a media for communication and conflict resolution among all the functional leaders by introducing regular meetings. One of the agenda of these meetings should be the seamless implementation of the new brand with the detailed discussion of the responsibilities and future actions on the part of every manager. In this way better internal communication may smoothen the existing conflicts, such as the one between Rita Lansing and Jamie Richards, and prevent the future ones from arising. Moreover, customer focus should be continuously reemphasized both to the managers and to the employees, in order to align the interests of the stakeholders and to ensure that the new brand implementation will maximize customer value. Lastly, employee feedback should be collected and evaluated on a regular basis. Since the current MessageBoard no longer fulfills its original purpose, Jamie Richards could replace it by a less frequent but a similar communication mechanism. Thus, weekly or monthly anonymous employee surveys could achieve the same results, however, they would force employee to be more selective in their criticism and to submit only those complaints, which can genuinely benefit Senior Health Plus.
Jones, G. (2009). Organizational theory, design and change. (6th ed.). Pearson International.