How to Manage a Merger as a Healthcare Executive

A Conversation with Jennifer Mattucci, Director of Talent Acquisition

For our healthcare and hiring blog series, I interviewed Jennifer Mattucci, Director of Talent Acquisition at Beaumont Health, and she shared the top  challenges and solutions of merging three major healthcare organization into one. By reading this blog you will:

  • Understand the real challenges of making the merge
  • Learn practical steps for how to manage the change
  • Gain insight into the main goals during this change

Chad Harrington

Jennifer Mattucci, Image credit: Beaumont Health

Jennifer Mattucci, Image credit: Beaumont Health

Imagine merging three health systems, 8 hospitals, and 35,000 employees into one health system. It’s a Human Resources nightmare. That’s exactly what Jennifer Mattucci, Director of Talent Acquisition at Beaumont Health faced a year and a half ago, when Beaumont, Botsford, and Oakwood health systems became Beaumont Health

The major challenge was merging company culture, she said. Beaumont Health now has:

  • 8 hospitals
  • 168 health centers 
  • Nearly 5,000 physicians

Beaumont experienced a “true merger” in that no one was bought out. They merged three health systems into one. To date 100 employees have even transferred within, which shows that people are there to stay.

The goals of a healthcare merger

Their main goal as the Talent Acquisition arm at Beaumont Health is to “continue to attract, retain, and engage the highest quality candidate.”

She leads the Talent Acquisition integration team at Beaumont. Her goal during this transition is “to come together to provide a consistent strategy for recruitment.” While this includes from candidate experience, employment brand, and careers site, they’re digging into three specific areas:

  • Planning
  • Selection and hiring
  • On boarding
  • The top challenges of a healthcare merger

The main challenge is alignment on company culture. This affects all aspects of the process, but it starts with culture. I asked her, “Over the last year and a half what have been your greatest pain points in the integration process?” She said:

1. Just trying to bring three completely different company cultures together. 

“First of all, it’s bringing three completely different company cultures together. You just have to dig in and try to understand how each legacy organization is structured.   Then trying to identify things like current recruitment tools, overall recruitment strategy and each process this to understand the entire picture.  While things may have worked at Beaumont Health System (where I came from), but now it’s a different culture. 

“So when you’re looking to select and hire, it’s not just the clinical skills we’re evaluating. We want to make sure it’s a culture fit, which is where the behavioral competency piece comes in. We all had different values we were looking at. Now we have consistent values."

2. Asking why for each process and policy.

“Just trying to ask why. Why were you doing this? Everything from recruiting policies, onboarding process, applications—we redid the entire application that candidates fill out, because there was specific information from each legacy organization [each of the three health systems before the merge], so we really had to sit down and review all three applications. What’s tough is you make a lot of assumptions, but when you challenge it, *well, do we really need that information?* You don’t want a 10-page application.

“So some of the decision making was difficult. You have to give, everyone has to give when you’re coming together.”

3. Adjusting to recruit for three instead of one.

“We’re used to representing the legacy organizations. It’s no longer Beaumont Health System—it used to be recruiting for Beaumont Health System, now it’s recruiting for Beaumont Health, which is eight hospitals. So what are the kind of strategies we need to create to recruit for all. Coming together as one is hard because you used to be competitors, the next day you’re one.

“It’s difficult to try when you don’t have a defined culture. We’re almost there with the culture. We’ve created a new mission, vision, and values, but really trying to prioritize recruitment and selections with an unknown definition of culture is difficult."

 
Beaumont.jpg
 

How to manage a healthcare merger

They haven’t relocated employees from one corporate office to the other (other than transfers). The base of their strategy was to have weekly meetings with the talent acquisition integration team and all 40 of their recruiters across the system quarterly. They met every week to discuss goals and accomplish progress. 

The goals of their recruiter weekly meeting: 

  • Create up overall objectives
  • Brainstorming and developing work streams
  • Break down into pieces to build road map

The questions they answered in their weekly meetings:

  • What’s working?
  • What’s not working?
  • Which process will we all use?
  • Which tools will we all use? 
  • Which assessment will we all use?
  • What do we need to do immediately to attract and retain the top quality candidate?

3 major mile-markers for mergers

  • Implemented an inter-entity transfer process
  • Create a new mission, vision, and values
  • Developed a system-wide work stream 

1. Implemented an inter-entity transfer process

“The first thing that we did was create an inter-entity transfer process, which was a huge win. That allowed all of our employees from the three legacy organizations to transfer to the other two. They were able to retain their seniority, they went on the receiving organization’s benefits—we created a full policy and process around allowing and creating opportunities for our current employees.

“To date we’ve had over 100 people that have transferred within from one legacy organization to another.” 

“We created a policy, we have a checklist for recruiters, and you really have to look at everything from your current transfer process to—you’re still interviewing and selecting—but now it’s an employee, not an external candidate.”

2. Created a new mission, vision, and values

While she didn’t have direct hands on this process, she kept emphasizing how important those were for making the transition. She told me, “We have an integration team for everything.” Their integration team for this part of the transition had a lot of focus groups.

3. Developed a system-wide work stream

“The work stream has been very valuable for us. We look at our objective, then we break it down into work streams. We know we can’t do everything day one, so we went through and brainstormed, wrote everything down that we thought of that needs to be done (and you think of new things daily). Really breaking it down and setting goals and timelines, prioritizing and then saying which goal or target should we tackle this month,  just so you’re not overwhelmed."

 

3 Pieces of Advice for HR Executives in a Merger

I asked Mattucci, “What are your top three pieces of advice for other Talent Acquisition leaders who are entering into or in the midst of a health system merger?” Here’s what she told me:

1. Keep an open mind. 

2. Trust that everyone’s doing the right thing and for the right reasons.

3. Learn from one another. 

 

My reflections on managing health system mergers 

One of my favorite parts of the interview with Mattucci was her emphasis on listening. The reason this stood out to me was that every manager has such a wealth of knowledge in their staff. Here’s what she said:

“We’ve gotten a lot of input from the entire recruitment team, so even though there’s a talent acquisition merger team (which is about seven or eight team members), we make sure we do the quarterly recruiter forum to get input from them. We don’t want to make decisions that may affect their daily lives or their process without getting their input. So we’ve been very consistent in getting their input.”

So if could leave healthcare executives who are in (or entering into) a merger with one thing, it’s this: listen. You and your whole team will be happier campers than if you tried to force a square peg into your round hole. Everyone’s in this together, so it’s best to act like it. That starts with an open ear.