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Organizing for simplicity: An inside look at Humana’s digital transformation

stethoscope-healthy-keyboard-ss-1920If you were recruited to lead a digital transformation for one of the most complex businesses imaginable, and you were given a 150-person team, how would you start? We interviewed Jeff Reid, digital enterprise vice president at Humana, about how he’s tackling this challenge.

Jeff Reid of Humana

Jeff Reid of Humana

Reid was brought on to help Humana be more digital in everything they do as they evolved into an integrated health care company. His role is not just marketing insurance, but also delivering a holistic health care experience across clinical programs, disease management, a pharmacy and mobile tools. He serves both B2C and B2B2C audiences.

Using simple customer-centric design principles — “Know me, show me you care, make it easy, and help me” — Reid has transformed his team into customer agents, delivering growth in NPS, or Net Promoter Score.

Q: Jeff, you changed geographies and industries to join Humana. What drew you to the company?

I was so compelled by our mission and vision. Humana’s goal is to improve the health care in the communities we serve by 20 percent by 2020 … and to do that through the creation of an integrated health care company. I like that bold and measurable goal; it’s one that we can galvanize employees and customers around.

My role is about driving transformation and driving simplicity in customer experiences while navigating the complexity of health care. It’s a marketer’s dream!

Q: Let’s talk about your organization. Your title is Enterprise Vice President, Digital Center of Excellence. Who do you report to?

I report to the Chief Consumer Officer. We don’t have a CMO.

That Chief Consumer Officer has four centers of excellence. I lead the digital center of excellence, and I have peers that lead centers of excellence for analytics, consumer experience and marketing.

Q: You lead 150 people in your digital center of excellence. How is your team organized?

We created teams that could wrap themselves around each of the businesses. Each digital marketing team has a marketing leader who is the main point of contact for the business unit and accountable to that business. That leader gets “surround sound” resources to help accomplish a digital agenda from end to end.

The surround sound team typically includes a user experience person, a strategist, a front-end developer, an analytics person, and other digital marketers to execute programs. We wrap the full skill set of capabilities around that one leader so they can go end to end in servicing their business partners.

Before, that digital marketing partner would have to negotiate for those different skill sets. Now they are fully accountable for dispatching the surround sound team.

We also have centers of practice to lend critical expertise and to develop the careers of people with deep skill sets, like user experience, front-end development, analytics, and digital marketing.

These centers of practice manage our enterprise standards, establish best practices, and have responsibility for maintaining our understanding of these disciplines. They work in unison with the digital teams aligned to each of our business units. They often serve as experts on more complex projects, and lend additional hands when teams need to flex up to complete work.

Q: How was the digital team organized before you arrived?

The digital group was previously focused on creation of enterprise tools and taking 50 different websites and collapsing them into one. So we were arranged to drive big projects, especially around content management. That organization worked when it was [building] big platforms, but by the time I arrived, that work was winding down.

Q: What guided your changes?

We pivoted to thinking more about simplicity as a driving force. One of our mottos is to provide clarity where you can and embrace uncertainty and learnings when things are unclear. So I had to create an organization that could embrace uncertainty, drive competitive differentiation, simplify health care, and be a learning machine.

One of our mottos is to provide clarity where you can and embrace uncertainty and learnings when things are unclear. So I had to create an organization that could embrace uncertainty, drive competitive differentiation, simplify health care, and be a learning machine.

Q: How have the goals for your team evolved?

It used to be about completing a certain number of projects. Now, instead of a project management metric, we measure NPS (Net Promoter Score) and customer satisfaction.

We measure NPS in two ways.

  • At the enterprise level, we measure NPSr — the Net Promoter Score of the customer relationship with Humana.
  • At the channel level, we measure NPSt — the Net Promoter Score of the transaction. This helps us figure out where each channel has its advantage.

My peers and I share the same measurable goals. For instance, we are accountable for the sales goals of our Medicare product. So we figure out how to work together to achieve the goal.

Q: What results do you see?

We’ve seen our NPSt scores for customer transactional satisfaction double. Also, our employee experience metric is the highest it has ever been on my team. We had a 32-percent increase in new member registrations at And, in 2015, our mail order pharmacy experience got rated No. 1 by J.D. Power.

Humana Prescription app

Humana Prescription app.

We’ve seen our NPSt scores for customer transactional satisfaction double.

Q: How do you hire?

We often use assessments. For instance, each analytics candidate has to respond to 10 questions that assess their acumen for digital analytics and the role that digital analytics plays in integrated marketing. That’s helpful because it narrows down the candidates and allows us to focus on behaviors in the interview, as opposed to aptitude.

Also, we want people to have a career here, and not just come here for a job. So we look for leaders who are passionate and willing to change and take on new roles outside of their core discipline. [Note: Here’s a Humana recruiting video that demonstrates this culture.]

One of my team leads wanted to stop his day job and go help Humana be the first to market with the Apple Watch. So we took him out of his job and put him in the innovation lab for three months. And he made the launch happen! Now he is back in his role and is driving more innovation as a result of that experience.

Apple Watch- Humana

Apple Watch — Humana

Q: How about developing talent once they are there?

We created an internal rotation program. Digital can be scary for people, but we want to become more of a digital company in everything we do. So we rotate people into digital leadership roles, and they stay for at least a year so they can later cross-pollinate in other areas of the business.

Q: What would you recommend to someone facing a similarly huge digital transformation?

Change is hard! Helping people understand the bold goal — of improving health care by 20 percent by 2020 — was instrumental in driving the understanding for the change.

Also, change can’t be achieved without being inclusive. I didn’t sit in my office and whiteboard it and then send out a memo. I established the ground rules and included my team in how to rethink our routines. They helped define what simplicity meant for them and how to drive together to the outcomes.

Change can’t be achieved without being inclusive.

Lastly, you have to honor the past. With the previous digital marketing organization, Humana was in a different place, and needed to consolidate dozens of websites into one. That requires a different type of organization.

You have to celebrate the journey but create an organization to take you forward.


  • A bold vision with measurable goals helps to align the organization and attract great talent.
  • Change will only stick when all team members help to define the new organization.
  • If you want a team that can be masterful working in gray zones, pay attention to softer skills, such as passion, ambition and a desire to collaborate cross-functionally.
  • When hiring, funnel quickly by aptitude so you can focus on the behavior of candidates, assessing attitude and cultural fit.
  • Hire marketing leaders with general management skills to ensure results exceed individual contribution.

via Marketing Land


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