Creating One Language During Massive Marketplace Change

Laura Byars
Laura Byars,
Senior Director, Human Performance,
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan

Still making headlines nearly four years later, the Affordable Care Act was signed on March 23, 2010. With President Obama putting significant health insurance reforms in place, we knew major change was on the horizon for our company, the marketplace, and the country at large. Because there were so many elements in play — from government regulations to emerging competitors to marketplace changes, including an aging population — we knew we needed to eliminate any knowledge gaps within our organization, ensuring all employees had a foundational knowledge of what was happening and how it would affect their day-to-day work, our company, and the industry.

We collaborated with our internal business partners to formulate a plan for a new type of program that would deliver a standard set of knowledge across the company while capturing the hearts and minds of our people. BCBSM established a partnership with Root Inc., and the “New Normal” Strategic Learning Map® module was born.

Our objective was to give all employees a common understanding of and a shared language around the significant changes that were about to occur, along with an opportunity to connect with one another. Through our partnership with Root, we developed a learning experience that provided the tools and knowledge our people needed to feel confident in their understanding of the healthcare industry’s future.

The Roll-out

The “New Normal” Learning Map was rolled out to 6,800 employees in a series of 10 events in late 2012. Each event began with a keynote address and Q&A session from BCBSM CEO Daniel J. Loepp, followed by a two-hour learning opportunity on the Strategic Learning Map® module. Employees sat in small groups that were intentionally mixed. There were individuals from different divisions, different locations, and different levels. This gave our employees the unique opportunity to learn from each other and eliminated internal gaps that can exist when employees of different levels are hesitant to interact. Following the Strategic Learning Map® experience, closing remarks were given, and each employee received a laminated version of the Learning Map, a set of talking points, and the makings of a sense of true confidence in their understanding of healthcare reform.

We know the Learning Map process works; it helped bring context to an overwhelming situation. It has truly permeated our organization’s vernacular and behavior. Our employees tell us they now have a better understanding of the key aspects of reform, and they are on board to do what needs to be done as things change — thereby eliminating the gaps between roles and responsibilities and the organization’s expected strategy. Employees filled out a survey after the training and had the opportunity to share their feedback, which included many powerful statements, such as:

  • “I understand the impacts on the company, not just my department.”
  • “I appreciate the company’s commitment to educating its employees and the opportunity to attend this session.”
  • “It was a great idea having everyone sit with people who we normally may not interact with. Their input, along with the facilitator, led to very stimulating conversations.”


With the knowledge and confidence our employees gained from the Learning Map experience, they became better ambassadors. They speak with authority about what they know and why. Employees refer to the Strategic Learning Map ® module in meetings. Our leadership team uses the language. In fact, they thought so highly of the Learning Map and its ability to educate people that the experience was extended to our third-party providers; 2,000 independent sales agents experienced what we developed for our internal people. The expectation was that this too would eliminate knowledge gaps on what BCBSM planned to achieve in the face of the new healthcare reforms. The Strategic Learning Map ® module has also become part of our regular onboarding process, with all new employees trained on the “New Normal.”

The power of the Learning Map experience is undeniable, and we look forward to the next one. In 2014, we plan to work with Root again, focusing on our strategy for the future.

About Laura Byars

Laura Byars is Senior Director of Human Performance for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and is responsible for overseeing Human Performance which includes enterprise-wide training and development functions, talent management and organizational development. She has extensive experience creating corporate strategies for talent management, workforce planning, and organizational development for organizations of all sizes.