How to Fortify the Employee Experience with Prime Therapeutics’ CHRO

The Next Practices Weekly call series has become a well-attended and wide-ranging discussion for HR leaders each Thursday at 11am ET / 8am PT. On this week's call, i4cp senior research analyst Tom Stone and i4cp managing director, communities and partnerships Carrie Bevis, facilitated a conversation with special guest Erin Feigal, Chief Human Resource Officer at Prime Therapeutics. Here are some highlights from the call:

  • Prime Therapeutics is a pharmacy benefits management company, founded in the late 1990s and headquartered in Minnesota.
  • Mergers and acquisitions can significantly change company culture and strategic priorities, requiring CHROs to operate under high pressure to develop one shared vision. This arose for Feigal when Prime Therapeutics acquired MagellanRx Management, a similarly sized organization but one with a different culture and different, but complementary values.
  • Feigal described how they began noting how work and HR have changed over the 20+ years, a pivot from an HR focused on the employment lifecyle of onboarding, performance, promotion, service anniversaries, and retirement/pension, to what today is more a partnership (what she called a pivot from HR to HX - Human Experience) including a broad range of elements such as purpose and vision, transparent compensation and benefits, career pathing and development, parental/family leave, collaborative teams, technology, social impact, flexibility/wellness, and employee recognition.
  • Feigal noted that a recent McKinsey survey showed that employees who have a positive employee experience are 16X more engaged and 8X more likely to stay at their organization. Those are the kind of results they wanted from the merger for their employees. So the human experience became a pivotal differentiator for their business as a whole and in the merger and integration process in particular.
  • Feigal noted that the merger was a talent acquisition as much as a business transaction. Their employee experience guiding principles were:
    • Radically welcoming - they wanted the employees from MRx to feel a part of something special immediately.
    • Minimize disruption - no business glitches, employees needed access to systems, payroll, etc., on day 1
    • Retain talent - they needed to retain the value and the spirit of MRx because that’s what Prime needed.
  • These guiding principles helped Prime to align on the approach and goals cross-functionally, from HR, IT, Corporate Communications, Project management office, and Leadership. All different functions and agendas came together to be thoughtful about not just what needed to get done, but how it felt for employees. 
  • Feigal said there were three key steps in their evolution being a people-first organization:
    • Invite feedback on “moments that matter”
    • Design experience for desired outcomes
    • Engage organization in HX culture
  • One of our first exercises they did, even before the merger officially closed, was to explore their two cultures coming together. They conducted a survey of over 100 leaders and employees heavily involved in integration to get their insight on both cultures. What they heard was that both companies were largely aligned in key areas, such as ethics, integrity, and collaboration. Then they found that the MRx team brought a strong history of innovation, while the Prime team brought strong governance, processes, and scalability.
  • Feigal said that what at first seemed at odds (innovation and structure) they soon realized were a great play on strengths: Prime needed more of the MRx innovation, and innovation needs solid process and structure to scale. They both needed each other and instead o ffighting these differences, they should embrace them. Taking the time to work through these insights, discuss what they meant and where the great opportunity lies, was clarifying, even settling and a strong foundational to all of their next steps. This could have been a friction point, but instead turned into one of their first cultural evolutions. 
  • The result Feigal said was that both companies felt included and a part of the new, go-forward culture.  Prime could have just said, here’s our culture - MRx, get on-board. But instead, together, they talked about who they are and who they want to be as a new organization and created something new – utilizing their strengths and becoming stronger in the process. 
  • Similarly, this process resulted in a completely new purpose statement for the combined organization: Reimagining pharmacy management to provide the same care we would want for our loved ones.
  • Feigal shared the very positive results they have had so far, including:
    • 79 engagement score, with both February and August showing improved engagement.
    • An 82% response rate, with a 13% increase in employee engagement in written feedback.
    • 98% Sr. Leadership Retention, with voluntary turnover trending down since the merger, and no turnover of identified key talent.
    • 100% of enterprise goals forecasted above targets.
  • Feigal concluded by sharing how they are sustaining this new employee experience over time, including:
    • Programs: Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Hub and Home, Career Development, Wellness
    • Tools: Strategy and goal planning, Enterprise communication, Change Management
    • Culture: Welcome ambassadors, Cultural commitments, Leader expectations, Engagement Survey

Valuable Resources shared on the call:


About Next Practices Weekly

This series provides a forum for HR leaders to come together, discover, and advance cutting-edge human capital practices. Each week, you’ll hear from executives from some of the largest and most respected organizations in the world.

To ensure open discussion, this event is exclusively for HR practitioners. Vendors and consultants are not permitted to attend.