Can a health insurance giant use social networking to get all 50,000 of its employees on the same page? The ‘"Buzz" at Humana is that it can.

Humana’s Buzz is an enterprise social network (ESN) launched by the health insurer back in 2010 to streamline its internal communications and employee collaboration. More than just a chat tool, it has become deeply integrated “into the employee experience in their natural workflow,” according to Jeff Ross, Humana’s community manager for Buzz. The network, he says, now incorporates more than 200 SharePoint and other internal sites.

In a recent conversation with Badi Azad of Socialcast, Ross tendered advice to companies looking to develop an enterprise social network. First, he says, you need to understand from employees what their expectations are in terms of internal communications. Then you need to position the company’s social network as the default mode for providing those communications.

“Buzz provides a “water cooler conversation” experience across the enterprise, Ross tells Azad. “Employees use it to avoid long, time wasting email chains, and new employees can use it to engage rapidly and accelerate their on-boarding and integration into the company culture. Buzz is also used a lot for ideation to increase efficiencies.”

To view the complete interview, click here.

Humana’s social network has the active support and participation of top management, including CEO Bruce Broussard. Ross describes Broussard as “an avid Buzz user who shares his own pursuits of health and wellness by posting pictures of his triathlon events and sharing his stories about these events, which helps to humanize him with all employees.”

There also are rock-solid business applications for the ESN as well. For example, Broussard employs Buzz for monthly leader calls and two-way Q&As with employees each quarter. In his own words, while “it’s difficult to quantify the exact dollars returned to Humana through Buzz, having 50,000 people moving in the same direction together with efficient communication and collaboration is very productive.”

Joe McKendrick is an author, consultant, blogger and frequent INN contributor specializing in information technology.

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