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NO. 4 SMALL|PROPELLER HEALTH Propeller Health navigates change, builds a strong workplace

NO. 4 SMALL|PROPELLER HEALTH Propeller Health navigates change, builds a strong workplace

From the Meet the Madison area's Top Workplaces in 2020 series
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Propeller display

At their annual all-staff retreat at Camp Wandawega in Elkhorn, Propeller Health employees work collaboratively to build Rube Goldberg-like contraptions as part of a creative exercise. Twelve teams competed to find ways to activate one of the company’s digital inhalers. Propeller Health was acquired in 2019 by San Diego-based ResMed.

Propeller Health emerged from a year of change with its employee culture intact and, company officials say, even stronger.

What could have been an uncertain time for Propeller’s employees as the firm was acquired by San Diego-based digital medicine firm ResMed for $225 million, was tempered by transparency, resilient and similar cultures and consistency in it local leadership.

“ResMed wants Propeller to operate as we were before, and that creates a lot of goodwill with the team,” said Greg Tracy, Propeller’s chief technology officer.

Propeller CEO David Van Sickle said employees have viewed the acquisition as an opportunity instead of a threat. “We’ve seen an interest of the part of employees at Propeller in connecting with and learning about the business that ResMed has built and improving the way we put Propeller into practice,” he said.

Propeller, with 78 Madison employees and another 30 in San Francisco, makes products to help manage asthma and COPD by attaching a digital sensor to medication inhalers. The sensors connect to a cellphone app that helps patients and clinicians understand what may be causing a patient’s symptoms and help better manage them.

The firm moved its headquarters from a former warehouse on West Main Street to sleeker quarters in the U.S. Bank Building on Capitol Square in 2019. And in the past year, Propeller introduced an employer 401(k) match, an employee stock purchase program and increase paid parental leave from 10 to 14 weeks.

One tradition that Propeller continues is an all-employee, three-day retreat at Camp Wandawega in Elkhorn aimed at having employees get to know each other better and stimulate their creativity.

This year, employees formed teams and took part in a multi-sport relay race and competed in making Rube Goldberg-like machines that activated a Propeller inhaler.

“It was the ultimate expression of Propeller to get a high-level problem with no solution prescribed and let the teams go to find a solution,” said Tracy. “That’s a great demonstration of our culture. There were a dozen teams, and they all came up with different solutions.”


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