When you walk in to the IT department at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, you’ll see all kinds of people. You’ll hear all kinds of fresh, innovative ideas being discussed that will ultimately make our systems better. And for those who join our team, you’ll feel a sense of welcome that gives you the confidence and sense of freedom to truly be yourself. “When you bring your 100% authentic self to work, where you are not really worried or not really concerned about hiding anything about you, it just creates a really positive environment," explained Usman Choudhry, systems analyst III and co-champion, IT Diversity Employee Committee at Blue Cross. In IT, we believe that authenticity is the key to a strong team. When our teammates feel comfortable being themselves, they often feel more free to bring new, important ideas to the table that might otherwise have gone unsaid. It’s those important ideas that lead to the innovations that help Blue Cross remain a leader in the industry. So, it’s no surprise that diversity is such an important part of our work culture. This attitude toward diversity and inclusion began more than a decade ago with the establishment of the Diversity Leadership Council. The members of this council provide leadership for diversity and inclusion practices throughout Blue Cross, and engage employees in understanding the many facets of diversity in order to provide our members with the best in customer service. Over the years, the Diversity Leadership Council has created 10 Employee Resource Networks (ERNs) with a focus on developing cultural competency among employees designed to increase understanding of different:
- Work styles
These ERNs bring together those with a common interest to learn, engage and serve as allies. Not only do these networks create an opportunity for employees to come together, they also provide professional development opportunities. Our 10 ERNs are:
- Active Blue: Health and Wellness – Encourages healthy living by promoting fitness activities for all employees.
- Azul HLERN: Hispanic Latino Professionals – Focuses on furthering Blue Cross employee professional skills and cultural development through the understanding of the Hispanic Latino community.
- BlueACTS: African Ancestry Committed to Success – Dedicated to the interests of employees who self-identify as African-American and others who are committed to advance efforts of the network.
- BrightBlue: Bringing Abilities to Light – Promotes and facilitates a complete and seamless integration into the Blue Cross workforce and the community at large for individuals with differently abled skill sets and capabilities.
- Equally Blue: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Ally Network – Facilitates an equitable and safe work environment for LGBT employees and their allies.
- Mulitcultural Network – Creates a network of inclusion for cross-dimensional multilevel employees and promotes diversity.
- POWER: Professional Optimistic Women Exploring Resources – Promotes an inclusive culture for women throughout the organization, providing individuals with resources and tools to enhance their personal and professional development opportunities.
- Blue SAN: South Asian Network – Focuses on promoting diversity and fostering professional and cultural development through the understanding of the South Asian community.
- Veterans Network – Provides professional growth opportunities through the understanding of the Veteran community, both internally and externally.
- Young Professionals Network – Engages young professionals and new employees in a network that fosters opportunities for leadership, professional development and immersion into the culture of the Blue Cross enterprise.
When employees truly understand a member’s situation, it’s much easier to give the service they need. With a diverse range of people at the ready, there’s a much greater chance that when a member deals with a BCBSM representative, their concerns will be fully understood, and a solution found. For Sharada Thota, IT manager and champion, IT Diversity Employee Committee, that approach not only helps current members, but it serves to attract potential new members as well. “Blue Cross customers are from various backgrounds, so having employees that are from various backgrounds helps us connect with the customers more and it attracts diverse customers,” Thota said. Our policy of diversity comes in handy in customer service situations, and it also paves the way for greater innovation. “[Diversity] helps us with innovation; that's the first thing that comes to mind every time,” Thota explained. “Everybody from a different background thinks so differently. [When] the problem is presented, the perspective is different. Sometimes it results in conflicts, and that's what helps us be more innovative.” “Having various viewpoints across our team allows us to have a healthy debate and to really get to the crux of the true customer needs,” said Jim Chiang, managing director, IT Senior Health Services. By creating an environment ripe for healthy discussion with a wide range of people, Blue Cross customers benefit without even realizing it. This approach to diversity in IT is how we stay on the leading edge of the industry. In IT, we take pride in our diverse workforce, because we know that the best way to serve all Blue Cross members is to represent everyone within our team. Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock Inset Image Credit: BCBSM Connectathon Event