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Diversity and Associate Resource Groups at WellPoint

By Melissa J. Anderson

Last month Wellpoint, the US’s largest health benefits company by membership, released its 2010 Corporate Citizenship Report, discussing the companies efforts at retaining and growing its diverse staff, community volunteering and philanthropy, and sustainability initiatives.

Diversity is clearly an important topic for the company – and it seems to be something Wellpoint is proud of (although it declined to show much in the way of metrics or targets). CEO Angela Braly wrote, “Our commitment to diversity and inclusion truly is a competitive advantage and one important way we drive superior health care value.”

The company clearly sees the business case for diversity. Randy Brown, Executive Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer explains:

“As individuals, we make a difference. When we work together, we accomplish great things. With our diversity of backgrounds, cultures and experiences comes a richness of thought and perspective that makes us a stronger company. By looking at our business through multiple lenses, we’re better able to see our customers and meet their needs. After all, the diversity in the members we serve is reflected by the diversity within our company.”

Besides diversity within the company, Wellpoint is also championing supply chain diversity issues. For example, according to the report:

“WellPoint carefully tracks its spending with businesses owned by diverse suppliers. …We increased dollars spent with diverse suppliers by 50 percent from 2008 to 2009, exceeding our 2009 target by 23.8 percent. Over the past year, our program has continued to grow. It is integral to our successful development in all areas of the enterprise.”

Associate Resource Groups Making a Difference

Featured within the report (which is customizable by topic) was an interesting rundown of the company’s seven Associate Resource Groups (ARGs). Also notable, was a summary of each ARG’s successes over the past year. At Wellpoint, it seems, ARGs are popular and successful at retaining diverse staff, as well as promoting the company externally.

For example, according to the report, the Associate Network for Gay and Lesbian Equality (or ANGLE), “was one of the champions of our move to include gender identity in WellPoint’s Equal Employment Opportunity policy, helping WellPoint achieve a score of 95 on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index in 2009 and 2010.”

The Veterans of Wellpoint (VOW) is working to organize veterans career fairs throughout the country.

And the Women of Wellpoint (WOW) is working with the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) “to improve the representation of women in information technology.”

In addition to individual projects spearheaded by the ARGs, they are also a resource for career development and learning with the company’s new ARG Learning Circle program. According to the report:

“This nine-month program centers on a one-on-one partnership between a protégé and a more experienced advisor who work together on a learning plan based on the protégé’s goals.”

Awarding Diversity Initiatives

Finally, the report includes an impressive list of awards and honors Wellpoint has received in the past year.

Some of these include “100 Best Companies for Working Mothers,” Working Mother Magazine, “2009 Diversity Leader Award,” Profiles in Diversity Journal, 2008-2010, “50 Out Front Companies for Diversity Leadership,” Diversity MBA Magazine, 2008-2009, “Top 100 Military Friendly Employers,” G.I Jobs Magazine, 2010, recognized as “An Adoption Friendly Employer,” Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, 2009, and many more.

The lack of metrics surrounding the company’s diversity goals seemed to imply that perhaps the company hadn’t had much success in terms of the advancement and retention of minority employees. Yet, the long list of awards and accomplishments by Wellpoint’s ARGs would say otherwise. Perhaps this implies that the company’s stakeholders are more interested in the quality of success the company has had in this area rather than the qualitative statistics.

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