Keep Talent Healthy With Learning and Leadership

 -  2/7/09

UnitedHealth Group implemented a local recruiting approach and a strong learning and development component.

The human body relies on the optimal, systemic functioning of many unique components in order to survive. Health care service company UnitedHealth Group meets its goals in much the same way. With 74,000 employees, it is involved in almost every aspect of the health care systems in its family of businesses. This extensive enterprise requires unusual skill sets that can make it tough to find the right talent.

At the heart of UnitedHealth Group’s talent organization is its learning and development team. Rich Hughes, corporate vice president of learning and development, and Phyllis Dozier, vice president of corporate development and process management, discussed how UnitedHealth Group’s systems approach facilitates talent management.

TM: Describe your company’s approach to talent management.

HUGHES: We take a two-level approach. For mid-management and higher in our organization, everyone goes through an assessment process that includes performance and potential trend. And from there, everyone in that population ends up getting more focused development planning. We call that Level 2.
Level 1 is really looking at our senior leadership population, which is turning out to be the top 300 people and physicians in our organization. There, it’s not just talent management; it’s a little more like talent management and planning. It includes everything from competency-based assessments to, of course, the performance of potentials for assessment, succession planning, risk analysis and litigation strategizing, etc.

TM: What processes or programs have you established to improve the performance of the entire workforce?

HUGHES: Basically, we look at employee development in three levels: We have learning for all employees, we have learning for managers, and then there’s learning for leaders at the director level and above in the organization.

There are specific programs developed for each one of those groupings that focus on improving employee performance. We have a general manager (GM) program that focuses on the highest-potential individuals in our top 1 percent. Making them better industry leaders would of course indirectly improve employee performance. That GM program is not for all employees; it’s literally for our top 300. But then we have programs that cascade down from there that touch larger groups of employees.

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