Revamping Diversity at Humana

On April 23, about 20 people of different ages, races, genders, sexual orientations and tenures gathered for a meeting led by their CEO.

That afternoon was the first official meeting of Humana’s CEO-led Inclusion and Diversity Council. Although diversity and inclusion have been a part of the health insurance provider’s business for almost a decade — it launched its first board of diversity in 2006 – this new initiative marks a recommitment to its diversity goals.

A.J. Hubbard, Humana’s director of inclusion and diversity, said the company had been through a growth period that didn’t give him and his team an opportunity to express where their work could fit into the blossoming business strategy.

Then, about six months ago, they saw their chance. The organization’s strategy and demographics had shifted in just the right way for diversity and inclusion to be more important to Humana’s mission, and it was time to introduce a new plan to CEO Bruce Broussard.

“We thought this was a perfect opportunity to remake, remodel, refashion our board of diversity into a more executive-level inclusion and diversity council that would be chaired by him (Broussard),” Hubbard said. “We played the future for our CEO, in the sense of, ‘Here’s what’s possible through this lens of D&I, and the council is a big lever in helping us get there.’”

But Broussard wasn’t satisfied — he wanted to re-examine some parts of the plan and restructure the initiatives’ design. The end product was a council chaired by the CEO and made up of three subcommittees that cover community, marketplace and workplace diversity, with 85 percent of members focusing on the latter.

“Becoming the chair of the Inclusion and Diversity Council was important to me because I want all areas of our business to understand that inclusion and diversity are fundamental to providing a perfect experience for our members,” Broussard wrote in an email.

But as important as CEO buy-in is, members’ commitment is just as crucial. “Bruce said this is not a wallflower council,” Hubbard said. “These folks are about action and holding each other accountable.”

That said, Hubbard is also prepared for the board to evolve along with the company and its strategies, which may mean changing the roles and who fills them. Rotation will bring in people from all aspects of the organization who have established unique relationships with other members.

Relationships are a major part of why Hubbard thinks the new Inclusion and Diversity Council will improve the work Humana does. “We want to improve health of our members and the communities we serve, just by building better relationships with them,” he said. “The way you do that is getting to know them at a much deeper level.”

That relationship building through diversity first starts with getting to know the associates in the organization and encouraging personal relationships between Humana’s employees and clients. Hubbard said rapport helps Humana deliver the outcomes members want — a key ability in the health care industry, where customers’ demands regularly change.

But flowing with members’ needs is just the tip of the inclusion iceberg for Humana. With the health care sector’s constant flux due to legislation and insurance policy changes, Hubbard’s team’s greatest challenge is staying in tune with the evolving industry.

“One strategy may not work tomorrow, so we have to have that understanding that we’re on a journey, and it’s moving at the same time we are,” he said. “It’s evolving; so are we. Everybody understanding that is probably the biggest opportunity we have there.”

Hubbard prefers to look at the board’s goals as answering to opportunities rather than fixing problems, and one of his top objectives is to continue Humana’s growth in a way that incorporates a broader vision of how the organization is positioned in the workplace, marketplace and the community — hence its three committees.

“We want Humana to be this unbelievable hotbed for talent,” Hubbard said. “We’re in Louisville, Kentucky, so we’ve got to think more broadly about how we are positioned in an employer’s space, and I&D is a big part in how we can close that gap.”

Kate Everson is an associate editor at Diversity Executive. She can be reached at keverson@diversity-executive.com.