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Diversity In Action

Health Care Service Corp: continually adding new skills

This four-state healthcare giant looks for all the latest IT disciplines, and offers a lively corporate culture that’s steeped in diversity awareness

Rita Taylor-Nash, corporate diversity VP: “Each year employees are expected to build their diversity competencies.”IT pros at Health Care Service Corp (HCSC) have to
be ready to respond to ongoing business needs. That’s why the company is continually adding new skills in all relevant IT disciplines, says Brian Hedberg, SVP and CIO.

HCSC is the largest customer-owned health benefits company in the U.S. and the fourth-largest worldwide.
It operates through Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans in Illinois, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas, plus several subsidiaries, to offer health and life insurance products and related services to employers and individuals.

If you’re interested in working for this organization, you need top-notch talent, Hedberg says. “We need people with knowledge and demonstrated expertise in system languages and applications and systems experience within a progressive IT environment, along with industry and leadership experience.”

IT pros handle network infrastructure, application development, information security, IT architecture, data management and system admin at various levels. The skills HCSC looks for include Java development, Unix, Cobol, CICS, VSAM, WebSphere, C++, ERP, PeopleSoft and DB2, plus physical and logical design experience. The HCSC website provides an inclusive and current list of open positions, Hedberg notes.

Rita Taylor-Nash, VP of corporate diversity, reports that this healthcare giant offers a corporate culture steeped in diversity awareness. In fact, diversity is so important to the company that it is one of the objectives that determines executives’ annual bonuses.

A corporate-wide diversity council monitors the culture and helps support diversity initiatives. “Each business unit prepares an annual diversity plan that is monitored throughout the year,” Taylor-Nash reports

An annual skill-building and inclusion training program is mandatory. “Employees have access to a full diversity curriculum that is instructor-led and Web-based. Each year employees are expected to build their diversity competencies with this curriculum,” Taylor-Nash explains.

The company-wide diversity and inclusion council is chaired by president and CEO Pat Hemingway Hall. Hall was the co-chair when it was established more than eight years ago. Diversity committees provide input to the council and work with the business on diversity plans, Taylor-Nash says.

Active employee resource groups include the HCSC BDPA corporate chapter, African Americans in Motion, HCSC Pride Alliance for LGBT employees, and In-Abled for people with disabilities. These groups focus on career development and awareness, Taylor-Nash says: “They emphasize self-development and efficacy.”

There are also heritage committees that focus on cultural enrichment and awareness: a Polish heritage committee and African American, Asian, Irish and Latino groups.

Work/life balance is promoted through employee assistance and wellness programs and, in some cases, flextime, telecommuting, four-day workweeks, even job-sharing in some areas.

As part of its long-standing commitment to its communities, HCSC supports the Blue Corps, an active employee volunteer program. The program supports both individual volunteer efforts and corporate team activities, and gives employees a choice of avenues for involvement. Employee volunteers can earn up to $2,000 in matching grants for approved community partner organizations by documenting and reporting the hours they give. Diversity elements are an important criterion when an organization applies for approval as a community partner.

The company also has community affairs organizations in each of its divisions to coordinate volunteer activities. It’s a collaborative arrangement: the community service department takes the lead and the employee resource groups reach out.

“At HCSC, we believe that our emphasis on diversity practices and values should be seen in everything we do, with our external as well as internal stakeholders, Taylor-Nash says. “We are especially pleased with the external recognition for our diversity efforts.” Among other honors, HCSC received BDPA’s Epsilon Award as the top company for blacks in technology for 2008.

SVP/CIO Hedberg adds that many IT employees participate in the company’s “hire the future” program, which partners with local communities to provide educational opportunities for students, especially minorities. The IT group has a summer intern program and is involved in many other organizations: Inner City Stars, Inroads, the Urban League of Greater Dallas, Cristo Rey and Tulsa’s Young Professionals group.

“These programs began about five years ago and have continued to flourish,” says Hedberg. “We also participate in local university programs, like Northwestern University’s SWE career day for girls.”


Health Care Services Corporation


Operates as Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois, New Mexico, Oklahoma
and Texas
Headquarters: Chicago, IL
Employees: 17,648
Business: Healthcare insurance

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