At WellPoint, There’s Room to Grow

Posted August 2, 2013

When it comes to showing off an inclusive culture, WellPoint does it with flair.

DiversityInc. ranked WellPoint as one of the Top 10 Companies for People with Disabilities this year, and Careers and the disABLED magazine honored the managed care company as Corporate Employer of the Year in 2012.

None of these accolades would be possible without the employees themselves directing its inclusive culture, says Alicia Wallace, MBA, Director of Equal Employment Opportunity and Diversity Outreach.

One such employee, Janey Croft, is an IT quality control analyst for the enterprise claims, product and payment systems department. Croft is Deaf, and she uses telephone captioning to facilitate conference calls and virtually manage testing teams worldwide.

Alicia Wallace

Says Croft: “Working at WellPoint affords me the ability to work from home and attend meetings in a virtual environment. As a result, I have worked with some of my colleagues for years and they still don’t know that I am Deaf.”

During the past few years, executives at WellPoint decided to change its culture to be more inclusive from the inside out. They turned to their employee resource group ABLE (Abilities Beyond Limited Expectations) for help. ABLE consists of employees with disabilities (including Croft) and those without like family members and employees with an interest in disability issues.

Since the now 76-member strong group started in 2009, ABLE has helped educate WellPoint on what employees with disabilities can do for the company, and how they can be the best employer possible for people with disabilities. The group works to develop and improve best-in-class policies, practices and systems that support, empower and promote the employment of individuals with disabilities. Importantly, ABLE has proven to be a retention strategy for WellPoint as membership enables opportunities for growth, networking and personal and professional development.

For example, ABLE members have provided feedback on important accessibility efforts like the development of an accessibility tool, called eSSENTIAL Accessibility, for six customer-facing web sites. Members of ABLE also created a self-reporting tool that allows employees to report a disability at any time during their employment. ABLE members have been integral to the planning and implementing of educational webinars, too.

Another aspect of ABLE’s mission is to educate employees about disability etiquette and the value of including people with disabilities into the workforce. “We use ABLE to help us connect the dots and learn more about disability groups and how we can make the workforce more inclusive,” Wallace says.

In addition to quarterly group meetings, once a year, ABLE meets with other associate resource groups to network, discuss how WellPoint is doing, and align with the company’s mission. The company also conducts surveys to assess the current climate. “I’m proud of our approach of our disability initiatives and that it’s included as a major part of our [overall] diversity [campaign],” says Wallace.

WellPoint maintains strategic recruiting partnerships with organizations like the National Business Disability Council and The Plus Company, which assist individuals with disabilities in identifying career and career development opportunities. These partnerships help WellPoint attract the best and the brightest.

Once on staff, WellPoint’s philosophy is that professional development is employee-owned and manager-supported, which gives employees many opportunities to learn and grow beyond traditional training courses – and extends to participating in special projects, taking advantage of tax-free reimbursement for education assistance, as well as formalized and on-demand learning programs.

In addition, ABLE helps interested employees match up with a mentor and practice their leadership skills by meeting company executives and other leaders. “We’ve had various executives come see the talent that may have been untapped in the past. And one of our employees has been promoted several times and I would say some of that is from the exposure he’s had from working with ABLE,” Wallace says.

Croft says it best as she sums up her workplace. “It’s WellPoint’s inclusive culture that embraces my disability and contributes to my success.”