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Responding to employees’ evolving needs leads to better job retention

Originally published in The Tennessean, March 2023

In my role as chief human resources officer, I’m fortunate to hear stories about employees who view their employer as a partner in their professional development, whether through continued education or tactical skill development. This isn’t a reputation BlueCross earned overnight, but rather through years of building strategies and support, as these stories illustrate:

Shawanna Grant, manager, organizational development

Shawanna Grant has taken part in our tuition reimbursement program — which offers up to $10,000 per employee per calendar year for eligible coursework and grades — since 2008. She first earned her bachelor of science in business. Within six months, she started a master of business administration. She’s grown her career at BlueCross, and she’s now pursuing a doctorate in business administration at Trevecca Nazarene University.

When Joe Anderson decided to relocate to North Carolina in 2021 but continue working for BlueCross as a remote employee, he was nervous about what the move might mean for his career growth. But after receiving a management promotion in February 2022, he’s now confident that our “remote first” work model keeps him just as connected with his team.

Last year, Bonnie Jones participated in our Job Rotation program. The three-to-six-month, full-time opportunity pairs high-performing employees with another team to learn new skills. Bonnie worked with the BlueCross payroll team. Her first project was to reinforce the systems in place to support business operations in the event of another pandemic-level event. Her time with payroll gave her a better understanding of using data to create efficiencies.

Worth the time and effort

These are just a few recent examples of employees who took chances and set goals — and how BlueCross invests in developing its people. While this approach takes a significant time and financial investment, it reaps long-term benefits for employee and employer alike.

At BlueCross, we’re constantly working to create a meaningful workplace experience — one where every employee is respected and their voice is heard. We can only serve our members well when we serve our employees well, with a company culture built on mutual purpose, trust and respect, wherever our people work.

That starts with listening to our employees. And the vast majority told us that working from home for the long term was their preference — and one that still allows us to efficiently meet the needs of our members. That’s why we gave our people the choice of working from our offices or their homes full-time — and in Joe’s case, outside of Tennessee — and the resources to do so.

Currently, around 88% of our employees work remotely full-time. They can also come into the office to work whenever they like,  or as needed for collaboration and connection.

We’ve also learned to embrace our employees’ desire to better themselves and develop their personal skillsets. We’ve actively encouraged them to pursue their goals and have provided opportunities for them to do so.  This has aided retention, as employees react to this support by continuing to apply their skills to their work at BlueCross and for our members.

Award-winning work

In our case, our efforts to listen to our employees and strengthen our corporate culture earned us recognition from Forbes, which named us the fourth best large employer in the nation. In determining its rankings, Forbes asked survey participants how likely they were to recommend their employer, as well as how they felt about other employers outside their industry.

It’s a true honor to be recognized in this way because this ranking is driven by employee feedback. But we’ve learned that we have to maintain that level of employee engagement and satisfaction, which requires continued listening  and evolution.

And that means we can support and retain employees like Shawanna, Joe and Bonnie — and attract talent, as well.

About Roy Vaughn, Senior Vice President & Chief Human Resources Officer

A photo of the authorRoy is responsible for managing all functions of the BlueCross human resources division and properties and corporate services division, as well as corporate culture and employee engagement.

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