Nearly two years ago, we developed our national Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) Council to meaningfully advance our organization toward a more inclusive future. We created the council with the mission to build an industry-leading, diverse and inclusive environment in which we foster innovation by hiring, developing and retaining the best talent to increase our cultural competence, enabling us to intimately engage the communities we serve and make health care better for everyone.
While the council was implemented before the COVID-19 pandemic and the death of George Floyd, both of these events have highlighted existing inequities across the nation, especially for people who identify as Black, Indigenous or People of Color (BIPOC). With the help of our D&I Council, we are working to build health equity and create equitable experiences for both our employees and our members.
Market-specific councils advance health equity work
One of our largest D&I successes to date has been implementing local councils in many of our local health plan markets. Under the national D&I Council’s leadership, these councils have the flexibility to tailor their initiatives and goals to address local needs.
All employees who are passionate about D&I work are encouraged to not only join their local council but also help drive diversity work through the steering committee’s three workstreams:
Management workstream — Focuses on improving our policies and processes to remove unconscious bias; to support anti-racism; and to recruit, hire, onboard, develop and retain qualified leaders from underrepresented populations.
Business workstream — Embeds health equity into our core business and health plan operations, including data infrastructure and reporting, unbiased solutions, community-based partnerships, and positioning Community & State as a health equity thought-leader in the health space.
Cultural workstream — Creates a culture where employees feel valued and can bring their genuine selves to work. This workstream aligns employee efforts by driving behavior using our core values of integrity, compassion, relationships, innovation and performance.
The D&I Council and all three of its workstreams are highly focused on driving true business value for the organization.
We created the council with the mission to build an industry-leading, diverse and inclusive environment in which we foster innovation by hiring, developing and retaining the best talent to increase our cultural competence, enabling us to intimately engage the communities we serve and make health care better for everyone.
The steering committee meets weekly to drive health equity efforts forward across markets. Our local councils meet monthly to focus on hosting intentional D&I conversations, including how we can improve opportunities for LGBTQIA+, veterans, individuals with disabilities, and BIPOC populations working within UnitedHealthcare Community & State. These meetings also provide space to bring in subject matter experts (SMEs) and share best practices from other councils across the nation.
Our team members are our best resource to identify areas where we succeed in providing an inclusive environment, and where we need to give additional focus. Through ongoing, open conversations with employees, we are advancing our workplace to ensure that everyone feels supported.
Partnerships strengthen diversity
D&I is an essential element of our business, and data has shown that diverse teams and companies perform better than those that are less diverse. In fact, we are beginning to see more states look for managed care contractors that are acutely addressing racial barriers and health disparities in local communities.
The pandemic strengthened our relationships with our state partners, helping us to understand challenges at a local level through a diversity-focused lens. Through these partnerships, initiatives like our STOP COVID work helped us find new ways to partner with states, communities and small diverse businesses to provide care for members in underserved areas. We will approach future projects through this lens to ensure that we tap into all available resources to provide quality, accessible care to our members.
Aligning health equity initiatives to support members
Many of our members face unmet social determinants of health (SDOH) and racial disparities — and the pandemic only exacerbated many of these challenges. Through trainings and conversations facilitated by local councils, we can ensure that employees feel confident and equipped to support members and remove barriers to care.
It’s challenging to know how to measure success related to D&I, health equity and anti-racism work. As a large organization, we have many different teams that we must intentionally align. From UnitedHealth Group’s Centers of Excellence to our local Community & State councils, we are committed to making sure that all layers of our business are actively working toward the same D&I goals. This way, we can ensure that our councils and the infrastructure behind them remain effective and relevant. This enables us to balance metrics and ensure that D&I is engrained in everything we do, both in our internal operations and in how we support our members in the community.