Amerigroup offers employees some nice extras, including a 529 college savings plan, the possibility of telecommuting and pretax flexible spending accounts for healthcare and child care. But Jim Carlson, Amerigroups president and chief executive officer, believes his organizations central appeal to existing and potential employees lies in the companys very mission: to work with states that have privatized Medicaid services for people with disabilities and the elderly.
The people we take care of are perhaps our nations neediest citizens, Carlson says. When thats the nature of your work, you tend to attract people who come here because they take great prideit is meaningful to them to take care of the people who need the rest of us more. We call it our enviable social charter.
Amerigroup, Virginia Beach, Va., ranked 48th on the list of Best Places to Work in Healthcare, and it ranked highest among payers. One measure of the companys hold on its employees is that biannual employee surveys receive a whopping 90% response rate, Carlson says. Our outside consultants say theyve never seen that type of response rate before, he says. Most draw the connection between their jobs and their personal values.
To support both those who want to help others and those who need their help, Amerigroup provides additional paid time off, over and above vacation days or personal days, for employees who wish to participate in volunteer activities. With a workforce of more than 4,000 people, 20% of whom are doctors, nurses or social workers, Amerigroup also has created a disaster-response team to deploy to hurricane-ravaged areas and the like.
All of this gets woven together: what the company does, the kind of people who come here, and what the company does to support them, Carlson says. New employees see that difference and want to be part of it. The company does preapprove the volunteer time off, he adds. We have to make sure their volunteer activities are something consistent with what the company wants to accomplish.
The company also gets involved with, for example, efforts through Habitat for Humanity. One local event in Amerigroups home, the Tidewater region of Virginia, brought 160 employees to do everything from swinging hammers to serving food, Carlson says. Its not just the company time off, its also the logistical support to organize people.
When responding to a disaster like Hurricane Katrina, its difficult to provide basic services to people, Carlson says. Imagine how hard that is for somebody in a wheelchair. You cant get to the highest floor in your house, you have no electricity for your lift, and the waters rising. We can target our activities to people who are in harms way. When (Hurricane) Gustav threatened part of our disaster-response folks were in Memphis, where people with disabilities had been evacuated.
Some 600 out of the companys employees participate in the March of Dimes, and Amerigroup gooses that participation in creative and fun ways, selling tickets to those in attendance that allow you to wear your jeans to work, Carlson says. Somebody could have my office for a day. Those are things that create a lot of esprit de corps.
Amerigroups commitment to its mission plays out in other ways. For example, more than 70% of the companys employees, and more than 30% of its management, are African-American, which Carlson says is about double the national average. We have a disproportionate percentage of people we serve in minority communities, he says. We pride ourselves in having a workforce that mirrors the people we take care of. The company participates in an array of diversity fairs.
As a 14-year-old company that has seen its workforce double in the past three years, Amerigroup works hard on talent management to be able to retain and promote existing employees, Carlson says. The company reimburses up to 80% of tuition up to $2,500 per calendar year for employees with at least a year of service.
Were putting an awful lot of emphasis on skills development as a recognition of that explosive growth rate, Carlson says. Were, if anything, investing more in training as time goes on, he says. Were doing everything reasonably possible to help the people who are already here grow their skills, so they can be the leaders and executives of tomorrow.
Few Amerigroup employees telecommute in the traditional sense. But many of them are in the field working out of the Amerigroup members residences, whether they be homes, assisted-living centers or other adult communities, Carlson says.
Their value to the members is pretty astonishing, Carlson says. They get to be known and familiar. Some of these people are very frail; theyre in their mid-80s, living independently. We have people who are often seen as family members. They get a hug at the door. Thats not something you think of with an insurance company.
The company would like to reduce its turnover rate, which was 29.5% for its last fiscal year, but Carlson notes that its typical for a business with a significant call-center component. While were not comfortable with it, we understand thats the driver of it, he says, in addition to the array of military bases in the area that often brings families in and out in a short time.
As it grows, Amerigroup would like to add features such as an on-site day-care center or an on-site walk-in health clinic, Carlson says.
Amerigroup does offer a number of other benefits currently: an employee-assistance program through Cigna Behavioral Health that provides up to five visits per year for those with life issues on their minds, on-premises gyms in several corporate locations, and health fairs and other activities that are part of a corporatewide wellness initiative called Healthy Lifestyles.