Hispanic associates—and customers—of WellPoint have received renewed focus during the past three years with the establishment of the SOMOS associate resource group, which aims to provide a view of healthcare through the eyes of Hispanic members.
Fostering community (Team--Winner)
SOMOS boosts awareness of Hispanics' needs
The group helped increase cultural sensitivity of programming and ensure that chronic diseases that disproportionately affect Hispanics are targeted to ensure they better manage their health.
With 42,000 associates across the country, Linda Jimenez, WellPoint's vice president and chief diversity officer, saw associate resource groups as a way to bring together like-minded colleagues and create a sense of community and team spirit. Seven others have been established for African-Americans, women, gays and lesbians, Asian-Americans, people with disabilities, military veterans and young professionals, with a total of 1,600 associates signed up for at least one of them.
“We didn't want these groups to just be social networks; we wanted to utilize their diversity of work and life experience to impact our business,” functioning as a focus group would, Jimenez says. “In SOMOS' case, it was understanding that our marketplace is very diverse and includes a very large number of Hispanics, not only members but providers, clinicians, vendors and suppliers. What could we do, as a group, to impact operations, procurement, retention and development?”
Their efforts have earned Indianapolis-based WellPoint the Spirit of Excellence Award for Team. “It's a wonderful concept because that group is a resource for the company and promotes better understanding amongst the Hispanic population there,” says category judge Stephen Salvo. “It provides a work environment that fosters diversity, and as a result attracts and retains great workers.”
The 122-member SOMOS group has divided its focus into three areas: associate engagement, business integration and community partnerships, says Stacy Guevara, co-chair of the group. The associate engagement piece has resulted in professional leadership development opportunities including culturally relevant, semi-annual tele-seminars.
The community outreach initiatives have included participating in the Susan G. Komen breast cancer initiative, says Angela Lopez, the other SOMOS co-chair. “They are in need of diverse tissue samples to help do their studies” at Indiana University Hospital, she says. “We sent a call out for people to register.”
“There is a lack of breast tissue samples available for research, primarily from women of color,” Jimenez says. “That's an equity disparity that our CEO has put her arms around.” The African-American associate resource group has participated in that effort, as well.
While pleased with the groups' progress to date, Jimenez says SOMOS and the other associate resource groups will need to make sure their efforts continue to resonate with members over time.
“It's a challenge because we're in a virtual work environment,” she says. “How can we keep individuals who are working virtually connected?”
Send us a letter
Have an opinion about this story? Click here to submit a Letter to the Editor, and we may publish it in print.