How Independence Health Group diversifies its workforce


The president and chief executive officer describes the various initiatives the organization is taking, and how they are resulting in big payoffs.

Doing the right thing unfailingly leads to doing the smart thing. That has been my experience, both personally and professionally.

HilfertyTake our commitment to encouraging diversity and inclusion: It is the right thing to do for a company that has spent 80 years building trust locally in Southeastern Pennsylvania while becoming a national healthcare leader. And it is also smart business. The power of diversity helps us build a strong workforce, attract and serve a broad base of customers, and better fulfill our role as an economic engine for our region. And it can do the same for your business.

Altogether, our efforts have helped us build a workforce of more than 10,000 associates that is approximately 74% female and 50% multicultural.

Hiring well

A commitment to diversity should start inside your corporate walls. Throughout our organization, we focus on recruiting talented associates who represent rich diversity in ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, generation, ability, interests, and backgrounds. Even more important, we cultivate an inclusive workplace by continually developing programs that support all our associates and celebrate how their unique attributes contribute to our team.

In our successful associate resource groups, for example, employees connected by common characteristics pursue professional development, networking opportunities, and community outreach.

In October, our Women of Independence associate resource group held its second leadership conference featuring executive speakers from inside and outside the company, while our Latinos con Propósito group organized food and coat drives benefitting the community-based cultural organization Taller Puertorriqueño.

Additionally, our associate resource groups help us find new ways to reach and interact with our customers. For example, one group participated in an innovation challenge, where they used design thinking methods to come up with new ideas and incentives that would encourage members to get more engaged with our online well-being platform.

Spending wisely

It is also imperative for companies to embrace diversity outside the workplace, by putting their money where their ideals are. Through our longstanding Supplier Diversity Program, we build alliances with businesses that are owned and controlled by minority group members and women. We make sure that those businesses have the same opportunity as every other company that wants to do business with us.

Last fall we were able to share a snapshot of the economic impact of this program based on a study by Scott Vowels, PhD, of the Institute for Thought Diversity. We spent $76.5 million with diverse suppliers in 2014, pushing our 10-year total past $500 million. In turn, these suppliers paid federal, state, and local taxes; hired and paid employees; and these employees purchased goods and services throughout their communities.

Other highlights of the study include:

  • In Pennsylvania, 565 jobs were attributable to diverse suppliers hired by Independence Health Group, including 490 jobs created in the five-county Philadelphia area.

  • Salaries and benefits paid to employees by these suppliers in Pennsylvania totaled $27.6 million, including $25.5 million in the five-county Philadelphia area.

  • Nationally, employees of these diverse suppliers purchased $159 million in goods and services, including $71.9 million in Pennsylvania, and $58.4 million in the five-county Philadelphia area.

Whatever your corporate mission is, you can better carry out that mission-and promote job creation and stimulate the economy-if your workforce and policies reflect the diverse character of your community.  

Daniel J. Hilferty, MPA, is president and chief executive officer of Independence Health Group, a leading health insurer in southeastern Pennsylvania with nearly 10 million members in 25 states.

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