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How listening to employees helped Anthem survive and thrive in 2020

When the core of your business is helping others, employees have to be a priority. 

In cases of emergency, flight attendants routinely instruct passengers to put their own oxygen masks on before attempting to help others. When it comes to providing great health care, one of the nation’s largest health benefits companies takes the same approach, focusing on employee well-being first.

Anthem Inc., the Indianapolis-based health benefits company serving more than 107 million people nationwide, maintains an “always-on listening strategy” in order to best serve its associates. That approach includes frequent pulse surveys, enterprise-wide cultural dialogue, “Leading and Listening” sessions deployed through its diverse associate resource groups (ARGs), and a digital sentiment-monitoring application called Anthem Vitals (patent pending). “These conversations were a lifeline throughout 2020,” says CEO and president Gail Boudreaux. “They allowed us to truly understand how the pandemic and social unrest were affecting our associates, and quickly adapt to provide support where they needed it most.”

Anthem employees stepped up during the COVID-19 pandemic, volunteering more than 100,000 hours to support their communities. As pandemic stresses mounted, Anthem promoted a companywide #MeMinutes campaign, encouraging its staff to carve out time every day for self-care. Says Boudreaux: “To be at our best for those we serve, we need our associates to put their own physical and mental health first.”

The company swiftly addressed practical considerations as well, offering additional paid holidays and 80 hours of paid time off that associates could use for themselves or to help care for family members or supervise children’s at-home learning. It also established a 24/7 care concierge service to help employees find childcare, caregiver resources, or emotional support. New digital tools were deployed to provide assistance with essential needs such as grocery and pharmacy deliveries and transportation, and an innovative new employee health benefit was introduced to address drivers of health while providing lower premiums and out-of-pocket costs.

As business needs changed throughout the year, the company responded by launching its Anthem Marketplace to drive career-development options with project-based opportunities. During the initial onset of the pandemic, Boudreaux says, “We redeployed more than 2,500 associates for member outreach and high priority business needs.”

Fundamental commitments guide Anthem’s approach to nurturing associate satisfaction. Learning and career development are key, with Anthem deploying an intentional strategy that includes enterprise programs, customized development planning, virtual learning opportunities, and tuition reimbursement.

Diversity is a prized value, and Anthem wants its workforce to reflect the members and the communities it serves. And creating an inclusive environment empowers associates, by fostering not only a feeling of belonging but also “a deep sense of accountability and ownership,” says Boudreaux. Employees are encouraged to share their various perspectives through storytelling, which helps them recognize the contributions they’re making and derive real meaning from their work. Boudreaux is proud that more than 11,500 of its associates participate in nine ARGs, which help employees grow their careers while also helping Anthem grow its diversity at all levels of leadership.

“Anthem is committed to investing in our associates and addressing their needs,” says Boudreaux. “They’re at the core of what makes us a great place to work.”