From left to right: BRAC's Diversity and Inclusion Committee Chair Cheri Ausberry poses with Lighthouse Louisiana representatives; Cheri Ausberry poses with Blue Cross and Blue Shield representative
From left to right: BRAC's Diversity and Inclusion Committee Chair Cheri Ausberry poses with Lighthouse Louisiana representatives; Cheri Ausberry poses with Blue Cross and Blue Shield representative

BRAC created the Diversity Star Award with a goal of highlighting exceptional business practices taking place in the Capital Region that leverage the value of diversity in organizations. The award seeks to honor and recognize regional businesses that have championed diversity and inclusion at their businesses or in the community. The winners, Lighthouse Louisiana and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana, provided some insight on how to better embrace diversity in the business world: 

Q: EXPLAIN THE IMPORTANCE OF DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION IN YOUR ORGANIZAITON AND THE COMMUNITY. 

Stephanie Benedetti, Lighthouse Louisiana: Diversity and inclusion are built into the very framework of our organization. The Lighthouse is very intentional about creating a diverse workforce. We are very explicit with our goals by sharing our progress and benchmarks in a variety of different ways including town hall meetings and an internal newsletter. 

Rod Teamer, Blue Cross Blue Shield of LouisianaDiversity and inclusion continue to be an important part of our culture at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana. You can find references to D&I throughout our corporate strategy, communication and competencies for all employees. We believe that D&I is critical to the long-term success of our company. 

Q: HOW DO YOU RETAIN A DIVERSE WORKFORCE? 

 Stephanie Benedetti, Lighthouse Louisiana: 

  1. Conduct annual surveys and provide multiple opportunities through feedback in different venues. Actively seek input from all employees regarding implementation of policies and our strategic plan.  
  2. Openly communicate progress against annually established diversity goals.  
  3. Provide a minimum of eight hours of paid training to all employees annually that allow for personal and professional growth.  
  4. We ensure individuals with disabilities are represented within decision making bodies, including the Board of Directors. 
  5. Provide accommodations. We provide reasonable accommodations in every aspect of our business to ensure that all have equitable access.  

Q: HOW DO YOU HOLD YOURSELF ACCOUNTABLE IN CONSISTENTLY HIRING A DIVERSE WORKFORCE? 

Rod Teamer, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana: Our Talent Acquisition team has goals in place to ensure that we have as diverse a pool of candidates as possible available for interviews with our hiring managers. We place special emphasis on ensuring that the final slate of candidates for management level jobs is diverse. We believe that a more diverse pool of candidates will naturally yield more diverse employees being hired.    

Q: WHAT ARE SOME OF THE STRUGGLES YOU ENCOUNTERED WHEN ORIGINALLY IMPLEMENTING YOUR INCLUSION PRACTICES? HOW DO YOU OVERCOME THEM? 

Stephanie Benedetti, Lighthouse Louisiana: Even with an organization like ours where inclusion is so clearly ingrained in our business model, we still have hit roadblocks. We find that the biggest struggle has been continuous communication, both externally and internally. We are constantly coming up with new ideas to promote inclusion internally and to communicate with the community that we are a resource for them. 

Rod Teamer, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana: Like many companies, we are constantly under pressure to meet the growing challenges of a changing marketplace. If not done well, diversity and inclusion strategies and practices may appear too burdensome, but we have been careful to make sure that our employees know that this culture shift will better equip our company to meet the challenges of our industry. Leadership’s commitment to this initiative is routinely demonstrated to our employees.   

Q: WHAT TIPS WOULD YOU GIVE LOCAL BUSINESSES TRYING TO INTEGRATE STRONGER DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION PRACTICES INTO THEIR ORGANIZATION? 

Rod Teamer, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana: Develop a business case that clearly communicates why diversity and inclusion are important to the long-term success of your business. The leaders of the organization must be held to the same standards as all other employees. For example, if training is mandatory for all employees, leaders must also participate. Finally, commit to a long-term strategy. Diversity and inclusion done correctly takes a few years to yield results. 

Written by Allison Smith

As the marketing intern at BRAC, Allison assists the marketing team in developing marketing material while also managing social media accounts and writing content for BRAC’s blog.