Deloitte's Kelvin Womack: Connecting D&I and Healthcare

The Affordable Care Act impacts how Deloitte's Federal Health sector acquires, develops and retains talent.

As the healthcare industry is revolutionized under the Affordable Care Act, organizations that are successful will need to evolve to provide the best care for all citizens, says Deloitte's Kelvin Womack.

Womack, who heads the Federal Health sector practice for Deloitte Consulting, has a new role in which he will help find the best, most diverse talent to address those challenges: He's now also Managing Principal of Diversity, charged with helping all of Deloitte's U.S. offices recruit, engage, retain and promote people from underrepresented groups.

"When we talk about diversity, we always talk about the power of differences; I see diversity as providing the power of perspectives—we have talented and smart people and we get better collective innovation," he says.

Healthcare Revolution

The Supreme Court's decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act means a major business shift for hospitals, health-insurance companies, retail pharmacies and pharmaceutical companies.

"The Affordable Care Act is transformational to our nation. Our clients are looking at us to help them navigate. We are looking to harness the power of collective thinking and they need to see that we look like them," Womack says.

His clients are looking for "more today than prepackaged solutions," he notes, citing the need for innovative ideas to drive patient engagement and business. As an example, he mentioned Deloitte's Center for Federal Innovation in Rosslyn, Va., where the company uses a Highly Immersive Visual Environment (HIVE) to analyze clients' data with advanced visualization, interactive modeling and immersive environments to present creative ideas.

Diversity Management Solutions

The priorities of Womack's new diversity-and-inclusion role are aligned with this need facing healthcare clients. "The challenge in healthcare—and other industries—is how we acquire, develop and retain diverse talent," he says.

One of his main focuses will be on synchronizing the efforts of all of Deloitte's U.S. operations. Recruitment of younger people is also another key priority, he says, adding: "We need to compete better for minority and women talent by amplifying the Deloitte brand at colleges and universities. How do we get to these students even earlier in their career? There is a limited population and all the firms like ours are going after the same people."

Talent development is also an essential focus, with increased emphasis on identifying high-potential talent from underrepresented groups and mentoring and sponsoring them. He cites the Emerging Leaders Development Program, which includes formal sponsorship relationships, with prescribed hours and measurable results.

"We want to give them advice and guidance on how to grow their own careers, develop strategic opportunities, build their confidence in their development areas, and help them connect with others in the firm," he says. The program, which started in 2005, has helped more than 700 people, many of whom have become Partners, Principals or Directors. Last year, the company had three times as many nominations for the program as there were slots available.

The challenge for diversity-and-inclusion programs today is figuring out how to help leaders become representative of all their employees, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, etc., Womack similarly explained at DiversityInc's Innovation Fest! "It's not about what I think I represent but what our people think I represent," he said.

Paying It Forward

Womack understands the value of mentors more than most people. His parents were poor and received welfare when they weren't working on the assembly lines at Ford Motor Company. Raised in Florida, Ohio and Michigan, Womack was a good student whose life was changed by a high school guidance counselor who suggested he apply to the U.S. Naval Academy. He got in "and my life was changed forever."

After serving in the U.S. Marine Corps, where he rose to the rank of Captain, Womack went to work in corporate America, landing at Deloitte.

"I am living the American dream and it's because of people who have helped me. When just one person shows intimate care, it makes all the difference in the world," he says.

He feels strongly about giving back—both to Deloitte employees from underrepresented groups and to the community, working with the Wounded Warrior Project and with The Children's Inn at NIH (the National Institutes of Health), a home away from home for children needing lifesaving care.

"When it comes to our people, I want to make sure that not only am I paying it forward, but that our people understand what that means," he says.

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