Maria Hughes Brings New Perspective to Humana's New I&D Role

Hughes, Humana's Enterprise VP & Chief Inclusion & Diversity Officer, discusses how her varied background informs her approach.

Health insurance giant Humana (a DiversityInc Noteworthy Company) recently elevated the role of diversity and inclusion in the company with the creation of a new C-level position to oversee the function and direct its initiatives, naming longtime executive Maria Hughes to fill the role of chief inclusion & diversity officer — deliberately reversing the traditional D&I title to reflect its renewed focus.


Hughes, who spent 15 years at Ford Motor Credit Co. before joining Humana 11 years ago, has spent her career in operational and enterprise leadership roles. This background — not typical of D&I practitioners, who usually come from a human resources discipline — enables Hughes to bring a different perspective to the role.

DiversityInc spoke with Hughes, who discussed how her varied background informs her approach. She also shared Humana's commitment to inclusion and recognition of its value for business objectives, culture and creating healthier communities.

Q: You don't come to this role with the typical HR background. How has coming at diversity and inclusion with a different perspective helped you so far in this role, and how do you think it will help you as you progress through the role?

A: My broad leadership experience has been valuable. It has enabled me to quickly connect inclusion and diversity to business priorities, align leaders and key partners involved in executing the I&D strategy and recognize the complexity of integrating inclusion and diversity into the fabric of the organization.

In order for inclusion and diversity to be successful in our organization, it has to be connected to our values, sustainable and drive business outcomes.

My previous role involved leading a large service operations organization, as well as implementing new processes and technologies to improve the consumer experience. Evolving our employee experience, redesigning processes to eliminate bias and identifying ways to better leverage technology and data analytics is critical to advancing inclusion and diversity.

Q: So Humana's decision to create your role with the title of "inclusion and diversity" rather than the traditional "diversity and inclusion" was deliberate for those reasons?

A: Absolutely. Diversity is important, but it's also a more narrow view by focusing on representation and differences like ethnicity, gender, age, disability, sexual orientation and religion. We view inclusion as being much broader. It includes having a culture where all employees can thrive and are encouraged to reach their highest potential.

While it's important to have a workforce that represents the communities we serve, we also strive to have a culture that leverages differences to drive innovation, quality, and productivity. Having leaders throughout the organization take personal accountability for inclusion is part of our culture evolution.

Q: As the first person in this role, were you involved in the creation of the position before you came on in terms of how it would operate and what it would encompass?

A: Yes, I was involved in defining the scope and accountabilities of this position. I've also spent time talking to senior leaders throughout company and visiting employees in local market offices. Although this role is aligned to Human Resources, I work with the CEO and the Executive Inclusion and Diversity Council to develop our I&D strategy, set company-wide goals and prioritize initiatives.

Q: How did Humana come to the decision or to the conclusion that now was the time to create this role and to prioritize it as a C-level position?

A: Creating this role was a thoughtful component of our broader culture transformation effort, which includes preparing for the future workforce.

Q: How are you going to be measuring results? Do you have specific initial goals that you're pursuing?

A: We measure results and have specific goals connected to leadership-level representation. Annually, we survey all employees to measure the inclusiveness of our culture and create a score called the "inclusion index." We also set specific "inclusion index" goals. We will continue to refine how we measure effectiveness and report results at the company and business-unit level.

Q: Prior to creating the C-level role, what was Humana doing to implement and promote diversity management initiatives, and how do you intend to build on that?

A: We've built a solid foundation. Currently, there are eight network resource groups, including "Access," the Disability NRG that was launched last month. My goal is to mature our capabilities and evolve the I&D practice. We've recently launched a new Executive I&D council and held I&D Town Halls to better collaborate with key partners in the business. Our I&D strategy has four main components — our workforce, building a culture of inclusion, creating healthier communities and leveraging external partnerships.

Q: What is the process to actually go about expanding the resource groups and communicating their existence and benefits companywide?

A: There are several steps that include looking at best practices, business needs and conducting employee focus groups to determine interests and challenges. We involve employees upfront in the design, work with the Executive I&D council to identify executive sponsors and think about succession management to identify employees for leadership roles. We leverage the network resource group leadership positions to develop and recognize top talent. We hold an annual NRG Summit and leverage internal communications to highlight accomplishments and value.

Q: How do you communicate to team members or educate people who may not be fully aware of the business benefits of diversity, and who may think of inclusion and diversity simply as trying to fill quotas and implementing affirmative action?

A: We communicate to employees throughout the organization and leverage multiple communication channels, including social media. We highlight successes, leading practices and areas of opportunity, and we help employees understand the important role they play in I&D.

Members of our Executive I&D Council also play a vital role in communicating the goals and benefits of I&D to the enterprise. We also publish a comprehensive Annual I&D report.

Q: You mentioned the importance of senior leadership involvement to effectively communicate and roll out I&D initiatives. How involved and receptive has your CEO been?

A: Our CEO, Bruce Broussard, chairs the Executive Inclusion and Diversity Council, which also includes members of his leadership team. He is very involved and has challenged the council to accelerate our inclusion & diversity efforts. Inclusion and diversity is a CEO-level priority at Humana, and our goal is for all leaders to take personal accountability for the success of inclusion and diversity. This includes encouraging open and candid dialog during difficult times.

Q: You shared how your personal experiences in the workforce have helped inform how you approach your role today and your ability to transform culture. Can you elaborate on that?

A: At Humana, I was the founding president of the African American network resource group, the company's first network resource group. I learned that being involved in a network resource group builds leadership skills, provides developmental opportunities and offers exposure to senior leaders. In my previous role, I was a member of the Executive I&D Council's workplace committee.

I've also participated in several mentoring and sponsorship programs that were very impactful from a career and personal perspective. I learned that it's valuable to have a mentor who doesn't look like you. Mentoring is a good opportunity for both parties to learn and grow. Being involved in network resource groups, mentoring and sponsorships helped shape me as a leader, and I'm excited about the I&D leadership role. The work we do has a direct impact on the 50,000 employees and 12 million members that we serve.

Q: How do you define success, and where do you see your efforts today five years from now because I was involved in things like mentoring and sponsorship and network resource groups, I very intimately learned and appreciated the value of those?

A: To me, real success is when inclusion and diversity is part of what we do every day and is seen as a business imperative. Differences are celebrated and used to drive innovation, create personalized experiences for our members, and retain and advance top talent.

Humana and Walgreens to Offer Senior-focused Services in Kansas City Area via Primary Care Clinics and In-store Health Navigation Support

In-store Clinics and Health Navigation to Provide Expanded Clinical Services and Support to Seniors Participating in Medicare Advantage Plans from Multiple CarriersOriginally Published by Humana.

Originally Published by Humana.

Leading health and well-being company Humana Inc. and Walgreens, a provider of trusted pharmacy services and care in communities since 1901, are teaming up to provide easier access to primary care and other services for seniors, as part of the companies' ongoing and shared commitment to the health and well-being of the Kansas City community.

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Humana’s Chief Consumer Officer Talks Career and Leadership

NRGs provide personal, experience-based forums for exchanging ideas and building community. The largest NRG at Humana is the Women's NRG with more than 7,000 participants.

Originally Published by Humana.

When Jody Bilney, Humana's first chief consumer officer, spoke on a Louisville Business First panelwith three other local, female executives, she acknowledged that there is "not a single or standard route" to the leadership positions her and her peers hold.

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Humana: CarePlus Health Plans, Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Join Forces to Focus on Florida Veterans

CarePlus has served the Medicare population in Florida for more than 17 years. Headquartered in Miami, the company serves about 115,000 Medicare Advantage members across the state.

Originally Published by Humana.

CarePlus Health Plans, a large Medicare Advantage provider in Florida, is now part of the exclusive agreement between its parent company, Humana Inc., and the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. (VFW), the nation's largest organization of combat veterans and the oldest major veterans' organization in the U.S¹.

In February 2018, Humana announced it had enhanced its agreement with the VFW as the national Medicare Advantage, Prescription Drug and Medicare Supplement plans carrier for the organization.

"CarePlus has always made supporting our nation's veterans a top priority," said Bruno Piquin, Regional President of CarePlus Health Plans. "We're thrilled to expand our commitment, with a special focus on helping the 120,000 VFW members and their spouses in Florida achieve their best health."

CarePlus has served the Medicare population in Florida for more than 17 years. Headquartered in Miami, the company serves about 115,000 Medicare Advantage members across the state.

"For nearly 119 years, the VFW has made veterans' care one of its top priorities," said VFW National Commander Keith Harman. "We're happy to expand our current relationship with Humana to ensure even more of America's veterans receive the care and services they need."

CarePlus will offer numerous services to VFW members to provide education and access to healthcare coverage information.

These will include:

  • Hosting Medicare seminars annually during Medicare's Fall Annual Election Period (Oct. 15 through Dec. 7).
  • Conducting educational seminars throughout the year to inform VFW members of their Medicare options.
  • Providing VFW members with access to CarePlus Medicare Advantage information and enrollment capabilities which incorporate web-based tools, call centers, educational seminars, and self-enrollment.

Humana Partners with Feeding America to Address Food Insecurity Among Veterans Across the Country

Initiatives will help secure food donations and raise awareness that 20 percent of the Feeding America households has at least one member who served in the U.S. military

Originally published by Humana Inc.

Humana Inc. is partnering with the non-profit Feeding America® to help end hunger, a problem that impacts one in eight Americans. By working collaboratively, the two organizations will focus on helping veterans, as research shows one in five of the households Feeding America serves has at least one member who has served in the U.S. military.

"Humana is committed to improving the health of communities across the country as part of our Bold Goal initiative, and a key component of that is addressing food insecurity as poor nutrition can lead to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, depression and fatigue in adults and can hinder a child's development," said Ed Sandrick, director of the Veterans Channel, Humana. "No one should suffer from food insecurity, especially the service men and women who risked their lives to protect our country. We are thrilled to work with Feeding America as it amplifies our ability to honor those who served and help individuals who do not have access to enough nutritionally- adequate foods to live an active, healthy life."

Leveraging Feeding America's network of more than 200 food banks and 60,000 food pantries and meal programs, Humana will stage a series of events throughout the year that will drive food donations and elevate the issue of food insecurity, including:

  • Rolling Thunder XXXI: As the official corporate sponsor of the annual Rolling Thunder Run – which is the largest gathering of military retirees, veterans, active duty military and Vietnam Veterans – Humana will use its presence in Washington D.C. over Memorial Day Weekend to collect food and financial donations. For every $1 donated, Feeding America will be able to provide 10 meals* to people facing hunger.
  • VFW National Convention : Humana, through its ongoing partnership with the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. and local Feeding America food banks in Kansas City (Harvesters: The Community Food Network and After the Harvest), will launch a collaborative campaign to fight food insecurity in the Greater Kansas City area. The goal of the campaign, which will culminate during the 119th VFW National Convention in Kansas City from July 21-25, 2018, is to provide 50,000 meals to local individuals in need, with a special focus on veterans, via community-wide initiatives.
  • Rock 'n Roll Marathons : Humana is conducting food and fund drives at company sponsored Rock 'n Roll Marathon Series events across the country, with upcoming runs in Chicago, Virginia Beach, Va., Savannah, Ga., and San Antonio, Texas. The proceeds raised in each market will be donated to food banks in each respective market.

In addition to these initiatives, Humana is partnering with Feeding America-affiliated food banks in each of the Bold Goal communities (Baton Rouge, Broward County, Jacksonville, Kansas City, Knoxville, Louisville, New Orleans, San Antonio and Tampa Bay) on efforts to improve the health and accessibility to food at the local level.

"At Feeding America, we know that one in five households that come to us for help has a member who has served our country," said Andy Wilson, Chief Development Officer, Feeding America. "We are grateful for our partners at Humana and look forward to working together to help ensure our military families not face the challenge of putting food on the table."

Humana and Feeding America are also working with physicians to help identify potential barriers and provide assistance to patients who are food insecure. Together, they developed an online toolkit to guide physicians in implementing food insecurity screenings and connect patients to available resources and interventions.