Capital BlueCross Capitalizes on Excellence

In 2015, Capital BlueCross honed its employees’ abilities to build business partnerships, and offered enhanced leadership development programs to ensure employees could make the most of those relationships to build the overall business.

Best practice core programs that ensure all employees have a baseline of skills, such as how to establish the longterm business relationships essential to company success, were bolstered by strong leadership development in 2015 at Capital BlueCross. Employees were not only given the tools they need to strengthen the company, they were given tools to build their careers. Strong learning technology investment gave employees and managers the foundation for engaging, immersive training. Not surprisingly, the strength of Capital BlueCross’ investment in its workforce has resulted in employees who are engaged for the long term and helped earn its induction into the Training Top 10 Hall of Fame in 2017 after achieving a Top 10 ranking on the Training Top 125 for four consecutive years.

Building and Strengthening Relationships

“The ability to build business partnerships—internal, as well as external—has become a critical competency in today’s business environment. Customers need and want to work with professionals who understand their business issues and provide proactive customized solutions,” says Senior Vice President of Human Resources & Facilities Steve Krupinski. “Therefore, at Capital BlueCross, it is critical that consultative skills become a core competency for all employees. We realized it was essential that we train our employees to shift from order-takers to business consultants.”

To answer that need, Capital BlueCross chose to target a group of analysts with the responsibility of working with customers to configure the company’s core system to better address customers’ medical policy needs and critical system enhancements. “These encounters are exceptional opportunities for the analysts to dig deep into the customer’s request to identify additional enhancements or implications,” say Senior Director of Talent Management Jodi Lynne Blanch and Vice President of Organizational Development and Talent Management Debra Fine. “The challenge was instilling a consultative mindset as the standard when dealing with customers. Our goal was to teach our employees how to create greater alignment/ understanding with the customer to provide optimal solutions, taking into account all related dependencies and implications. We developed a complex training and reinforcement solution to instill a ‘Consultative Approach’ in all analysts and management teams.”

The business outcomes that served as goals for the program were to help analysts constructively work with customers to retain and grow revenue; conduct root-cause analysis during initial engagements; improve team dynamics and communication; and increase efficiency/effectiveness of implementations/process improvements.

“The success and impact to customer relationships was so significant,” says Blanch, “that the decision was made to roll this program out to the entire company.”

Results of these efforts include:

  • 100 percent of participants now take a consultative approach and are able to drive business results.
  • 100 percent of managers are utilizing the coaching guide during call review and coaching discussions.
  • 98 percent of participants are better equipped to build rapport with clients and apply techniques immediately during client engagements.

Creating Leadership Bridges

Capital BlueCross offers leadership programs for each crosssection of the organization. “We are proud of the best practice core programs we provide for each distinct management/ leadership level within the organization,” says Krupinski. “In addition to the critical skills our leaders gain during these programs, a powerful side benefit has been realized through the peer networks that form.”

Fine says peer networks significantly increase crossfunctional collaboration among employees, addressing a critical corporate-wide goal. “Our training challenge was how to nurture the peer networks that formed during the program long after the formal conclusion,” she says.

The company addressed this training challenge by capitalizing on the peer network benefit achieved through designing cohort learning known as “Leadership Bridges.”

The content for the Leadership Bridges comes from four main sources:

  • Current market trends
  • Business challenges
  • Continuation of key experiences during the core programs
  • Input from learners

“Our Leadership Bridges concept is based upon the experiential learning model (learn the lesson, engage, reflect, transfer knowledge, and apply) and leveraging the intense relationships forged while participating in the core programs,” say Blanch and Fine.

Launched in 2015, the “Leadership Bridges” include:

  • Resilient Leadership: Graduates of core program “Breakthrough Leadership,” senior director level and above
  • Emotional Intelligence: Graduates of core program “Leadership Edge,” director level and above
  • Influence for Results: Graduates of core programs “Management Edge and Management Foundations,” manager and supervisor level
  • Step Up to the Challenge: Graduates of core program “Emerging Leaders,” individual contributor level Krupinski shares that the talent management and leadership development mission at Capital BlueCross is: “We will increase the capability of each leader and the capacity of the leadership bench to achieve the Capital BlueCross strategy.”

The company’s leadership development achievements in 2015, Blanch and Fine note, show they have lived up to that mission. “We have capitalized on the peer networks that have been forged through the combination of the core leadership and management development programs and continuing the cohort’s development known as the ‘Leadership Bridges,’” say Blanch and Fine.

Results of the leadership development initiative include: • In 90-day surveys, 100 percent of all Leadership Bridges graduates reported that the content of these programs could be applied immediately back on the job.

  • In 90-day surveys, 100 percent of Leadership Bridges participants reported increased self-awareness and leadership effectiveness through peer mentoring and networking.
  • In 90-day surveys, 83 percent of Influencing for Results participants were able to successfully achieve the desired outcome of their professional influencing situation utilized during the session.
  • In 90-day surveys, 100 percent of Emotional Intelligence participants indicated significant impact on their ability to create a positive work climate and effectively collaborate with others.
  • In 180-day surveys, Emotional Intelligence participants and their sponsors reported an average increase of 63 percent in their “ability to effectively perceive others’ emotions and manage their reactions to the situation.”
  • In 180-day surveys, 98 percent of Resilient Leadership graduates reported an increase in willingness to collaborate when making business decisions and increased ability to achieve business results based on their trust and relationships.

Interactive Games and Simulations

Capital BlueCross’ training is supported by a strong technology infrastructure. The company utilizes an interactive game/ simulation system called “Axonify” to keep critical operational knowledge top of mind, enhance customer experiences through better accuracy, and improve service.

“This all-in-one solution addresses knowledge retention for dynamically changing training content; on-the-job and on-the-fly learning without a time impact on productivity; and, most importantly, it is an automated approach that is able to identify and eliminate knowledge gaps seamlessly and effectively,” say Blanch and Fine.

Capital BlueCross now is able to identify performance and skill capability gaps during the eight-week training period to help target development needs to ensure employee success.

Axonify results include:

  • 43.9 percent increase in staff who exceeded required test scores, 95 percent or above
  • Decreased length of time needed to train staff by 20 percent
  • Client increased the contracted services
  • Improved overall employee engagement.

A new intuitive call center software system also was installed to improve efficiency, accuracy, and call volume output. Capital BlueCross deployed peer mentoring training to all customer service representatives (CSRs) that included interactive self-study training and real-time coaching to enhance confidence and capabilities. “We leveraged low call volume times to deploy this peer mentoring team,” says Vice President of Operations Shawn Scott. “This training approach minimized downtime and provided just-in-time reinforcement. The core team acted as change agents, reducing the anxiety associated with the changes, and created a knowledge-sharing collaborative culture.”

The results of the new call center software show it achieved its aims: The six-month adoption rate increased 49 percent; after-call work time decreased 130 percent; customer hold time decreased 45 percent; and average call length decreased 15 percent.

Succession Management Playbook

While Capital BlueCross strengthens its programming for current employees, managers, and leaders, it also is keeping an eye toward the future. “At Capital BlueCross, succession management has matured into a highly sophisticated and transparent process providing a greater understanding of the capabilities of key talent across the company,” says Krupinski.

A comprehensive bi-annual guide, the Succession Management Playbook, is presented to the senior team to include:

  • Demographic data
  • Enterprise-wide Succession Management metrics
  • Succession risk and talent pool summaries
  • Nine-Box Talent Matrix (quantitative performance data/potential capabilities)
  • Succession Slates by management level
  • Individual talent profiles and development plans
  • Leadership attributes readiness assessments

The results of the Succession Management Playbook show Capital BlueCross is ready for the future:

  • 100 percent of manager-and-above promotions were based on succession slates.
  • As of August 2015, 64 percent of management open positions were filled internally, saving $279,928 compared with external hiring costs.
  • 99 percent ofhigh potentials were retained, and they reported development plans are aligned with their aspirations and added value.
  • 71 percent of the manager-and-above positions have a “ReadyNow” or “Short-Term” successor ready; talent pool candidates are assigned to strategic project teams.
  • The talent pool has been expanded, and the number of individual contributors identified has been increased by 21 percent.
  • Roles were broadened and 11 leaders were moved laterally to increase readiness for future assignments— including six senior-level leaders—a 63 percent increase over 2014.
  • “Blockers” were addressed: eight employees terminated and four employees moved out of management roles.

Krupinski emphasizes the company’s readiness for the future: “Through our customized succession planning and talent review process, we identify, assess, calibrate, and develop talent and mentor the company’s future leaders to maintain a steady pipeline of ‘ready now’ candidates.”


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