The Benefit of Being an Employee-Focused Company

by Alison Weiss, May 2011

Human resources managers like to claim that they put their employees first, but it’s rare to find a company that has the pedigree to prove it. Premera Blue Cross has that pedigree—it has consistently achieved recognition as a company that truly values its employees. 

In 2007, Premera Blue Cross was awarded Highest Member Satisfaction with Commercial Health Plans in the Western United States by J.D. Power and Associates. Premera has been recognized as a Start! Fit-Friendly Company by the American Heart Association for promoting a culture of health in the workplace that includes physical activity and good nutrition. The Seattle Times/Post-Intelligencer “People’s Picks” competition named Premera Blue Cross as the Favorite Snohomish County Company in 2010.

Barbara Magusin, senior vice president of human resources at Premera, spoke with Profit about how by focusing on its employees and acting on deep core values, the company continues to succeed in a changing marketplace.

Profit: What are some of your core values at Premera?

Magusin: I think the main one we’re driven by is integrity, and every company will say that’s a high priority, but we really believe it, we walk it. When we have our performance evaluations every year, we’re evaluated on the degree to which we show integrity in everything we do, the degree [to which] we make a difference in our community. I’m very proud of the organizational culture that we have. We’ve worked hard at it.

Profit: How do you think Premera’s core values are reflected in your HR policies?

Magusin: Another one of our core values is accountability. When you make data broadly available in the organization, it allows managers to be more accountable to the work they do. And I think when you push data out to all managers in an organization, you’re assuming a level of trust, confidentiality, and integrity. You’re showing that the integrity of the management is valid and that we trust it. At Premera, we work to be very open and transparent and yet still appropriately complying with privacy laws.

Profit: How does Premera demonstrate that it is focused on its employees as its core asset?

Magusin: I think that our health and wellness initiative is a clear illustration. We provide a lot of easy access to services to our associates, and we also provide health information by having biometric events and fairs. Yes, we’re a health insurance company, so this makes a certain kind of sense, but I think the larger issue is that we really care about the health and well-being of our associates and that, in turn, translates into caring about the health and well-being of our members and customers.

Profit: What kinds of events do you have to recognize your employees and their contributions to the company?

Magusin: We have an employee appreciation event every year where we really try to acknowledge the contribution of every associate in the company. We have a number of recognition programs that recognize people who contribute to their communities and who exemplify Premera’s values—both individual contributors as well as management.

Profit: Effective communication is at the core of good employee relations. How does Premera keep connected as a workforce?

Magusin: We’re not a huge company. We’re 3,000 people located primarily on one campus outside of Seattle. And I think we have the rare opportunity these days to actually walk across the street and talk to people in person. But we also have an employee portal and several blogs. Premera has a whole intranet system called iConnect that publicizes all sorts of things—even weather reports. 

For More Information

Oracle’s PeopleSoft Enterprise Human Capital Management
Oracle Solutions for the Healthcare Industry
Managing a Healthy Workforce  

Alison Weiss is a frequent contributor to Profit