Photo contributed by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee / Dr. J.D. Hickey, CEO of BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, says its mission is to make a difference for its customers.

Culture is the key in companies with sustained success, says BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee's chief executive.

"Our mission to serve, our focus on our members, and our foundation of ethics and shared values make us who we are," says Dr. J.D. Hickey, CEO of the Chattanooga-based health insurer. "We're committed to making a difference for our customers, our members and our communities. Our people see that being lived out by one another every day, and it just builds on itself."

Hickey says that BlueCross has a 75-year history of serving Tennesseans, and it has had to evolve over that time.

"Over the past 10 years especially, we've made constant change our new normal. We had to build on the foundation of our mission and our shared values and put a big focus on communications – and central to that was increasing the level of conversation between our senior leaders and our employees," he says. "Employees need to hear from our leadership team about where we're going as a company and how we're going to keep delivering on our mission."

Hickey says that employee engagement is easy to talk about but hard to achieve, and that it boils down to helping people understand how they contribute to something bigger than themselves – and knowing that their voices matter.

"That includes making sure that every person who works at BlueCross is valued and respected for who they are," he says. "Employees often cite our company's diversity and inclusion as its greatest strength. Our people understand how having a workforce that reflects our members helps us serve them better."

Hickey says that the company's senior leaders are committed to demonstrating transparency and to listening because they care about building trust with employees. And that trust has led to agility and success.

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Staff file photo by Tim Barber/ The BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee complex is a modern campus atop Cameron Hill in downtown Chattanooga.

One recent example of that agility he cites is the rapid shift to a work-from-home approach in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We already had a foundation there, with around 80% of people capable of teleworking, including the 30% who do so full-time," Hickey says. "But we had to work quickly to get the rest of our teams transitioned while still maintaining our high level of service, and I'm proud of how we made it happen.

"Thanks to our focus on culture and communication, our people know their work matters, and they care about doing it well every day, no matter where they're sitting."

The company's BlueCare division has been supporting TennCare from the very beginning, or more than 25 years. Today, it's one of three managed-care organizations serving the most vulnerable Tennesseans and it continues to innovate through programs like Employment and Community First CHOICES, Hickey says.

BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee

* Founded: 1945

* Employees: 6,680 companywide; 5,598 in Chattanooga

* Why this is a Best Place to Work: Tennessee is our home, and our first priority is our commitment to a healthier life for the individuals, families and communities we serve. We live our mission in the ways we serve our members each day and by giving back through our foundation, community trust and employee volunteer program.

* Online:


"We're communicating with BlueCare members by text message, and 68% of those members have signed up to stay in touch with us that way," he says.

Also, the CEO says, BlueCross is focused on supporting primary care because the company knows how important it is.

"We have partners all over the state who are shifting to more of a value-based model that helps prevent chronic disease and maintain health, not just treat issues as they arise," he says. "And we have a new joint venture with Sanitas where we'll work together to open eight primary care medical centers in Middle Tennessee and Memphis. It's another way we can deliver affordable access to convenient, quality care."

In addition, Hickey says, the company is excited about the ways its foundation is working to improve the well-being of its communities through the BlueCross Healthy Places program.

"We'll continue focusing on our employees because they're the ones who bring our mission to life through innovation, exceptional service and value to our members," he says.



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