Q&A: Pete Gioacchini, CIGNA - Part Two: Hiring Outlook & Advice
Question: What are the biggest challenges in your job?
"Our group—talent acquisition—is obviously directly tied to the business. That's the great thing about the human resources organization overall at CIGNA is that we don't do any work that's HR for HR's sake. Everything that we do is directly tied back to one of our business imperatives, and to the overall strategy and deliverables of the organization. So, from that standpoint I think our biggest challenge is going to be continuing to adapt as the business adapts moving forward, but that's something I think for any HR organization is always part of the challenge. "
"Right now, one of the things we're focused on is developing pipelines for talent ahead of need…driving relationships with candidate pools even ahead of having open positions, and maintaining those relationships over time to make sure that when those positions do come, that we have candidates that are ready to go."
"And then, what we're doing now is marrying that work with our internal movement as well, so that we've got a good scope and a good handle on all of our internal talent and where we have the biggest opportunities to improve those talent pools internally. And we're marrying that—like I said—with all the work we're doing externally in the marketplace to pipeline talent and build those relationships with candidates. "
Question: How many hires does your department handle each year?
"Somewhere between 4,500 and 7,000, including internal movement, in terms of the volume that comes through my team on an annual basis. That's all hiring activity, whether it's an internal move or hiring somebody externally."
Question: What effect has the recession had to date in terms of new hires/internal moves at CIGNA?
"We've been cautious in terms of hiring. We also did have and are continuing to work through some job eliminations in certain areas as well. We definitely are still focused on continuing to raise our talent across all parts of the organization in terms of the level of talent, the abilities and competencies of our workforce. So that's something where there's always going to be that continual focus. In terms of total number of jobs (see above), I would say from last year to this year…we're on the lower side of that number in that average this year."
Question: Do you have any predictions for how hiring is likely to proceed over the next 18 months or so?
"I think we're going to continue where we are now…probably given all movement for next year we'll be…at the lower end of that average as well."
"There are certain areas that are going to continue to move forward for us. I'll give you some examples: our clinical space, where we're hiring people who have behavioral experience—nurses, doctors, pharmacists. Our sales organization is going to continue, and is probably going to change in terms of the profiles of who we target but for the most part that's an area we're going to continue to focus in."
"Across the board in all functions, our University relations hiring or college recruiting is going to continue to be very strong. You know, realizing that, like a lot of other companies, the workforce that we have—although very skilled and talented—is also aging, and so we need to work from an age demographic standpoint also to make sure that we're continuing to bring in talent earlier in their careers and developing them along with the existing talent that we have. That's going to be a focus for us across all functions."
Question: Any advice for anyone looking to break into CIGNA/the health insurance industry?
"As the changing environment occurs with the dynamics of how health care is working, we are looking to change with that too. From a talent standpoint we're now looking very much beyond the borders of our traditional industry and traditional competitors, and looking into a lot of other alternative industries where even though it might not be within our own space…there is still great talent that we would obviously be looking to bring on board to continue to adapt and diversify our talent base."
"In terms of advice that I would have for anyone who wants to get into the health care industry that we're a part of: if you're open to it, express that interest. And when you're interviewing—even if you don't have that industry experience per se—focus on the competencies and the skill sets that you bring to the table. For companies who are more progressive about their searches—like we are—that's what we're looking for: somebody who has the ability to apply what they've learned and the experience they have in a new setting where there are still a lot of parallels to the work they have done in the past."
"The other thing would be being open to what I would categorize as 'functions.' So, you might have somebody who has a lot of finance expertise, and is very analytical, and we might have a position that is within process excellence or one of our business operations areas—and somebody with that experience, who might not traditionally have looked at those other areas, if they've got the right skill set, the right competencies, we're looking for that. So, if people are more open to other functions—and I don't mean just apply for everything—if they're very targeted and can show how they would use their current and past experience to drive results in a different type of role, we're definitely open to that as well. I think it opens doors for people to think about their skill set holistically versus having it be pigeon-holed by one function."
Question: Are there any skills or abilities that you consider to be particularly valuable in your industry?
"From a new hire and early career type perspective, I think one of the things I would say that we do look for—and this would be across the board in any position—would be leadership attributes. Leadership skills, communication skills in terms of somebody being able to influence decisions, even without a direct reporting relationship—but somebody that could back up their proposals with facts. Somebody that's done the analysis. That could go for any role, whether it's HR, sales, information technology—it doesn't really matter, we're going to look for that skill set. Obviously there are nuances to each role where we might have to have technical expertise, but generally speaking it's those leadership attributes—the ability to communicate effectively and drive results and drive for more effective decisions—that are going to be universal for any position here.
Question: What trends do you see emerging/ driving hiring decisions in the short to medium term future?
"In terms of the industry, obviously the whole health care debate and the current situation that's occurring across the country: that's going to have a huge impact going into next year and moving forward. It probably goes beyond even the five-year scope. In terms of our business strategy, obviously we're going to have to adapt and change to handle any of the changes, whether it's at the overall policy level…or even just getting ahead of the curve in terms of competitors as well. I think we're going to have to continue to adapt."
"I think how that translates back to hiring, it's going to actually change the types of competencies that we look for; the nature and dynamics of certain populations in our organization are going to have to change and adapt as we continue to focus on our customers…and our ability to help them increase the effectiveness and the outcomes that they receive from the entire process and the health care system. The good thing in terms of how we've been positioned so far is we're very proactive. Our executive leadership team is very engaged with leaders in Washington to drive the best outcomes for everyone, and so I think we're positioned well as a company, and I think that's recognized. We see it with all the candidates that we interact with on a daily basis, so that's going to be directly reflected in our hiring strategy moving forward. It's obviously going to have to work in step with any of the changes to our industry overall. "