By Saurabh Tripathi, CFO, Surgery, GE Healthcare and Raj Thakkar, General Manager, Sourcing, GE Energy Management
GE HAS ALWAYS considered cultivating diversity in the workplace as a competitive advantage. Diversity is about the power of the mix—the strength that results from a team with varied experiences, backgrounds, and styles. As a global company, talent must reflect the communities served and with whom we do business. In order to have healthy and productive employees, it is important to focus on the physical and emotional well-being of employees.
Medical and scientific research has proven that many of the physical and emotional health issues of minorities are different from the broader population because of their ethnicity, gender, race, country of origin, or other geographical and social reasons. It is no secret that early upbringing; social and cultural environment; and racial, gender, and ethnic make-up have a huge impact on physical as well as emotional persona. Therefore, GE has decided to focus efforts on addressing some of the health issues pertinent to the minority population through its Affinity Networks and Employee Groups: APAF (Asian Pacific American Forum), AAF (African American Forum), HF (Hispanic Forum), WN (Women’s Network), VN (Veterans Network), and GLBTA Alliance (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Allies Alliance).
In most of these diversity forums, we invite leading medical luminaries in specified health issues that are more prevalent to the specific diversity group, for example, hypertension and diabetes for the Asian Pacific population, prostate cancers for African Americans, and heart health for the GE Women’s Network. Employees are encouraged to participate in these forums. Periodic webinars/workshops are also held, where these experts address a wider range of audience and answer their questions. In addition to these workshops, GE Affinity Networks and Employee Groups hold periodic camps for blood screening, hypertension/diabetes check-ups, pain management clinics, bone marrow donation, and more at different company sites. We collect periodic employee feedback to determine which areas of health issues are most important and relevant for minority groups before laying out the initiatives to tackle those issues.
GE launched a global program of health and well-being in October 2009 called HealthAhead. The Affinity Networks and Employee Groups initiate and encourage employee participation in various HealthAhead events, such as weight loss challenges, million steps competition, and yoga sessions.
GE’s Affinity Networks and Employee Groups have grown significantly over the past several years and we have realized that it is important to address social, emotional, and health issues of our workforce to bring the best out in employees. As Chairman Jeff Immelt puts it, “Employees are our most valuable assets,” and the HealthAhead initiatives strive to keep this most valuable asset in the best shape possible.