Joseph Searles

Joseph Searles
Corporate Director, D&I

Excellus BlueCross BlueShield
Headquarters: Rochester, New York
Business: Health Insurance
CEO: Christopher C. Booth, Esq.


“Diversity and inclusion are important priorities because we want our employees to be their whole selves at work, so that they perform at their best levels and succeed in their careers.

“Diversity and inclusion are important also for our business to remain relevant by fostering innovation and creativity to better meet business goals. D&I helps us to attract and retain the best talent, have the best ideas, and better relate to our customers.”

Inspiring Change

“We encourage all employees to get to know others ‘beyond the visible’—to look beyond the obvious. We encourage every employee to facilitate conversations that support safety and authenticity, and that are respectful and inquisitive. Employees who feel a safe to be their authentic selves are more likely to maximize their contributions to business goals.

“Since our core D&I educational program, Look Beyond the Obvious, was introduced in 2015, all company leaders have attended workshops. The half-day instructor-led class teaches employees what it means to be authentic at work; provides clarity around diversity, bias, and reducing impact; provides clarity around inclusion and ways to model it; and helps employees see the dangers of group think.”

An Evolving Role

“In years past, the diversity director’s role was about building a business case for launching diversity and inclusion efforts. Now there is no shortage of data and research illuminating inequities among cultures. Organizations have also recognized that diversity and inclusion breeds innovation, greater employee engagement, and an enhanced reputation, which all contribute to achieving better business results.

“Going forward, we will take a deeper dive into developing diversity education that reveals more about unconscious bias and how to avoid personal bias in decision-making.”

Record of Success

“In 2017, we engaged the CEO and executive leadership more fully; conducted monthly one-on-one meetings with executive leaders; established the Corporate Inclusion Steering Committee; introduced a diversity scorecard that reports progress and illuminates opportunity; and set a quarterly schedule for senior leadership updates. We also trained company leaders to recognize and avoid hiring bias; increased the number of interns hired from underrepresented groups; and leveraged ERGs to increase cultural competence.”

Our Next Move

“In 2018, Excellus BCBS will expand recruitment outreach to attract the best, brightest, and most diverse applicant pools and increase diversity at all levels of the organization. We will also mentor, coach, endorse, and advocate for employees. And finally, we will implement new diversity education workshop modules.”