Diversity & Inclusion

Ruchi Jalla on Leadership, Inclusion, and the Future

In today’s corporate environment, the role of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is not just about compliance but about cultivating a workplace culture that reflects the world outside its doors. Ruchi Jalla serves as the VP, Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer at Elevance Health, where her leadership is pivotal in steering the company’s DEI initiatives. Jalla’s work is central to integrating these values deeply into the fabric of Elevance Health, ensuring they resonate across all levels of the organization.

Ruchi Jalla

Early Career and Path to DEI

Jalla’s journey into the world of DEI began through an internship program at RBC Financial Group in Canada designed for newly graduating students. This program was designed to bridge the experience gap for young professionals, offering them real-world experience in return for a modest stipend. “Interestingly enough, my role was to manage this internship program to hire other new graduates in the organization,” Jalla explains.

It was here that she first encountered the intricacies of creating opportunities for those often overlooked by standard recruitment processes.

The internship program soon evolved to focus more deliberately on inclusivity, particularly hiring individuals with disabilities and those new to Canada. Jalla’s role involved tackling the challenges these groups faced in securing full-time employment, such as career breaks due to newly acquired disabilities or the lack of local experience.

“In the process of filling these internship opportunities, I learned that there were several barriers to employment that our teams could be better equipped to handle,” she says. Her experience revealed the need for a more inclusive approach in recruitment and selection processes, prompting her to implement lessons learned from her internship program across the organization.

At the end of her internship, Jalla was offered a full-time role to further develop and execute diversity recruitment initiatives. This position was a natural progression into her future in DEI, allowing her to build on her early experiences and apply them on a larger scale.

Role and Impact at Elevance Health

When Jalla joined Elevance Health in 2021, she was positioned to lead a pivotal role within the organization. As the VP, Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer and member of the Executive leadership Team, Jalla is tasked with steering Elevance Health’s DEI Strategic Framework. Jall and her team work closely with DEI Councils and collaborates with senior leadership to develop enterprise initiatives that advance DEI both internally and externally.

“Elevance Health had been on the DEI journey long before I arrived, so I was able to build on a strong foundation,” Jalla notes. This existing momentum allowed her to integrate more seamlessly into her role, elevating the company’s efforts to create a workplace that truly reflects the diversity of its members and the communities it serves. Her work involves not just advocating for change but embedding a sense of belonging deeply into the organizational culture and business strategy, ensuring that these values are not only spoken about but actively practiced.

DEI Initiatives and Programs at Elevance Health

Jalla has been instrumental in implementing a range of DEI initiatives that distinguish Elevance Health in its commitment to an inclusive workplace. Under her leadership, the company has transformed and championed nine Business Resource Groups (BRGs), each serving as a platform for associates to expand their professional networks, develop leadership skills, and contribute positively to the company’s culture of inclusion. A hallmark of BRGs is that they actively include people who do not share the demographic identity of the group, allowing for diversity of perspectives to thrive. These groups include:

  • ACE (Asians Committed to Excellence)
  • ADI (Advancing Disability Inclusion)
  • APEX (African American Professional Exchange)
  • MERGE (Multi-Generational)
  • PRIDE (Promoting Respect, Individuality, Diversity, and Equality)
  • SOMOS (Hispanics for an Inclusive Workspace)
  • VETS (Elevance Health Veterans Support Network)
  • WAVE (Working as Virtual Employees)
  • WIN (Women’s Inspired Network)

Beyond facilitating network and leadership development, these BRGs also play a crucial role in enhancing Elevance Health’s impact on community engagement and volunteerism. “We are proud that our leaders and decision makers represent the people in our communities and contribute to our success,” Jalla asserts, highlighting the company’s leadership diversity, including its diverse Board of Directors.

Furthermore, Jalla has emphasized the importance of mental and psychological well-being, especially in response to current global stresses. Initiatives like “Leading and Listening” sessions and webinars on compassion, empathy, and grief have been pivotal in supporting associates’ resilience and well-being during times of uncertainty. “Our goal is to ensure that no one feels alone,” she adds. “Creating that sense of belonging is not only the right thing to do from a human perspective, countless surveys and data show that it leads to greater engagement from associates that drive improved business performance.”

Challenges and Achievements

Advancing DEI in a large organization like Elevance Health is not without its challenges. Jalla has navigated complex issues such as ensuring that DEI efforts are genuinely impactful and not just symbolic. “Each organization’s DEI journey is unique,” Jalla points out, underscoring that while Elevance Health’s approach may differ from others, it is deeply committed to real and measurable outcomes.

Elevance Health has achieved significant milestones, including recognition as one of the first companies certified by the Fair Pay Workplace, affirming its commitment to pay equity. This certification was a result of Elevance Health’s dedication to pay equity and commitment to an annual action plan aimed at maintaining this standard. Her work ensures that gender and racial pay gaps are continually addressed, setting a benchmark for transparency and fairness in compensation within the industry.

Future Vision and Personal Philosophy

Looking ahead, Jalla remains committed to pushing the boundaries of what is possible in DEI. Her future vision includes deepening the integration of DEI into every facet of Elevance Health’s operations and expanding the scope of initiatives to reach even more aspects of the workforce. “To improve the health of humanity, we strive to reflect humanity,” she states, highlighting the intrinsic link between diverse perspectives and innovative healthcare solutions.

Jalla’s personal philosophy revolves around the power of listening and learning. She believes that an inclusive culture is built through continuous education and the willingness to engage in difficult conversations. Her approach is to foster an environment where empathy and understanding drive policy and practice, thereby enhancing the overall health equity and outcomes across all of Elevance Health.

Ruchi Jalla’s tenure as VP, Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer at Elevance Health has been marked by thoughtful leadership and a steadfast commitment to meaningful change. Through her efforts, the company not only adheres to DEI principles but embodies them, creating a model for other corporations to follow. As Elevance Health continues to navigate the ever-evolving landscape of healthcare and corporate responsibility, Jalla’s work ensures that DEI continues to elevate and advance Elevance Health’s purpose to improve the health of humanity—one inclusive step at a time.

Lin Grensing-Pophal is a Contributing Editor at HR Daily Advisor.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *