How COVID-19 forced Humana's Broussard to rethink his leadership style

Humana CEO Bruce Broussard spoke at HLTH 2020 on Monday. (HLTH)

Humana CEO Bruce Broussard said the COVID-19 pandemic forced him to reevaluate his leadership style as employees transitioned to working from home.

He said he discovered quickly that the office was a "crutch" for him in his leadership efforts, as it felt like he was making progress toward establishing a strong company culture merely by being there.

"It's given me this sort of false sense of appreciation that I’m building a culture because I’m in the office," Broussard said.

Broussard was speaking Monday as a keynote speaker at HLTH 2020, which continues through the rest of this week.

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He said that a virtual work environment has forced him to be much more "intentional" in his leadership approach, which meant adopting new strategies to reach workers and being more thoughtful about how he approaches communicating with Humana's employees.

For example, he's put in effort to connect with individuals within the company's 50,000-strong employee base, as well as launched regular virtual town halls to reach team members across Humana.

"I’ve found that being intentional in outreaching to our teammates has been a really great learning for me," Broussard said. "I had this false sense that I was doing that by going into the office."

That said, he still believes in-person connection is critical in the work environment. Having a physical office—Humana operates 500 locations—and interacting in person strengthens relationships and makes it easier to build connections with new teammates.

In addition to the impact the pandemic has had on workplace dynamics, Broussard said he believes COVID-19 is putting a spotlight on the value of taking a whole-person approach to care. Having flexible access to a number of different services at home was crucial for the insurer's largely-Medicare Advantage member base, who were at high risk from complications if they caught the virus.

Broussard said he doesn't foresee the momentum toward those options going away once COVID-19 is under control.

"It has confirmed this omnichannel in healthcare where convenience and the most effective care is more than just going into the institutional setting," he said. "We have been moving in that direction—COVID just reconfirms it and accelerates the change both inside our organization and in addition the industry’s overall of adoption of that."