Blue Promise: How Can We Fuel the Health of Our Energy Workforce? (Part 2)

Texas is the number one state in the U.S. for oil and natural gas. It's a massive industry, credited for more than 348,000 jobs across the state. Despite this workforce's robust health care benefits, they still face a unique set of challenges. Energy expert Rod Branch, Chief Human Resources Officer at HydroChemPSC, shares his insights in this episode of Blue Promise. He's joined by Heather Linton, Divisional Vice President of National Accounts and Energy at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas.  

View Blue Promise: How Can We Fuel the Health of Our Energy Workforce? (Part 1)

You can listen to the complete discussion on Apple Podcasts,   SoundCloud  or wherever you listen to podcasts. You can also watch the video recording of this podcast on YouTube.  

Blue Promise is a podcast and online video blog that aims to address complicated health issues with candid conversations from subject matter experts. New editions are published regularly and are hosted by Dr. Dan McCoy, President of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas, and his co-host, Ross Blackstone, Director of Strategic Influence. 

Show Transcript

DAN: Employers in the oil and natural gas industry generally offer robust health care benefits to its workforce but it can be a difficult task to ensure employees are leveraging those benefits. Here are some of the best practices in the industry in this episode of blue promise..

DAN: Thanks for joining us, I'm Dr. Dan McCoy and I'm the president of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas. I'm here today with my co-host Ross Blackstone.

ROSS: Thank you Dr. McCoy We have two guests here with us today Rod branch is the chief human resources officer at HydroChemPSC and Heather Linton is divisional vice president of National Accounts and energy at BlueCross BlueShield of Texas. Thank you both for being here. Okay. So Dr. McCoy talked about some of the best practices being leveraged by energy companies or health care. Heather what's BlueCross doing in this space. 

HEATHER:So for us we're really trying to focus on the industry and focus on some of the challenges that those employees have when they're trying to engage health care. We talked a little bit about challenges with just finding access to care and finding providers out there and why it's a little bit harder for employers to communicate with employees who are transient offshore out in exploration areas. So we're providing a lot of benchmark data a lot of unique plan designs and a lot of unique tools to help employers engage those folks.

ROSS: So how do you do that. Is it. Is it like a weekly newsletter or do you have meetings where you convene. Do you work one on one with clients. Do you bring everybody together as a group or how does Blue Cross become the expert for health care in the energy sector.

HEATHER: All of the above I would say though probably one of the most important things that we do is twice a year we get a lot of these employers together in a room so that they can also find some value from talking to each other. They've definitely they're the ones with their that they're the experts. They've had the experiences they have the employees and so some of them have found some best practices that we want them to be able to share with each other. So that's been really important. We do all of the above. We work one on one but those energy counsels that we have in the spring and fall have been the most important.

DAN: Okay. So Heather let me just tell you. I work with a lot of customers around the state and I don't know that I have met a more competitive group than people in the energy industry. So you bring a lot of of competitors with one another in the room.

HEATHER: Absolutely.

DAN: How does that work. How does that work. Like I mean are they comfortable sharing. How do they how does that sharing happen in the room

HEATHER: That comfort has built up over time. I would say the first year that we did it employers were a little uncomfortable kind of giving away their trade secrets. They all go after the same employees they're competing and so they want to have rich benefit. And so it took a little bit of comfort for people to kind of get to know each other build relationships and then see that they could really derive some value out of the best practices that are shared there.

DAN: So Rod has it worked?

ROD: Absolutely. So the network becomes very important that the world of human resources has become so involved and so complicated and has so many different factors to it that that no one person can be an expert in it all and so we end up crowd-sourcing solutions for a lot of what we do and obviously Blue Cross is one of those but the network that's formed at the Energy Council is very viable for us. We get these connections there and we yeah we're competitors but but we're also suffering through the knowledge gap and and we're okay sharing those kinds of things. I mean hardly anything we do is going to be a differentiator that's going to cause the business to change or somebody to go to work for you and not me. And so we're worried about how do you communicate with these people remotely and so we're doing micro learning and that's a platform for us to push out information by cell phone to all these people in these remote locations so we can actually tee them up that we're gonna be doing open enrollment next week. And so when I talk about that people come to me and they say well well Tell me more about micro learning and and so I'm happy sharing it because it's it's out there in the public anybody can buy it. Just the fact that we were the first mover on it you know it but it's not a differentiator that's going to cost somebody to go to work for them and not me.

DAN: And I guess also there's the there's the issue too that this is such a rapidly changing workforce environment I mean every single day you hear about a new discovery somewhere in the Permian Basin right. So there's a whole bunch of changes and people moving into areas that are relatively underserved. I would assume that getting to these ideas early benefits everyone.

ROD: Absolutely.

DAN: Some of these don't have easy. These aren't don't have easy solutions to some of these problems.

HEATHER: They do and I think even beyond health care I think the energy industry loves to learn from each other. I mean shale is a relatively well it's a really old technology that's been revitalized and is now this big revolution. But I think a lot of these companies out in the Permian Basin learn and so as they become more efficient they share those things and so I think we're trying to connect that on the healthcare side how can we help you all as different unique employers really bring the most value to your customers.

ROSS: Safety is also a pretty big issue with the energy sector isn't it. How do you how do you address safety concerns.

ROD: You know without safety you don't get to work in large refineries around the country. They have a lot of safety rules and minimums around safety incidents that we have to abide by which is appropriate because it's very very important. These are dangerous environments that people work in and it's only fair that they expect that companies that they hire have a very high standard and we have a loss prevention system which covers losses in all aspects of our business not just in the operating group in the field. But it's a it's a program it's something that people have to learn and adopt in order to work for us

DAN: Since it looks like to me that at least in some geographies we'll pick on the Permian Basin for a moment that you there will be a lot of companies coming together many of you that sit on the council. Have there been alliances formed to say you know what solving it for our chemical company that operates in the Permian Basin might be a challenge but if we partnered up or we got together on some ideas do you start to see those alliances growing.

HEATHER: Well I was going to say they happen kind of on their own naturally there's a lot of grassroots efforts like you have the Permian strategic partnership which is 20 of the largest exploration companies out in the Permian kind of banding together just like you see them coming together for joint ventures on building pipelines. They come together on joint ventures to build roads and recently a couple of our customers came together to build a child care facility so you do see that not just on the healthcare side but just really kind of across the board

DAN: Because really solving these problems for the whole benefits the whole society.


DAN: What that basically comes down to.

ROSS: Rod, Could you maybe give us an example of one thing that you've learned from a competitor that you've been able to implement at your organization.

ROD: My gosh there are so many. I think I think some of the communication tools that some of the other companies are using the way they use their newsletter what they what they put in their newsletter you know is is very is innovative and you know another one of those things it doesn't hurt to share those kinds of pieces of information. Communication continues to be our challenge and that's why micro learning became a big deal for us. But getting this information out to these remote locations in whatever form are you mailing it to their homes or sending you to an email. Most of them don't have email. Can you send it to a a cell phone. Can they read it on the cell phone. Do they have a smartphone. You know all these challenges are out there. So most of what we've been talking about lately has been around the communication aspect.

DAN: Well Rod, one thing I'm an take away from today for sure is that I think in healthcare you've sort of taken away the word competitor and replaced it with cooperation because it sounds like the Energy Council's really served as a venue for you to share best practices and to solve some problems for Texans and and others to all even across America where energy is concerned.

ROD:You know let me let me add to that. So it's twofold for me. The network has been very important for me but also the academic information we get the vendors that you put in front of us the deep knowledge that that Blue Cross brings to the table. So so we get sort of an academic less than when we go to these but we also get the network too. So it's twofold. And I would go for one or the other. They're both equally important roadwork.

DAN: We're glad you're part of our conversation today and Heather thanks for joining us and thanks for also for joining us for this segment of Blue Promise.


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