The “New Grad” Talent Engine

Jumping into the fire is sometimes a good way to learn. However, a well-planned customized training program proved to be ideal for onboarding our six "new grads" as BCBSIL prepares for the future.


Millennials. The leaders of tomorrow. Flexible. Adapt quickly to new trends. Oftentimes, the inspiration and innovators behind major change.

As a company serving Illinois for more than 80 years, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois (BCBSIL) understands it takes flexibility, adaptability, diversity and innovation to remain competitive and to remain relevant to the members and communities we serve. Increasing the talent level in the company is imperative. To do so, the Illinois Plan and Enterprise National Accounts (ENA) divisions partnered with Human Resources Strategic Business Partners (HR) to create and pilot a program to acquire young talent with potential to be high performing assets during their BCBSIL career.

HR’s recruitment efforts are concentrated on Midwest college campuses and include rigorous interviews with Illinois Plan and ENA senior leadership. The result – six ideal candidates for the New Graduate Program. Their diverse backgrounds and different majors meant they brought unique experiences and capabilities to the four business areas they joined. But hiring is easy. It’s what happens once they set foot in the company that matters.

This program does a great job of transitioning us from college life into the real world. - Zach Lotfalian, Provider Network associate, BCBSIL


It’s the training component that differentiates the New Graduate Program. As an insurance company, it’s essential the “new grads” (as the new hires, freshly graduated from college, were affectionately called) understand the tenets of insurance and underwriting. It was important for them to learn the responsibilities for the areas they were placed in as well as other areas they’ll interact with. Lastly, it was important for them to cross-train on major elements of each other’s areas. The more they know and understand what one another does, the stronger the bond they develop as colleagues. All of this made for intense training at an accelerated pace. This ambitious undertaking, the first onboarding experience of its kind, was created by a cross functional team of employees and management that became the program’s operating committee.

With all this training, how do you make sure information is being retained and will be used appropriately? Teach-back sessions! Each month over the six-month program, the “new grads” created presentations on what they’ve learned and done so far. Their managers, senior leadership and the operating committee critiqued those presentations. The critique provided valuable feedback on their knowledge, how they interact with their audience, their mannerisms while presenting and their growth since the prior teach-back. This was an essential step as many of the “new grads” will work closely with multiple external customers – (i.e., providers, producers and commercial group clients) and we want them to be prepared.



The New Graduate Program is part of a larger strategy. While our first class started with six participants in four business areas, the number of participants and business areas will expand. Ultimately, this effort aligns with our career pathing and succession planning strategies.

Defining clear career development and progression for employees is important. As the business and customer needs change, it will take diverse skillsets to move BCBSIL ever forward. Using the New Graduate and intern programs to increase our bench strength allows BCBSIL to identify top talent and develop them for future growth. They may have opportunities to move into key roles as other employees, management and leaders advance in their roles, pursue opportunities outside of BCBSIL, and/or retire.

Realizing the future begins with the now. Attracting a variety of quality talent, sufficient onboarding, setting performance expectations and planning for change is essential. Through these methods, BCBSIL will position itself to weather new trends and industry changes in order to serve Illinois for another 80 years and more.

Please view the accompanying video to meet our “new grads.”