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Voya Gives New Meaning to the Term "Continuous Improvement"

December 7, 2017Below is a blog from our Catalyst CEO Champions For Change storytelling series, "Spotlight Stories." Over the next few weeks, we'll be sharing these stories to show what’s working at Catalyst Champion companies that help to advance women into leadership.


When Voya Financial spun off from ING Group in 2013, leadership seized the opportunity to build a new kind of company—one centered around a thoughtfully curated culture of integrity, performance, and inclusion. Charged with revamping the company’s culture to achieve new financial and talent-development goals, Voya’s transformation, led by CEO Rodney O. Martin, Jr., started at the very top—building out a new and diverse board of directors. They saw the move as crucial not only to the advancement of Voya’s culture, but to the company’s future business success as well. And while they have made big strides—Voya now has a board on which half of independent directors are women—and have continued to drive that trend through the organization—46% of senior management positions are held by women, and 40% of managers are women—they aren’t stopping anytime soon. It’s part of Voya’s culture of Continuous Improvement (CI), says Martin: 

"It has been a unique opportunity to create something from the ground up–a new public company that we could all be proud of from a vision, values, and performance perspective. We must continue to create a culture in which we embrace our differences."

To Martin, diversity within the board offers Voya a clear competitive advantage. The data certainly support that theory, as do Voya’s own financial results over the past four years. Since its IPO in May 2013, Voya’s share price has more than doubled, outpacing both peers and the S&P 500. The company has also returned more than $3.4 billion in excess capital to shareholders during that time. Martin’s belief that diverse input leads to better outcomes goes well beyond the board and the bottom line, however. Thanks to the company’s overarching philosophy of CI, Voya is fast becoming a place where diverse perspectives are the norm, not the exception. 

At the heart of CI is the notion that “we can always do better,” and it is up to employees to work together to do just that, for both the customer and one another. Employees look to maximize efficiency and improve product quality wherever they can. Each individual contributor and team at Voya is empowered to proactively solve problems in this way, only escalating them when absolutely necessary. Because every voice can help lead to a better way of working, and diverse perspectives lead to stronger solutions, CI helps create an atmosphere in which a culture of inclusion—and mutual respect—can thrive. Says Martin: 

"At Voya Financial, our culture—and the authentic character of the Voya brand—is a reflection of our commitment to doing business the right way. We emphasize trust, transparency, and continuous improvement—and we reward our people based on not only what is achieved, but how it is achieved."

But Voya’s inclusive culture hasn’t just passively grown from the company’s CI mindset. Hiring practices and Voya’s employee value proposition have been designed to attract and retain a workforce that represents diversity of gender, background, and expertise. The company has also invested in programs that support and elevate diversity at every level of the business. It is expanding its partnerships with key organizations focused on people with disabilities, including the U.S. Business Leadership Network and other organizations that help businesses leverage the often-untapped talent of Americans with disabilities—to advance disability inclusion in corporate America. In addition to supporting active employee resource groups for a number of employee communities, Voya won a coveted spot on the Bloomberg Gender Equality Index, partnered with the Ethisphere Institute to help lead its 2016 Gender Diversity Initiative, and supports Paradigm for Parity. Voya also participates in the 30% Club Cross-Company Mentoring Program, wherein seasoned executives are paired with mid-level female mentees across different organizations to form a mentorship. Future women leaders at Voya, like Kellie Desrosiers, VP, Client Relationship Director, are benefiting a great deal from efforts like these. 

About her participation in the 30% Club mentoring program, Desrosiers was clear: 

"My involvement in the 30% Club mentoring program has been a game changer. You’re being coached and mentored to help you achieve your career goals. Most importantly, you’re being supported by someone who has already accomplished that goal themselves. It’s like training for a marathon with someone who has won a marathon."

Desrosiers emphasizes the fact that to achieve one’s career goals takes grit, personal dedication, and a well-defined strategy. And when it comes to the company’s commitment to programs like these, and diverse employees generally, Desrosiers says: 

"Rod [Martin] isn’t just talking about these things. He and other senior leaders are putting energy, resources, and focus towards the goal of developing people to their fullest. And it’s not just about opportunities right now—Voya is investing in people like me who are actively building their careers and may be years away from a senior leadership role. I was the one waking up at 4:30 a.m. to put in extra work...but to have a company that supported me to attend the events, to meet with my mentor, and to have my CEO reach out to ask about the program and what else he could do makes all the difference. For this to work, you need to have mentees who are committed to learning, and a company that’s fully invested in them doing so."

In its short history, Voya has certainly been recognized as the kind of company that is fully invested in its people. Among other honors, it has been named to the World's Most Ethical Companies® list by the Ethisphere Institute, 2013-2017; earned the Human Rights Campaign’s Best Places to Work for LGBT Equality designation, with a perfect score, every year since 2006; been recognized as a Great Place to Work® in 2016 and 2017; and been included on the Dow Jones Sustainability North America Index (DJSI) in 2016 and 2017, both years it has been eligible. With a diverse board, fully committed leadership team, and multiple programs developing, supporting, and championing up-and-coming diverse women leaders throughout the organization, the hope is that Voya’s mission to create true gender parity will continue to improve—and flourish. 

The views expressed herein are solely those of the guest blogger and do not necessarily reflect those of Catalyst. Catalyst does not endorse any political candidates. The post and the comments are presented only for the purpose of informing the public.