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Advice / Career Paths / Career Stories

This HR Pro Is Helping Her Company Promote Equity in Recruiting—and Growing Her Career in the Process

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Venice Sterling, the Program Manager, Diversity, Talent Acquisition at CVS Health.
| Courtesy of CVS Health

Venice Sterling has worked in human resources since graduating from college, and it’s a path she remains excited about, almost a decade into her career. Her latest role—as the Program Manager, Diversity, Talent Acquisition at CVS Health—also allows her to pursue another passion: advancing employment opportunities for women and people of color.

“I have the pleasure of connecting with diverse organizations and forming partnerships to increase the diversity in our candidate pipeline for open positions,” says Sterling, who helped to implement a training program on the subject of unconscious bias. Sterling is also an active member of CVS Health’s Black Colleague Resource Group.

Here, Sterling shares her views on how CVS Health encourages employee growth, her proudest accomplishment, and the benefits that she feels set the company apart.

What attracted you to work at CVS Health?

While my role at CVS Health happened via an acquisition, I remained in it because I like the company’s dedication to growth. Over the years that CVS Health has been in business, they have acquired many other businesses, each one building on the CVS Health brand and making the company stronger and more well-rounded. Within the organization I see people moving around and developing as they take on new roles and responsibilities. This is exactly who I strive to be as a person—someone who is continuously growing, taking on new responsibilities and projects, networking, job shadowing, taking on stretch assignments, and ultimately building up to the best version of myself. I’m attracted to CVS Health because I feel like I am at a company that understands my desire to grow and develop, and the people I work with continuously fuel that desire.

What are you responsible for in your role?

I am responsible for connecting with external organizations dedicated to helping women and people of color find jobs. I attend conferences or career fairs and plan CVS Health events, although these days everything is virtual. Internally, I partner with key stakeholders to help train our talent acquisition (TA) colleagues on initiatives and issues such as affirmative action, good faith efforts, and unconscious bias.

In what ways does CVS Health approach recruiting with diversity in mind?

In several ways. First, our recruiters strive to make sure that their candidate pipelines are diverse when they present them to hiring managers. To assist our recruiters, we recently implemented an unconscious bias training that was well-received by our talent acquisition colleagues. We encourage our leaders in talent acquisition to continue to discuss with their teams best practices in this area.

In addition, CVS Health utilizes recruiting tools that are designed to help our recruiters ensure job descriptions are gender neutral and bias free prior to posting. We’ve also implemented an internal TA Council—which ensures we continue to diversify our candidate pools—and a TA Diversity Champion group, which ensures we are looking at multiple strategies and engaging numerous partnerships as we increase our pipeline of diverse talent.

Some of the partnerships I manage include a recent one with the National Black MBA Association, Black Virtual Career Fair, National Association for Hispanic Nurses, National Black Nurses Association, and Latinas and Power (a local organization in the CT area). Every organization we partner with is a new learning experience.

We began our partnership with the Black Virtual Career Fair in 2019 during my first year in my role, and we were able to hire one qualified candidate. In 2020, we participated again, but I took a different approach. We asked business colleagues and hiring managers with open positions to join us for the virtual fair, in addition to recruiters, to help engage the participants. I’m excited that we had more success the next year with qualified candidates and hires.

We are also working to increase the diversity within our university pipelines. Recently CVS Health’s University Relations teams partnered with our Black Colleague Resource Group and others across the organization to develop a UR Advocate program, which consists of alumni from historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs). We actively partner with 72 HBCUs and 51 Hispanic-serving institutions (HSIs) for student engagement and recruitment activities for internships and full-time positions.

What has been your proudest achievement since taking on your current role?

My proudest achievement is the work I did to bring the unconscious bias training to the talent acquisition group. This is one of my proudest moments because of the time and energy I put into the research, reaching out to other companies, and connecting internally with the Strategic Diversity Management team. We were able to locate a training and ensure all our TA colleagues complete it.

I am also proud of this because of the impact I think that it has had on the organization as a whole. We were in a place where the social injustices in the world were getting more intense and starting to seep into organizations. With this project, I feel that I was ahead of the curve for the company by preparing our recruiters for what’s to come.

Tell us about your involvement in the company’s Black Colleague Resource Group. How has this group enriched your experience as an employee at CVS Health?

When I started working at CVS Health, one of the first things I did was join a colleague resource group, specifically the Black Colleague Resource Group (BCRG). My intentions were to find a group that could help me develop and grow within the organization, and I wanted to build my network and get noticed.

In my first year, I was the co-chair (with two others) of the Member Engagement and Professional Development committee, and we grew the group by 30 new members. In January 2020, I took on the co-chair role of the Connecticut BCRG. Going into quarantine due to COVID-19 did not stop us from hosting a company-wide Black History Month event with more than 600 views in person and virtually, a virtual Juneteenth event, and conversations with company leaders as our members were not only dealing with the pandemic, but also the challenges and heartbreaks felt with the senseless killing of Black men.

Being a part of the CT-BCRG has enriched my experience as an employee because it allows me the space to lean into my passions, helps me develop my leadership skills, and exposes me to a group of colleagues that I otherwise would not have known.

In general, why are ERGs so important for companies to have?

I read a book on personal and career development and one of the recommendations was to build your tribe. ERGs are one way for people to build their tribes, by coming together with a group of like-minded colleagues dedicated toward a specific goal and making the workplace more inclusive for all. In addition, ERGs allow people to build professional networks. There are many individuals I would not have come across if I wasn’t part of an ERG. ERGs also help people step outside their comfort zones, whether through making a new friend or taking on leadership roles. It’s a great resume builder, conversation starter, and point of reference. I encourage everyone to join an ERG and be active in it if they can.

What do you like best about the company culture at CVS Health?

I like that employees have the ability to move around the organization and try new roles, teams, and opportunities all while developing your career. I also like that the culture adapts with the changing needs of the world. A perfect example of this is the initiatives being introduced by the Strategic Diversity Management team around social justice and equity. The entire CVS Health organization got on board, rallied together, and began implementing changes where needed.

What are some unique benefits that CVS Health offers its employees?

One unique benefit is the ability to get care at any Minute Clinic across the country. In my office, we have an onsite pharmacy, doctor’s office, well-being coaches, a financial coach, a masseuse, a mindfulness center, and a gym with personal trainers. If that’s not enough, CVS Health has a wonderful scholarship program where, if you qualify, they will pay for you to go back to school full- or part-time as an employee. If you don’t qualify for that program, you can still be eligible for funds to be used toward tuition or earning a certificate.

CVS Health also recently announced the CVS Health Foundation $5 million college scholarship program for Black and Latinx students pursuing healthcare careers in collaboration with the United Negro College Fund.

Another unique benefit for me as a woman of color is a development program designed for multicultural women. This benefit is important because of the dedication to helping one of the most underrepresented groups build and develop in their career. CVS Health’s commitment to this program tells me that they value me as a woman of color looking to grow within the organization.