Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska (BCBSNE) launched a pilot program to recruit work-from-home customer service representatives in Norfolk, Columbus and greater Omaha, demonstrating its commitment to Nebraska’s economic development, a sustainable remote-working environment and localized member support. As part of the pilot, 10 new employees started Aug. 31, with more to follow soon.

Prioritization of both employee safety and uninterrupted customer service spurred BCBSNE leadership to quickly get employees set up to work from home at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The company ensured a smooth transition to work from home, with requirements including equipment reliability, high-speed internet connectivity, information security and continued employee engagement.

Recognizing members’ heightened needs for support in navigating their health care and benefits during the pandemic, as well as the rise in unemployment and challenges for working families, BCBSNE created more customer service positions and expanded recruitment throughout the state.

“We exist to be there for Nebraskans when they need us and outstanding local service is a big part of that,” said BCBSNE President and Chief Executive Officer Steve Grandfield. “We’re always seeking great candidates to help us deliver on our promise, and expansion of our remote-working program instantly opened the door to more talent in the communities where our members live, work and get care.”

With support from community leaders in northeast Nebraska, BCBSNE targeted Norfolk and Columbus with job advertisements in August. The response to the open positions was overwhelming; BCBSNE received over 1,200 applications in two weeks.

“Norfolk and northeast Nebraska are open for business. If you grow up here, your work ethic is unmatched, you’re resilient and you’re honest,” said Mike Flood, owner of Flood Communications, former Speaker of the Nebraska Unicameral and Norfolk resident. “Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska recognizes that the post-COVID-19 workforce lives in towns like ours and will outperform when quality employers pay a good wage. I’m delighted to be a part of this pilot effort and believe it is the beginning of something very special for our area and the rest of rural Nebraska.”

BCBSNE is hiring at least 16 more customer service representatives in Norfolk, Columbus and greater Omaha in September, and plans to continue expanding hiring to other parts of Nebraska.

“COVID-19 has underscored the importance of work-from-home opportunities to our economy and working families,” said Nebraska Department of Economic Development Director Anthony L. Goins. “We appreciate BCBSNE and other great Nebraska firms for their proactive efforts to create rewarding remote jobs. In the meantime, we must continue our focus as a state on expanding high-speed internet access to underserved areas, which is essential for enabling the telework, telehealth and tele-education capabilities that have become so critical in this new era.”