Rekha Daniel-Kimani didn’t rise through the ranks in the diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) space. The regional director and head of total rewards, DEI, and strategic human resources (HR) growth operations at BAYADA Home Health Care says it was work she fell into.
“Up until recently, I’m not sure I would even have mentioned that I’m a first-generation immigrant, or that I speak more than seven languages,” she explains. “But at some point, I realized that sharing might be helpful for someone else. You might have to have more patience, more grit, and more grace than others on their own journeys, but I think that experience can also create some amazing opportunities for you in your life and your career.”
Daniel-Kimani grew up in Montreal as the daughter of Indian immigrants who came to Canada in the early 1960s. The executive would make the decision to cross the border early in her own career to continue building out her HR and total rewards experience, and she has since served in a variety of increasingly senior roles at life science and pharmaceutical companies—including three promotions in five years at BAYADA.
Her DEI work is an extension of what she says was a grassroots push at BAYADA in 2019. Although BAYADA was facing the same overwhelming challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic as most other organizations in the healthcare industry, Daniel-Kimani says the organization stayed firmly committed to building out its DEI practice and ensuring that its employees felt valued, heard, and supported throughout the twenty-four states where BAYADA is currently active.
“We are an organization with six generations of employees, and when it comes to that intersection of diversity, equity, and inclusion and total rewards, we know that, based on your experiences and where you are in your life, you may have different needs,” Daniel-Kimani says. “For some, it might be finding a way to pay off student debt faster. For others, it might be pet insurance or retirement benefits. By understanding how diverse our employee population is, we can offer total rewards that make sense for them as individuals.”
Rekha Daniel-Kimani says that an employee-centric mindset is possible because of two important factors at BAYADA: a strong management group who understands that employees are the heart of its business and employees who provide valuable feedback about what is important to them.
There’s a phrase spoken by BAYADA CEO David Baiada that also powers Daniel-Kimani’s work: “Fail fast.”
“The acknowledgment and freedom to try things, to fail, and to learn is so empowering,” she says. “Whatever we do, we’re aligned in our mission to provide home healthcare to millions of people. That’s always the goal, and there’s never any hesitation to serve that mission.”
Daniel-Kimani says compassion is critical for moving the needle in a home healthcare organization. If ever pressed to explain her work in a hurry, Daniel-Kimani summarizes it by saying that BAYADA might not make a widget or a product, but its mission is to take care of people.
“How many people can say that?” she asks. “But that also comes with incredible responsibility. Our empathy is what resonates with people, from our employees to our patients.”
For Rekha Daniel-Kimani, compassion means acting with transparency and authenticity. She says there is nothing more humbling than having to admit that she made a mistake, but she also tries to be the first person to admit it when it happens. As someone tasked with creating best-case scenarios for all employees, Daniel-Kimani admits that applying that same lens to those within the BAYADA People function can be challenging at times.
“It’s a bit like the saying that the shoemaker’s children always go barefoot,” Daniel-Kimani explains. “We are supposed to be the experts and share that expertise with the business stakeholders. That can be harder to do for us in BAYADA People. I need to make sure that I’m holding up the mirror to me and my team and ensuring that we’re also taking our own advice.”
When it comes to building an effective and welcoming culture, Daniel-Kimani puts an interesting spin on the golden rule of treating others as you would wish to be treated.
“You need to treat people the way that they wish to be treated,” Daniel-Kimani says. “That makes you pause and reflect and think about the person you’re interacting with. BAYADA is big on this, and I am too. It helps you put your own emotions to the side for a second and put yourself in someone else’s shoes.”
“It’s a privilege to work alongside Daniel-Kimani and her team,” says Michael Malouf, executive vice president and managing director of Alliant Insurance Services. “Rarely have I had the opportunity to work with a group of individuals so dedicated to the mission of their colleagues and their organization. Daniel-Kimani’s experience and background are reflective of the type of leaders that make up BAYADA’s culture. At BAYADA, everyone is valued and cared for with respect and dignity. Rekha is a key steward of BAYADA’s mission. We at Alliant are very proud of what we’ve accomplished with Rekha and the BAYADA team. Rekha’s approach to partnership allowed us to gain important insights into their organization and become an extension of her team.”
Rekha Daniel-Kimani is also deeply invested in the development of her team. She wants her people to be thinking about where they want to be a couple years down the road. Consider the goal, consider the timeline, and jump on the path, she says. That’s the advice the director herself got earlier in her career, and it has deeply impacted her career planning. Now, she’s hoping to pass it along to those across BAYADA.
“I just want more people to be dream-chasers,” she says. “Know that you’re going to falter and stumble, but you can always get back up. Follow your passion and keep connecting with people. And always take time to reflect on those that might have a different opinion than you. I really think you can learn something valuable from each and every person.”
In her life outside of work, Rekha Daniel-Kimani continues to find ways to create and maintain connections. With a family separated by not just states but also countries, she can often be found traversing time zones to visit family and friends. It’s those connections that fill her cup, both inside the office and out. Her passion is her work, and her work is her passion. Connections and community reign supreme.
Aetna is honored to work with employers like BAYADA Home Health. Aetna, a CVS Health business, not only offers specialized solutions for healthcare employers, but serves an estimated 34 million people—offering a broad range of traditional, voluntary, and consumer-directed health insurance products and related services. Aetna covers employer groups in all industries.