If you’re a member of the benefits team led by Renu Chhabra, expect that she is going to fight for you. The vice president of benefits and well-being at McKesson has been an advocate for as long as she has been alive: as a first-generation Indian American who was raised in Rowlett, Texas, she existed in a community where her culture singled her family out as different. “
I grew up being firm in who I was, because I believe you have to protect your family and people that you love,” Chhabra explains. “My leadership has always reflected that. I make sure that my people are taken care of because it’s the right thing to do.”
That care was most immediately applied to her older brother growing up. Chhabra’s brother has special needs, and she kept a watchful eye that remains to this day. When her father passed away a year ago, Chhabra took legal responsibility for her brother and continues to help him navigate his life.
“I grew up being firm in who I was, because I believe you have to protect your family and people that you love.”Renu Chhabra
With that steadfast commitment to her family in mind, it’s no wonder that the VP has found success in so many different facets of the HR space. Chhabra has spent time both in-house and as an outside consultant throughout her career, weaving in and out of experiences and industries, building out HR expertise all over the board.
The actuarial mathematics major-turned-HR specialist says her own adaptability has been key. She’s a technical-minded professional with the heart of an HR executive. She can run the math and build the algorithm, but she can also lead with empathy. Now at McKesson, Chhabra says she’s currently in one of the most complex roles she’s ever tackled.
“When you do benefits for a manufacturing company or a real estate company, it’s a very different experience,” the VP explains. “When you’re doing healthcare in healthcare, many of the stakeholders have an opinion. What I love about the role is also the most challenging: you need to communicate with everybody.”
Chhabra has helped usher in change when it comes to McKesson’s insurance plan. For the last ten years, the organization offered primarily HSA plans, which can be intimidating for some people. “One thing that made sense was to add a PPO plan. We presented prevalent benchmarking and were able to make it happen,” she says.
It’s incredible that Chhabra was able to build so much consensus during a pandemic, and in such a short period of time. But the VP credits SVP of HR Neisha Strambler-Butler with helping her make an immediate impact. “I’m lucky that I work with such an incredible leader who has helped guide me,” Chhabra says. “Even when she saw me going astray, she would lead me back to focusing on where I needed to be. She’s been instrumental for me.”
“When you’re doing healthcare in healthcare, every single stakeholder has an opinion and a stake. What I love about the role is also the most challenging: you need to communicate with everybody.”Renu Chhabra
Chhabra’s own trajectory is also proof that taking the time to focus on what matters most doesn’t always negatively impact a career. Seven months after her son was born, Chhabra stepped down from what she saw as a dream role.
“My husband and I just understood that there are moments when you can spread your wings and other times when you need to sit down and focus on your home.” The executive worked a more manageable consulting role while raising her son, and four years later, was ready to return in-house. That return was to McKesson.
The HR pro says in the short term, she’s looking forward to working on McKesson’s wellness programs and bringing more value to employees. In the long term, she hopes to grow her career at McKesson. But right now, it’s about the people.
“Right now, I want to continue to work on our plan offerings,” the VP says. “This is healthcare for healthcare, and I want it to be center stage. More importantly, I just want to make my people happy in their lives.”
In her first one hundred and twenty days at McKesson, Renu Chhabra was tasked with offering vaccines and vaccine education for distribution centers across the United States. The training to encourage vaccination was created and scaled across all center locations before the end of 2021.
The success of the program, the VP says, was working with people from the communities in which their frontline workers live and work. “It was an incredible project in a very short period of time,” Chhabra says.