April 02. 2012 2:00PM

Creativity helps grow wellness programs

Wellness

  
The latest and greatest trends in corporate wellness programs for employees were explored at the Humana Wellness Summit presented by BizTimes on March 29.

The event was held at the Crowne Plaza Milwaukee West in Wauwatosa.

The panelists who shared their insights included:

Rob Cowen, president and chief executive officer of Badger Alloys Inc., Milwaukee.

Linda Hogan, vice president group leader, Bader Rutter & Associates Inc., Brookfield.

Alan Petelinsek, principal owner, Power Test Inc., Sussex.

Tyler Roberts, health promotions manager, Rexnord Industries LLC, West Milwaukee.


Tina Semotan, vice president of human resources and organizational development, Franklin Energy Services LLC, Port Washington.


BizTimes recently asked the panelists to fill out a questionnaire about their company's employee wellness plans. Their responses follow:


Rob Cowen
President and chief executive officer of Badger Alloys Inc., Milwaukee.

What year did your company start its employee wellness program?
"We just started our wellness in the summer of 2011."

What motivated your company to start a wellness program?
"During a health insurance meeting with our employees, I asked, 'How many of you get an annual physical?' Let's say I was more than a little surprised by the answer, less than 15 percent. I was shocked that people had no real idea about their own overall health. I received some information from American Diabetes which said, statistically we have about nine people that are pre-diabetic working for us, if we can help those people avoid taking insulin, what's the benefit to the employee and to the company?"

What was the main obstacle in starting your wellness program?
"Getting the buy in from the employees, getting them to understand that we all have to be responsible for our own health. An understanding that there would no cost to the employee."

How many employees are enrolled in your company's wellness program?
"When we kicked off the program we had 87 employees enroll and we made the offer to current temporary workers that they would have the same enrollment option when they became permanent employees, five more people signed up. We only had two employees that weren't interested."

How did you get your employees to buy in, to participate in the program?
"We decided to kick the program off with a splash. We gave the employees two options when then signed up for the program. (1) We'd pay them $100; or (2) A Trek bike, helmet and a lock. We gave away a total of 87 bikes. We worked closely with Wheel and Sprocket and had everyone fitted for their bikes and helmets and really made a neat day of it. We installed a bike rack at work and on average about eight people will ride their bikes to work in the summer."

How important was leadership from the top to the success of the program?
"As the CEO of the company, I felt it was imperative I take a leadership role in getting the wellness program started. I had a few people question me on giving away bikes, 'Who's going to want a bike?" I'd say it was a huge success! My own personal mission statement is 'What have I done to improve the quality of life for myself, my family, my business and my community?' I think we hit them all. Our employees are our greatest asset, and we'll always do what we can to help them in any way we can. With $4-plus gas, I hope to see many more bikes in the bike rack this summer."

Please describe the components of your wellness program and how it works:
"Our program is still a work in progress. We started with an evaluation. When the results came back, each employee met with a health professional to go over the results and help put a plan together for them. We have a wellness committee which meets to discuss what they'd like to see in the wellness program. Last year, we had teams for different charity walks and anyone who participates in a walk or run, we'll pay for them. We have a health club reimbursement program."

Have you been able to document, quantitatively or intuitively, a return on investment in your company's wellness program?
"The program has just started, so we don't have any data to show at this time, we'll have a better picture this summer after the next evaluations."



Linda Hogan
Vice president group leader, Bader Rutter & Associates Inc., Brookfield.

What year did your company start its employee wellness program?
"In the fall of 2009, our CEO Greg Nickerson announced the initiative at an agency-wide meeting. I was charged with being the 'wellness champion' and assembling an employee-led team to develop and launch the program."

What motivated your company to start a wellness program?
"Our company tagline is "People and Ideas," so it's important for us to have a business built on strong and healthy people. Also, working in the marketing, advertising and public relations industries, we're driven by deadlines, which can be stressful. Providing opportunities for wellness, health and stress-management education is something our employees find valuable. Another very realistic reason for starting a wellness program was health care costs. As a growing company, we want to be sure that we are managing those costs effectively, and preventing health problems is one way to do that."

What was the main obstacle in starting your wellness program?
"Quite frankly, we encountered very few obstacles when we started our wellness program. We had buy-in from management and a high level of interest from our associates. We did have the challenges of working within a budget, so we needed to think creatively about what we could offer. Luckily, we were able to find a variety of free options to get us started. For example, we've worked closely with a consultant at the Wisconsin Athletic Club free of charge. We worked with a group of students to provide one of our very first massage days free to our company. And our corporate membership at the YMCA included a few free visits from experts to talk to employees about topics such as proper stretching."

How many employees are enrolled in your company's wellness program?
"This past year, 151 associates participated in our health assessment. However, associates are not required to enroll in our program; they can participate in any of the activities they'd like."

How did you get your employees to buy in, to participate in the program?
"When we started the program, we surveyed all the associates to see what they were interested in and built the program around what they wanted. For example, we wanted to know what gyms they currently had memberships at so we could try and get corporate discounts at those facilities. And even though we don't have a fitness center here in our building, we've been able to bring in activities such as yoga and pilates. Also, we developed a formal plan with a team mission, strategy and recommendations. Promoting the plan has also played a role in employee participation. We regularly promote activities via email, flyers around the office, and in a special section of our intranet. We continue to survey our associates once each year to ensure we're offering a program that appeals to the largest number of associates. Of course, not every activity we launched was successful or stayed successful. We've learned by trial and error and have tailored our program accordingly."

How important was leadership from the top to the success of the program?
"It was absolutely critical. Luckily, our CEO, Greg Nickerson, was the driving force behind the initiative. But, understandably, leadership buy-in is one of the most common topics of discussion when it comes to wellness programs. Leadership needs to be involved and supportive because they approve the budget, allow employees to spend part of their work day shaping the program, and encouraging the entire company to get involved."

Please describe the components of your wellness program and how it works:
"The Bader Rutter wellness program consists of a group of associates who work together to offer resources, tools and activities to improve our health and well-being. Initiatives include: on-site fitness classes, including yoga and a new pilates class; massage days; team-oriented activities, such as charity run/walks (supported Susan G. Komen in 2011, Briggs & Al's/Children's Hospital in 2010 and Arthritis Foundation in 2009); agency sports teams: soccer, volleyball and softball; on-site wellness lunch & learns (we bring in experts to share healthy living ideas related to fitness, nutrition, stress management, etc.); corporate discounts to local gyms; resources and tips on employee intranet."

Have you been able to document, quantitatively or intuitively, a return on investment in your company's wellness program?
"We cannot directly attribute the wellness program to a drop in health care costs. But, I can say that the annual health assessments employees participate in help them understand what they need to do to improve their health and reach their wellness goals. They are incentivized to participate in the health assessments with a discount on insurance premiums. Our recruitment director, Megan Rouleau, has been successful in promoting our wellness program as a recruitment tool."



Alan Petelinsek
Principal owner, Power Test Inc., Sussex.

What year did your company start its employee wellness program?
"After our move into our new facility in 2008, it became more developed. Earlier it was my own personal program with one or two others occasionally using my equipment."

What motivated your company to start a wellness program?
"The motivation for a corporate wellness program came from my own realization that I wasn't as fit as I could be and the ability to share my own personal program with the employees. My travels to other parts of the world (Japan and China) also opened my eyes to morning group stretching/exercise routines before work begins."

What was the main obstacle in starting your wellness program?
"Knowing where to look for a trainer that would come to our company and develop a meaningful program."

How many employees are enrolled in your company's wellness program?
"Presently all (100 percent) of our nearly 60 full-time employees are enrolled in our wellness program."

How did you get your employees to buy in, to participate in the program?
"Initially we held fitness classes immediately following our production workers end of business day. Office personnel would leave their positions and join them, with the time made up after the workout. Later once the program was going, we provided separate classes to minimize the interruption to the business day. Our program morphed into rewards for regular participation ($100 for 3 times per week/month) and bi-annual fitness testing by the Army in compliance with the Army Personal Fitness Tests. These also are rewards based ($1 per point if pass all tests up to a maximum of $300). Now our program is more encompassing than fitness and includes bio-metric screening and health risk assessments. This also was a slow process and was modified as we modified our insurance plan. We presently have an HSA plan. Power Test will contribute $500 for a single or $1,000 for a family insured employee if and only if they complete the bio-metric screen and complete the health risk assessment. To be fair to those employees not in our insurance plan, we offer the same $500 or $1,000 reward."

How important was leadership from the top to the success of the program?
"Absolutely necessary! We were all accustomed to putting in extra-long days and not taking time for our own health. With me leading the way and showing the employees, I am willing to walk away from my desk to take care of my health, and it shows the employees it is fine for them to do so also."

Please describe the components of your wellness program and how it works?
"We have health risk assessments and biometric screens as a condition of receiving a contribution to the employee HSA. We have held a smoking/tobacco cessation program whereby employees paid for the eight- week class with the reward that if following the class they did not use tobacco products for six months we would pay them $500. We have on site fitness classes six days per week, two classes per day at the end of the workday. We have $100 payment for three days/week for a month. We have interactive computerized indoor bike rides featuring real live graphics of known bike courses. Employees can use their own bikes or bikes that the company has purchased.

"We have lunch and learns with heath-related topics. We have an Army personal fitness test with payment for participation and greater payment for passing up to $300. We have paid entrance fees after completion of fun runs, bike rides and small triathlons if pre-authorized by the company. We have cash incentives for setting and achieving long range goals (Ironman 70.3 completion $1,000, Ironman Wisconsin 140.6 completion and beat Alan, $2,500 or $5,000 to charity of choice). Next on the list is a program to work on obtaining appropriate body mass readings."

Have you been able to document, quantitatively or intuitively, a return on investment in your company's wellness program?
"Due to the growth of our employee numbers over the years it is very hard to quantify immediate savings on our group insurance plan. We have seen changes in eating habits, changes in body weight, we are aware of numerous individuals who have been able to eliminate medications, those who have modified their own and their family's daily routines, even the topics of discussion often involve fitness and wellness. Also noted is an enhanced team atmosphere especially during the weeks surrounding the Army Personal Fitness Test. Our fitness program is a competitive advantage for job recruitment and helps with job retention. A benefit of our wellness program that is an unintended benefit is the publicity that our company is receiving through media attention given to our company or me individually as we participate in events such as this. This attention can certainly elevate the image of the business in the eyes of the community leading to attracting employees and building name awareness. This is especially vital to our business as we are struggling to find qualified skilled craftsmen and engineers to join our ever-growing manufacturing business."


Tyler Roberts
Health promotions manager, Rexnord Industries LLC, West Milwaukee.

What year did your company start its employee wellness program?
"2007."

What motivated your company to start a wellness program?
"Rising insurance costs, recruiting/retaining quality employees."

What was the main obstacle in starting your wellness program?
"Trying to integrate the program at multiple locations across the country."

How many employees are enrolled in your company's wellness program?
"5,500 (including employees and spouses)."

How did you get your employees to buy in, to participate in the program?
"Incentives ranging from drawings for new bikes, cash prizes, and ties to insurance rates. Peer pressure/culture changes."

How important was leadership from the top to the success of the program?
"Incredibly important. After years of low-medium participation (25 to 30 percent), an increased push from senior leadership pushed enrollment up considerably."

Please describe the components of your wellness program and how it works?
"There are three main components of the program: 1) Screening/assessment – Onsite or alternative health screenings (BP, cholesterol, weight, etc.), an online HRA, and a phone call with a health advisor to discuss the results of the screening; 2) Tools – Telephone health coaching, online behavior-change tools, Wellness Rewards; 3) Activities – Weight management challenges, run/walk activities, monthly challenges."

Have you been able to document, quantitatively or intuitively, a return on investment in your company's wellness program?
"Rexnord recently worked with our wellness partner to conduct a comprehensive ROI analysis. Matching participants with similar non-participants, we were able to show a savings of nearly $2.50 for every $1.00 spent over a three-year period."




Tina Semotan
Vice president of human resources and organizational development, Franklin Energy Services LLC, Port Washington.

What year did your company start its employee wellness program?
"April 1, 2011."

What motivated your company to start a wellness program?
"The desire to partner with our employees and create an environment that supports their overall health and well-being. We recognized that healthy employees were happier and more productive. We wanted to be a positive source for them since they spend so much time at work."

What was the main obstacle in starting your wellness program?
"Time – we are a fast-growing organization, and the workload can be overwhelming. Getting people to slow down to truly understand the program was going to be a challenge for us. We discovered that keeping it exciting and energized we got through that. Also, we had an extremely small budget to start with. We had to get creative with the events and find inexpensive ways to motivate."

How many employees are enrolled in your company's wellness program?
"We have approximately an 80-percent participation rate in our current initiative. Also, we track points on a quarterly basis and usually have 50 percent regularly participating."

How did you get your employees to buy in, to participate in the program?
"Wellness kickoff events – we made a big splash with video, presentations and lots of fun at each office. We are coming up on our 1 year birthday and we are sending birthday gifts (office weights, exercise balls, etc.) to each office to have a birthday party."

How important was leadership from the top to the success of the program?
"Extremely – Four members of our leadership team immediately signed up to participate in the Fittest Executive challenge to show that we were going to not only support the program but walk the walk. Our team ending up winning the challenge so that gave us some on-going traction."

Please describe the components of your wellness program and how it works?
"We have a committee that has a rep. from each of our 23 offices. We have job descriptions and a mission statement to keep us focused on the goal. We meet monthly to come up with ideas and track how we are doing as a group. We have a point system set up that allows employees to earn points from several different areas (emotional, social, physical, spiritual, etc.) Each quarter if the employee earns at least 25 points they are entered into a drawing to win a $300 to $500 gift of their choice. During the year, we will also have one large initiative or intervention that focuses on a high risk area for our company. The year we did a weight loss challenge, we had 80-percent participation and will match dollar for pound lost to a diabetes foundation. The Franklin goal is at least 1,000 pounds. Throughout the year each wellness committee member is responsible for finding events in their area, posting them on our wellness calendar and promoting the event. We have had company runs, triathlons, iron mans, tough mudders and many other events coordinated by the committee."

Have you been able to document, quantitatively or intuitively, a return on investment in your company's wellness program?
"The largest ROI was wi
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