By KEVIN HERMAN, director of worksite wellness for the Horton Health Initiatives, a division of The Horton Group
Workplace wellness programs often provide employers with positive results, such as happier employees, reduced absenteeism and a strong return on investment. As a rule, the third year of a well-constructed wellness program is when employers often see the true results of their efforts. Employers generally witness significant positive cultural changes in the way health and wellness are viewed within the workplace.
However, without modifications and additions after the first year, it is common for organizations to lose their initial enthusiasm and begin to feel like their program has stagnated. Or they fail to see the results they originally hoped to achieve.
Likewise, employers who focus only on cost control and do not give employees access to positive interventions, may see declines in program participation. Oftentimes, these organizations fail to communicate intentions to employees or fail to make the interventions both fun and interesting.Many organizations also fail to make the small investments needed in incentives in order to help employees choose to participate more often. It is also important when starting to have clear metrics to track improvements so you can see successes.
Robinson Engineering, a premier civil engineering firm that provides diversified municipal engineering expertise throughout the Midwest, is not one of the companies experiencing a loss of interest. Nearly three years after implementing its wellness program, Robinson has seen incredible results and is reaching new heights in program participation.
In June 2007, Horton Health Initiatives helped Robinson implement its wellness program in order to educate employees about choosing healthier options and leading healthier lifestyles.
Robinson implemented its wellness program with the support and involvement of senior management, which are vital to the success of wellness initiatives. Management needs to recognize wellness as a worthwhile endeavor that is valuable to employees in order to invest the time and funds needed to advance the program.
"Often, an investment in wellness does not need to include a huge dollar figure to see great results. If you think of the investment in relation to the cost of the health plan, 1 percent to 2 percent of that cost will go a long way," says Mike Wojcik, senior vice president at Horton.
But management was not the only party involved. This past year, 100 percent of Robinson employees (about 100 people in total) participated in the biometric screenings and Health Risk Assessments. Robinson was able to score a perfect participation rate because of a mix of a high financial incentive, a strong communication campaign to inform employees of why they were implementing the incentive and a positive employment culture that facilitated an early trust in the employer's motives for screening.
When 100 percent of employees participate in health initiatives, it's possible for employers to recognize and address everyone's health issues.
Because of Robinson's companywide support and success, the employer was recognized by its health management vendor, Interactive Health Solutions (IHS), as "one of the healthiest companies in America"--an award only given to approximately 100 out of 2,000 employers screened by IHS for their employees' overall heart and stoke health.
START STRONG AND ORGANIZED
How has Robinson been able to maintain momentum and improve employee health? The success results from a combination of factors, beginning with the company's solid plan. To launch the program, Horton helped Robinson survey employees, asking them about their interests and wellness ideas.
From there, the company's wellness committee compiled the results and built activities surrounding those interests. Members of the wellness committee are volunteers from all divisions of the company who help to implement and expand the program. The company adopted a wellness committee logo that incorporated the company culture and image. Robinson also communicates wellness results with pride and continues to reward employee efforts.
Since there are so many wellness topics and events introduced at Robinson, each employee is likely to find something that appeals to him or her. Programs include health club subsidies, healthy potluck lunches, on-site educational seminars and other activities with creative incentives, such as raffle prizes, healthy snacks and cash from walking competitions.
During the company's weight-loss contest, participants lost an average of seven pounds each. In 2009, Horton began providing on-site body composition analysis and educational counseling regarding the results. Wellness education information is readily available to employees on Robinson's Intranet site. These materials are located in a section dedicated to wellness topics and houses the monthly wellness newsletters distributed to employees.
Today, the Robinson wellness program has proven to be a great success. Proof is in the results, as shown by Robinson's current return of investment of almost 10 to one.
The data from the biometric screenings and health risk assessments showed that 88 percent of employees who were diagnosed as pre-diabetic in 2008 improved their status by 2009 from pre-diabetic levels to normal glucose levels.
Also, 75 percent of employees with high cholesterol in 2008 improved by 2009. None of Robinson's employees were rated as "high risk" in 2009 in terms of the major risk factors for preventable cardiovascular disease.
The employees at Robinson Engineering have become healthier since the company implemented its wellness program in 2007 with the help of Horton. The program is an important part of the company culture, and will continue to develop based on employee goals and ideas, allowing for even healthier results moving forward.
By recognizing the potential for a healthy improvement, getting everyone on board, and starting strong and organized, all organizations will begin to see results and successes as Robinson has.
November 1, 2009
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