While finishing his B.S. degree in Athletic Training and interning with a National Hockey League team, Ken Reese recognized the team members’ level of motivation to be their healthiest selves. He started to think about how many “everyday” individuals want to be healthy, but don’t have the same degree of drive as professional athletes. The challenge of motivating these individuals moved Ken from athletics to injury prevention to corporate wellness.
Now a Health Coaching Manager at Provant, a national leader in workplace well-being, Ken leads the creation of new and exciting ways to engage everyone at every level and in every industry.
Ken Reese, Health Coaching Manager at Provant
1. Professional Development
B.S., Athletic Training, California University of Pennsylvania; NASM Personal Trainer; UMass Medical Tobacco Treatment Specialist Certification.
Sports medicine was always it for me. In college, I interned with the Pittsburgh Penguins ice hockey team. Injured athletes are motivated to follow an athletic trainer’s instructions – they know that’s how they’ll get back out into the game and stay on the ice. The “Average Joe” may not feel that. I transitioned to wellness because I want to help everyone flip that motivational switch on and get healthy.
My TTS certification has been unexpectedly valuable. One success story is in the next section.
2. Demonstrated Success
One of our most successful coaching programs has been our telephonic tobacco cessation program for a large natural gas and electric utility company – not just for the tobacco cessation itself, but because it was the start of additional positive behavior changes for a lot of people.
Once people start making changes, they want to keep making changes. Not many people decide to hit the gym five days a week and keep eating pizza every night. It all ties together, and, in this case, tobacco cessation opened the door.
Our client loved the high quit rate, but wanted to be sure people stayed tobacco-free. Our lifestyle coaching program was available, but, by design, it is less structured than our tobacco cessation program.
So we created a Tobacco Step-Down coaching program, which helped bridge the two programs. The goal was twofold: to provide continued, structured support, such as additional nicotine replacement therapy and monthly check-ins, to keep participants tobacco-free, and to use longer phone calls to engage individuals in additional healthy behaviors they were interested in improving.
Once they’ve quit tobacco – something most of them have tried to do more than once – they’re ignited. We take that energy and motivation, make sure they stay tobacco-free, but start improving their physical activity, diet, and stress. They already feel better and they want to see how far they can go.
Our first success was the tobacco cessation program itself – we had a 24 percent quit rate, validated on cotinine testing. The average quit rate is 6.2 percent. That translated into an annual savings of more than $700,000 for the cohort population.
Following that, we saw increased engagement in the Step-Down program, as well as positive engagement trends in lifestyle health coaching, even though there is no financial incentive tied to participation. We saw an 11 percent migration to lower risk levels and 12 percent migration within the stages of change, along with a cultural shift where the company was now proudly displaying success stories front and center on their intranet. When you read the comments, you can see how many more people were excited to join in.
WELCOA benchmarks are really important to the program. The company needed union leadership support to reach the whole population and make an environment where the program was recognized as a benefit, not an invasion of privacy. We had company-specific coaches and communicated exactly who they were and what to expect. We looked at our operating plan, and at the data and outcomes, and made the changes that needed to happen to meet the goals the company wanted to meet.
I started playing sports in school – I was varsity captain in soccer and basketball for years – and never stopped. Today, I play recreation basketball; hike with my family; love adventure races, 5ks, 10ks. At work, I participate in our company wellness program – my team won the last challenge! I take part in the 10-minute Wellness Breaks and encourage my team to join. I wear my program-branded sweatshirt to show support.
My broad range of experiences – from professional athletes to blue collar workers and everyday people – has helped me achieve leadership in the field. I’ve learned how to find each person’s motivational button, no matter where they start, and get them engaged.
My advice is to be real with people. They know when you are, and they trust that. Know your audience, meet them where they are, and look for new ways to reach out to them. Maybe you’re not changing every life, but you can profoundly improve many individuals’ lives.
Over the past year, we’ve been working intensively on digital coaching; it’s definitely moving the industry forward. Smartphones are where people go for everything. Letting them message a picture of their breakfast to their health coach, receiving reminder pings, enabling personalized support from their peers - those are the new ways to engage people. There’s much more to come - it’s really exciting.
I’m fortunate to work in a corporate environment that understands not every person or program is the same, so it offers flexibility to change and innovate. We also offer comprehensive programming which allows us to fill in all the gaps and be a one-stop shop for participants.
The result of flexible, comprehensive programming is that it’s really helped smoothly transition people from one health concern to another. Making it customized to the employer and easy for participants definitely creates a company culture of health and well-being.
5. Compelling Vision
Opportunities – how much time do you have? With digital technologies just beginning to grow, there are going to be more opportunities than we’ll know what to do with. I foresee people instantly video-chatting with coaches or physicians, reviewing data on why they stick with a plan or not, and recognizing what works or doesn’t. We can go where they go.
Threats are also related to technology. With digital technology, anyone can offer a product, without knowing if their claims are real or credible. Using a service that’s not proven and doesn’t work discourages people from trying again with a different service that will work. That’s a shame.
I’m excited about the ongoing blending of technology, data, and coaching. I’ve always wanted to get the average person excited – turn that spark into a flame – and lead the health and well-being industry in a way that serves everyone.