Verve, a credit union
Julie Ortman-Wellness Director
I earned my Bachelor’s degree from the California State University Fullerton, then started coaching at Humboldt State University where I earned my Master’s degree in Sports Psychology. After coaching, I decided to feed my entrepreneurial spirit so I opened a personal training business and became a certified personal trainer. Moving to Verve in 2015 has been the highlight of my career. Since joining this organization, a Verve team member was awarded the WIWC Light of Wellness Leadership Award and we were recognized by our Community Blood Center for a 360% increase in donations. These recognitions for our organization have made me extremely proud.
Things move fast here at Verve and when our innovative CEO decided to invest in the health of his team, it happened in a blink. Upon my arrival in the Spring of 2015, we had completed the first of many mergers with numerous credit unions from around Wisconsin, introduced our new brand and revamped our phone, core operations and intranet systems. We were a stressed out organization. This stress led to unhealthy behaviors, unhealthy choices and an unhealthy culture. This was proven through our Health Risk assessment outcomes, low program turnout and empty fitness facility. I knew going in that cultural change would take time and that I would need to meet each team member where they were at in their wellness journey to achieve success. This process started by building relationships one team member at a time. I knew once my team trusted that I was here to help them, not yell at them or judge them, we could take big strides towards making better choices together. On the recommendation of our long standing Wellness Committee, I assigned a Wellness Ambassador at each of the 15 branches who could help motivate their team and be an extension of my voice. These ambassadors were encouraged to use their creativity and come up with healthy initiatives that would work for their individual branch. Our first real success was our challenge between branches. 11 of our 15 branches participated in a three-minute wall sit challenge with 58% of our team participating. It brought team members together by working toward a common goal, helped them overcome a task that seemed impossible initially and got them up and moving daily even if only for a few minutes. After that first challenge I heard whispers of “I wonder what our next challenge is going to be?” I knew they were hooked! I believe the true root of our success thus far has been the variety of initiatives and activities we have made available to our team. Understanding that “one size does not fit all” I have continued to challenge our wellness team to be creative when coming up with healthy options for our team members. That mindset has created a number of opportunities that have appealed to a wide variety of people. Between fitness classes, lunch and learns, daily morning stretching, branch challenges, healthy food days and interactive wellness fairs there is literally something for everybody when it comes to wellness. I am proud to say to date that 90% of our team has participated in the wellness program in one form or another. When you give people the opportunity to be engaged on their time and within their comfort level, success will follow. This is evident by the healthier happier culture that has evolved in a short amount of time. This transformation to living in wellness has taken place for our team not just at work but also at home.
Having been in the health and wellness field for my entire life, I have always walked the walk to the best of my ability. My relatability stems from my transparent imperfections. Leading from an honest place regarding my own wellness journey has helped create a trust that allows me to build deeper relationships with my team. I am fortunate to lead a wellness team of 30+ members from all over the state. They know that I bring positivity to Verve every day and that my ultimate goal is to set them up for success by giving them the tools to lead from their position. This shared leadership is evident because many of the successful program ideas that have been put in place have come from our wellness team. I am passionate about continuing to build the Wellness culture here at Verve and realize that that task can only be accomplished by working collaboratively.
We have built a successful wellness program by creating an awareness of healthy living through education and opportunity within a supportive environment. Early on my first followers were instrumental in demonstrating the healthy behavior change that we desired for the rest of our team. This led to increased HRA participation (from 70%-95%), expanded utilization of our fitness facilities (40%), more participation in initiatives and challenges (85%), increased activity of team members throughout the day and our very own therapy dog. The Verve team has often mentioned that my gentle and encouraging approach has been another key to growing our wellness minded culture. As a health professional, I believe personal approach and active listening is everything. At the end of the day program development is not about what I think is best, it’s about meeting the needs of our team.
Inactivity will continue to be the biggest threat to our industry. Verve is no different. This has been a challenge since the day I arrived and will continue to be the root of many health problems. To combat this epidemic, with our CEO’s support, we will continue to encourage our team to participate in fitness classes, daily stretches or simply take a walk. We will continue to grow the variety of healthy activities in order to enhance engagement one team member at a time. Our future investment in standing work stations will allow team members the option of standing during their work day, in conferences or at their daily jump start meetings. Teaching our team to be mindful of these health threats and giving them the tools to succeed is our duty as wellness professionals. Verve will continue to support each individual as we challenge them to live well.