Over the last four years I have worked as an Industrial Fitness Specialist for C&S Wholesale Grocers, spearheading the development of the ProMOTIONS program. Currently, this health and wellness education program is being implemented at the regional level and is designed to increase retention through associate engagement and decrease work related injuries.
As the Industrial Fitness Specialist at C&S Bethlehem, I have worked tirelessly to ensure the safety and wellness of our 2,000+ associates through education, coaching, observation and evaluation, injury assessment and care, and nutrition counseling. In addition, I have developed numerous training and educational materials, which been successful in helping our associates stay energized, healthy, and pain free. Over the course of the most recent fiscal year, I saw an 80% reduction in claims dollars, a 39% reduction in ORI, and a 62% reduction in new hire recordable injuries between my two buildings.
At age four I made my first workout video. Decked out in my favorite sparkly black leotard, I had my mother take our clunky 1980’s camcorder and film me while I flipped around our jungle gym. Needless to say, my passion for health and wellness was engrained at an early age. At age 18 I decided I wanted to turn that enthusiasm into a career and work towards a degree in Applied Health Science from Virginia Commonwealth University while I played for their women’s soccer team. Upon graduating, I took an internship with the University of Hartford Strength and Conditioning program and quickly moved into a position as an Assistant Strength Coach and member of the women’s soccer staff. After a year and a half, I returned to my Alma Mater to obtain my Masters of Education from the Center for Sport Leadership while serving as a Graduate Assistant for the VCU Strength Program. I have had many amazing mentors and experiences throughout my career, but the education I obtained from VCU’s CSL has made the greatest impact in my career by far. The background I received in event development, branding, and marketing has been what I’ve leveraged in my current position as an ‘Industrial Fitness Specialist’ to promote health, wellness, and injury prevention methods to the 2,000+ warehouse associates and leadership I serve. This education, paired with my relatable approach, has undoubtedly been what has made me successful with C&S Wholesale Grocers. It has been important to me to act as a role model within my buildings, to not only strengthen my brand, but show that a healthy lifestyle is obtainable. This includes everything from participating in the pre-shift stretches with our hourlies, to showing them my meal-prep for the week and giving them the recipe. However, it is also imperative for me to demonstrate that a healthy lifestyle is a “journey and not a destination”. I preach that it isn’t about being perfect, but making small changes in order to make each day count. For example, I talk about how now that I am the mother of an eight month old baby boy, I’m often unable to get as much sleep as I should and reach for coffee for an extra boost. I then discuss that I focus on consuming fiber and staying hydrated in order to offset the effects of that caffeine-crutch and improve my energy the best I can. My take home message that I hope to convey to our population, and the approach that I’d advise other wellness professionals to take, is that being “healthy” is not all or none. Social media and the entertainment industry far too often paint a picture of perfection and it is my hope that by being relatable, I can show others that we are each a beautiful work in progress.
I currently work as a member of a five-person team of Industrial Fitness Specialists for C&S Wholesale Grocers, the largest wholesale grocery company in the country. Together, we make up the ProMOTIONS team, a program designed to decrease work related injuries and promote health and wellness as mentioned before. I serve as the “IFS” for the warehouses in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Over the course of the last fiscal year, my buildings have seen an 80% reduction in claims dollars, a 39% reduction in OSHA recordable injuries, and a 62% reduction in new hire recordable injuries. This is due largely in part to two programs I developed and recently trialed in my locations that will soon be launched program-wide by the end of our current fiscal year. The first is called ProTips. It is a program that has our supervisors announce the same health-related message every day for a week at the start of each, maintaining the same overreaching topic for an entire month. The supervisors are required to hang each week’s poster in their workspaces and utilize the correlating engagement question of the week with their associates. This not only educates our hourly population but it also educates our supervisors and arms them with the ability to coach their associates on these health-related topics. The second program is our ProSeries, which was developed for our trainee population, particularly for warehouses without a fitness specialist to provide support. It includes an objective “health quiz” that quantifies an associate’s daily wellness into a score that can be compared each day and correlated with their individual production numbers. With a higher score on the health quiz, associates see better productivity, which means more money in their paycheck, as C&S pays on an incentive rate. Each question on the quiz has several correlating educational handouts to be distributed to an associate when he or she needs help improving his or her score. Since the two buildings I serve operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, it is vital that the programs I create are user-friendly for our supervisors so that they can help facilitate health and wellness related associate engagement and education. Both programs have helped both our leadership and hourly population take a more proactive approach to their health and preventing workplace injuries.
In the next five years, growing AI technology will provide both several opportunities as well as risks for the health promotion wellness industry. This technology will allow for more streamlined fitness and health tracking and subsequent recommendations for improvement and will decrease costs for employers. Virtual assistants will be able to respond to questions and provide feedback; however, they will take away the human interaction that is so important to the wellness industry. In order to help advance the industry, I plan to network within the field as much as possible. I firmly believe that our greatest strength lies within teamwork and that the best way to push forward is through collaboration.