When applying for the Compensation & Benefits manager position at Early Warning, a high tech company located in Scottsdale Arizona, I didn't realize that I would end up running their wellness program. From humble beginnings (biometric participation drove discounts) we've beefed up this program and garned state awards (4th Healthiest Employer in the Valley)! Our 360 employees love our program!
Sheila Krueger, Early Warning
Sneaking in the back door to Human Resources as an IT consultant, I found the interaction with employees was great and that I really enjoyed motivating others to attain their career and personal goals.
Holding both a CCP (Certified Compensation Professional) designation and several WELCOA certifications, I am currently working towards completion of an MBA with an emphasis on Technology Management.
Wellness is a big step on my journey and was added onto the list of responsibilities that included compensation and benefits. I’ve taken it on and earned my company two awards as Healthiest Employer in the Valley, moving up in rank over two years.
We all know that sitting is the new smoking. Increasing activity in the workplace has been an important goal for our employees. The use of standing workstations and on-site bicycles both of which can be used at any time by the staff, have been very visible indicators that our workforce is getting up off of their chairs and moving.
We have seen increased usage of both of these programs and our population is up and moving more than ever. We have had testimonials from employees praising these programs as small steps that have moved them into a larger wellness effort. In addition, our premium increases of less than 5% per year over the past two years, coupled with low claim utilization, have validated our success to our executive team.
Our senior leaders have seen the results of our wellness program and continue to help us grow our programs. This is quantified by annual increases of 15-30% in our wellness discounts. Recognizing that wellness programs directly impact low premium increases has allowed us to continually pass along higher discounts to our employees. From 2013 – 2014, the annual premium discount went from $750 to $975. The support from our executive teams is also seen in their participation in our activities. From basketball challenges to biometrics, this team is first in line when it’s time to visually demonstrate their support. They don’t just say they support wellness, they model the behavior.
Through the use of employee surveys, we are creating a supportive environment for our employees. We use survey data, along with our aggregated biometrics to spotlight programs that will provide maximum results for everyone. When employees asked for additional functionality and connectivity from our stand-up stations, we added docking stations and a full complement of peripherals to make them as useful as possible. Now the stands are seen as highly functional and are in constant use.
Each year, we work with our vendors to lay out a plan for our wellness year. This includes how to engage employees, setting up schedules for learning opportunities and coming up with at least 1-2 new avenues to wellness. In 2014, we’ve added financial counseling and debt management services as a result of employee feedback. We also added a health service that brings Nurse Practitioners to the employee home or worksite when they are feeling under the weather. This service literally saved the life of one of our directors, who was told at the ER that if he had not been sent there by the NP, he would have died.
Our 2015 wellness plan is being built specifically on the employee survey results. We want to make the program one that is inclusive and that matters to our employees, encourages and incents them to be engaged in the program and continue to provide that vital feedback.
While wellness has not always been a focus of my life, a particularly grueling hike in Australia’s Blue Mountains made me realize that I wouldn’t live to see my kids grow up if I didn’t make a change. I have had continuous weight loss (with occasional hiccups) for almost seven years and am now working with a nutritionist to make the process healthier and long lasting.
Using a local HR Wellness forum has given me access to so many great resources both for myself and for my employees. Networking is my key to success.
For anyone entering the wellness space, it is vital to embrace the wellness role for yourself before trying to encourage others. This isn’t just a job…it’s a lifestyle. The most successful wellness leaders are those who walk (or run, or swim) the walk!
I have been lucky that our insurance carrier assigned me a fantastic wellness resource who recognizes that our company is ahead of the pack. Partnering with BCBSAZ has been instrumental in bringing a year of engaged wellness to our employees.
Utilizing more than biometric results, our points-driven system requires that employees continually engage in wellness activities to earn their rewards and discounts, which are substantial. Using monthly challenges to motivate as well as incent behavior has been very successful here.
Because of the reputation of our program, our carrier has made policy exceptions and made specialty programming available to us so that we can tailor our program to our population. This included adding our own monthly campaigns, rewarding employees for scheduling and participating in health related screenings, and rewarding positive behavior changes such as smoking cessation or weight loss.
While nationwide obesity numbers have seen a small decline, this epidemic must be completely curbed. As our society becomes more and more hurried and attention spans dwindle, it is imperative that we look at the root causes of obesity. Certainly “fat happens” when people over eat, but the behavior of overeating is caused by stress and often depression. These root causes are the ones that bear inspection and correction. In our population, we see work-related stress and financial concerns as issues for our employees. It means we take a step back from weight loss programs and create programs and practices that allow our employees to be in a better place mentally, so that the physical aspects of their lives can recover. Using mindful practices of nutrition and relaxation techniques such as yoga will help our population to be more in the moment and aware of why they react to stress by eating Twinkies. We need to provide alternatives to stress-eating as well, by making even small breaks for physical activity a part of our culture. This is the future of wellness in my dreams. A wellness culture of mindfulness and awareness for all.