Current Company: Provant
Job Title: Vice President, Client Management
Industry: Health and Wellness
Years in the Field: 33
Organization Size: 10,000
Provant has an admittedly ambitious vision: to change the health of America one person at a time. From the moment we met Mike Parent, we knew he could help us realize it. Provant delivers customized workplace wellness strategies and services to more than 6,000,000 individuals through our clients’ workplaces. Mike, now our vice president of client management, is tapping his deep experience in creating, implementing, and managing health improvement programs to bring new meaning and results to organizations. While some executives simply land in the wellness industry, Mike has been deeply interested in health from his youth. As a college sports major, Mike interned at the first cardiac rehab program in New England. Working with a cardiologist and cardiac nurse, he witnessed firsthand the health improvements that are possible through a combination of nutrition, physical activity and purposeful self-management. He realized how accountability – accountability to oneself, to healthcare providers and to peers – supports a person’s progress. It was an eye-opening experience; one that prompted him to focus on health and wellness as his life’s work. The next question was, where to apply that passion to make the greatest impact? Mike thought this through carefully and realized the answer was the workplace.
Education: Bachelor’s degree in Health Fitness/Exercise Science
Certifications: ACSM Clinical Exercise Specialist, AHA Heartsaver®CPR AED
I decided on the wellness field after seeing the inspiring transformations my clients experienced in cardiac rehab. I’m passionate about bringing transformational opportunities to everyone, whether their health has been compromised or not.
My degree gives me vital insight into how lifestyle directly affects quality of life.
The most successful programs I’ve developed address physical inactivity. The increasingly sedentary lifestyles in the U.S. have resulted in significantly increased health risks. Too often, people just don’t understand how to change their lifestyle. The prospect is simply overwhelming.
Therefore, the most successful interventions I’ve employed are education on the value of physical activity, personal demonstration of action and movement, and creation of personalized plans based on each individual’s current level of fitness, health and readiness to change. In short, I help people understand why activity is important and exactly how they can integrate consistent activity into their lives.
The outcomes of these interventions have been meaningful. Companies I’ve worked with have progressed from not providing wellness benefits in any form to developing dynamic environments of health. To help them transform, I needed to obtain strong leadership support – both cultural and financial – for the unfamiliar notion of providing a new opportunity and benefit for all employees. Between 1980 and 2010, I went from having zero clients to 150+ clients. Participation in fitness classes for all clients increased from 7% to 35%.
Behavior change. Educating leadership and employees on the value of movement and providing a personalized, high-energy approach resulted in consistent participation. For example, I’m proud that 30 percent of participants in Provant programs who were previously sedentary and in the high-risk category have adopted an active lifestyle, engaging in significant physical activity at least 100 times per year – or at least twice a week.
Culture change. Behavior changes don’t stick without culture change. That’s why I’ve helped clients position their programs for sustained success by counseling them on best practices for leadership commitment, messaging and communications. Results were industry-leading participation rates and improved health status.
7 Benchmarks. CAPTURING CEO SUPPORT: My approach involves meeting with the CEO or senior leadership to understand their goals and help shape their thoughts on the importance of a healthy workforce. I focus their attention on the “dual bottom line”: What’s good for their employees’ health is inevitably good for their business. CREATING COHESIVE WELLNESS TEAMS: By partnering with company leadership, I establish Provant’s credibility and then can easily move through the organization, meeting with HR professionals and reinforcing the value of health expressed by their CEO. COLLECTING DATA TO DRIVE HEALTH EFFORTS. My teams and I collect participants’ data to accurately understand their current health status and goals, and develop individualized plans. CAREFULLY CRAFTING AN OPERATING PLAN. We re-evaluate participants after 3 months with a high-touch model to keep them engaged in, and focused on, their personal health. CREATING A SUPPORTIVE ENVIRONMENT: Improvement in well-being is not a linear proposition. Individuals may have setbacks. The important thing is not to pretend they don’t exist, but to communicate they are a normal part of adopting a new, healthy lifestyle. CAREFULLY EVALUATING OUTCOMES: I’m in the wellness field to improve lives so I carefully measure outcomes, determine success factors and optimize programs to deliver tangible results that support both employees and our client’s business.
A. I walk the talk by being active in my personal life. In addition to recently completing my 18th PanMass Challenge bike ride for cancer research, I have participated in dozens of triathlons, Tough Mudders and Spartan races. I’m also a competitive bike racer and tournament level squash player.
B. Because I strongly believe in the transformative power of healthy living, I actively listen as people explain why they have unhealthy lifestyles. I learn what will motivate them to start thinking about, and eventually taking action toward, healthy behaviors. I rely on my personal experience, knowledge and observations of what inspires behavior change to lead individuals in the adoption of long-term health improvement.
C. Listening to people is critical! Understand why they currently have unhealthy lifestyles. Determine what their motivators are. Put yourself in their shoes so you understand what gets in the way of healthy living, and develop ways to positively shape their thinking and actions.
I continue to teach fitness and positive lifestyle practice classes so that I stay on top of behavior and health trends. I research the industry’s best training principles for professional and amateur athletes and scale these for individuals and populations. I have found that people love to be called “athletes,” so I use that term when working with them to generate pride, confidence, perseverance and accountability.
Biggest Threats or Opportunities: I feel the biggest threat to the health promotion and management industry is placing too much emphasis on incentives and not enough on behavioral science. While there is a place for extrinsic motivation such premium discounts and cash rewards, I believe there is a huge opportunity to combine behavioral science, which creates intrinsic motivation, and organizational support, which rewards positive behavior and outcomes. In the next 5 years, I’ll be working with client leadership to produce health promotion models that engage significant percentages of their populations based on promoting autonomy, mastery and purpose within a healthy team culture environment. This will lead to outstanding industry outcomes and significant, measurable results.