Wellness that Works

Our 2017 roster of honorees boast wellness programs focused on each employer’s unique characteristics

Story by Rick Berg

June 2017

This 12th iteration of New North B2B magazine’s Corporate Wellness Awards found four sterling examples of workplace wellness programs that made the most of the resources available to provide valuable resources for healthier employees.

B2B’s Corporate Wellness Award – sponsored by Network Health of Menasha – was designed to recognize the efforts of northeast Wisconsin employers who create wellness programs designed to improve the health of their workforce and reduce health insurance costs.

This year’s award winners represent some of the best examples of wellness in the workplace.

The four wellness programs profiled here suggest that the key for employers is to focus on the unique characteristics of their organizations and create programs targeted to those characteristics. These best practices and innovations might serve as inspiration for other employers to examine their own organizations for ideas that fit their own needs.

Goodwill NCW: The whole of wellness

The wellness program at Goodwill Industries of North Central Wisconsin caught the judges’ attention for a variety of reasons – not least of which was the holistic approach of the organization’s Circles of Care initiative.

“They’re at a different level than most wellness programs,” said David Brand, an employee benefits specialist with Appleton-based Valley Insurance Associates and a long-tenured panelist for B2B’s Corporate Wellness Awards. “They don’t just talk about the physical well-being of the individual. They also talk about the spiritual side and the financial side. They’re treating the wellness of the whole person.”

Brand and fellow awards panel member Mark Geiger, a regional wellness supervisor with Menasha-based Network Health, agreed that the holistic nature of the wellness program owes much to the culture created by Bob Pedersen, president and chief executive officer at Goodwill NCW.

“It’s really not just about the program, but about the culture they have created there,” said Geiger.

With a diverse population of approximately 1,200 employees spread across 27 locations, Menasha-based Goodwill NCW’s wellness program relies upon a Circles of Care Team that routinely visits all locations to offer private one-on-one coaching and biometric measurements to employees.

“I can’t tell you how difficult it is to deal with 27 locations,” Geiger said. “It’s difficult enough when it’s all under one roof.”

Each location also contains a wellness room where the Circles of Care Team provides coaching and organizational training.

Geiger and Brand agreed that the social services and job training organization’s program included many innovative concepts, including a paid day off for employees who participate in the personal wellness assessment program, and paid volunteer days where employees can still earn their paycheck while volunteering to improve their community.

Perhaps the clearest signal that the Circles of Care program is succeeding is that 12 percent of Goodwill’s employees use the organization’s employee assistance program – a third-party service that offers counseling for emotional, relationship and addiction issues.

“In most organizations, if you get 2 percent participation you’re doing well, because most people are reluctant to expose themselves in that way,” Brand said. “To get 12 percent participation shows that people have a lot of trust in management.”

Ana Merchak, health and wellness specialist at Goodwill NCW, said the organization continues to refine the Circles of Care program based on results of the personal wellness assessments and feedback from Goodwill team members. For example, she said, more than 35 percent of team members indicated they would like to see more stress management programming.

“Our claims data also tells us that the use of anxiety medications by Goodwill NCW team members surpasses the national average,” Merchak said, reinforcing the need to help employees effectively manage stress.

In the year ahead, the Goodwill wellness program will also increase its emphasis on nutritional and financial health, she said.

“We want our team members to eat healthy outside of work, so we need to also model that at work! Over 40 percent of our team members were high risk for weight control according to our (personal wellness assessment) results,” Merchak said. “Also, 54 percent of our team members reported that their financial health was poor in our most recent wellness survey. That leaves us with a huge opportunity to educate and encourage our team members to improve their financial well-being.”

Faith Technologies: Empowerment

Menasha-based Faith Technologies launched its workplace wellness program in 2004 and rolled out an updated version of the program in 2016. Called EmpowerYou, the program partners with a wellness technology company based in Dallas that provides an interactive wellness portal with health coaching and educational tools for Faith employees and their spouses.

The electrical contractor’s focus on spouses was particularly impressive to Brand and Geiger, who noted that lack of spousal involvement is common in many wellness programs.

“What really jumped out to me was the 66 percent of spouses who (voluntarily) participate in the program,” said Geiger. “That’s very strong.”

The company’s focus on the health of employees’ families is no accident, said Alyssa Kwasny, wellness program administrator at Faith.

“It starts with the family,” Kwasny said. “If you have your family involved, it makes it a lot easier for you to continue to do the things you need to do.”

Employees and spouses on Faith’s medical insurance plan can earn a premium incentive by participating in activities on the wellness portal and can also earn points redeemable for a wellness reward of up to $100.

Faith’s wellness program begins with the new employee on-boarding process and includes an impressive variety of communication materials distributed to employees throughout the year. Among those materials are success stories about Faith employees who have participated in past health risk assessments and who received treatment for previously unidentified health issues.

“I really like that they promote those success stories,” said Geiger, who indicated such health risk assessments aren’t just an annual measuring stick, but a conduit for earlier detection of health issues requiring prompt attention.

“I agree,” said Brand. “That’s the kind of thing that’s likely to encourage other employees to participate in the health risk assessments.”

Faith’s wellness program includes annual biometric screening offered to its more than 2,000 employees and their spouses, regular wellness challenges, reimbursements for health and fitness activities, an onsite fitness center at three of its locations, weekly chiropractic care, lunch and learn education programs, health food choices, a disease management program and an employee assistance program. The company provides fruit and oatmeal in its cafeteria and break rooms at no cost to employees.

Its efforts have produced results. Kwasny said Faith has seen consistent improvement in several areas over the past several years:

m In 2015, Faith Technologies saved almost 8 percent on medical costs compared to 2014, and more than 14 percent in 2014 compared to 2013. Medical claim costs per member per month decreased by 14 percent from the previous year and continue to stay below industry averages.

m Over a five-year period, Faith improved its average health risk assessment score by five points, despite the increase in average age among employees and spouses. Scores decreased by 6 percent in the extreme risk category, increased 10 percent in the minimal risk category, and the number of employees who smoked decreased 7 percent.

“When you look at the improvements we’ve seen over the past several years, it’s very encouraging,” Kwasny said. “That tells us that we’re doing the right things for the right reasons and that what we’re doing is working.”

In addition to the New North B2B recognition, Faith Technologies also earned a spot on Healthiest Employer LLC’s 2016 Healthiest 100 Workplaces in America for the second consecutive year.

Integrity Insurance: High marks

Appleton-based Integrity Insurance might have some built-in advantages for its wellness program, with a white-collar employee population somewhat attuned to health issues, but the judges were impressed with the particularly high marks Integrity achieved with its personal health assessment program. Integrity’s already-high 2015 score of 84 improved to 89.9 in 2016.

“Typically, we are more likely to see scores in the mid-70s,” said Brand. “To have scores in the 80s is really impressive.”

“I get that that’s not a common level for employers to achieve,” said Katey Smith, vice president of human resources and administration at Integrity. When she arrived at the insurance carrier’s home office in 2014, Smith said she was aware the company of 112 employees already had a strong wellness-inclined population.

“I knew I was joining an organization that already had an embedded interest in place – a strong population of runners and bikers and people who just generally had that awareness of heath,” Smith said. “So, we just wanted to take that and run with it.”

Some of the more significant hallmarks of Integrity wellness program:

m Integrity promotes work-life balance and flexibility throughout the week to reduce work-related stress.

m Year-over-year results for repeat participants of its HRAs have shown improvement in the high-risk areas of weight management and cholesterol. HDL and LDL cholesterol scores have dropped by 66 percent and 33 percent, respectively. Body mass index scores also dropped 25 percent in the repeat participant group.

m Integrity offers an onsite gym complete with cardio and weight machines.

About 90 percent of Integrity employees participate in the company’s wellness program, while about 60 percent of associates and 20 percent of spouses and partners participate in the personal health assessments.

Employees can receive a wellness reimbursement benefit for up to 50 percent of out-of-pocket costs on wellness-related expenses such as Fitbits, fitness attire and health club memberships.

An onsite health coach is available to Integrity employees and their spouses or partners, and also offers the services of an employee assistance program.

Paying attention to financial wellness as well, Integrity offers employees one-on-one meetings with a retirement representative twice per year.

Smith said the organization is proud of the offerings provided by Integrity’s wellness program, but that the most important factor is the level of participation in the program.

“We try to focus on the role wellness plays in the lives of our associates and we recognize that we have the advantage of a population that recognizes the value of good health,” Smith said. “At the end of the day, our program is only as strong as it is because people are participating. You can have a fitness center and all the programs in the world, but if people aren’t using it, it’s a lose-lose proposition.”

Corrim Company: Working smarter

For a small manufacturing company with fewer than 40 employees, Oshkosh-based Corrim Company has made an impressive entry into the world of workplace wellness. With the assistance of its wellness program partner at Aurora Health Care, the 37-employee manufacturer of industrial-grade commercial doors and frames serves up a wellness offering that many employers double to triple its size don’t provide.

“For a company of that size, they have made great use of their vendor to enhance their offerings,” said Geiger. “That to me is very noteworthy. When I was looking at the offerings they have, I assumed they were much bigger (than 37 employees).”

Bob Gluth, president and owner of Corrim, recognized using the expertise of an outside vendor is important for a company his size.

“We’re able to draw on all the resources Aurora has for a lot of our programming,” Gluth said. “It really makes sense for any company, but especially for a company like ours, to work with a good third party.”

“They’re working smarter, not harder,” Brand said.

Brand and Geiger were both particularly impressed by Corrim’s idea that employees were automatically enrolled in the wellness program and needed to actively opt out of it, rather than the practice at most employers where employees are asked to opt in to the wellness program.

“It’s not a mandatory program. It’s voluntary, but you have to opt out. That creates a different environment,” Geiger said.

Gluth emphasized that the concept is intentional. “The idea is to encourage people to be proactive about their health,” Gluth said.

The judges liked the fact that Corrim faced head-on the negative results of employees’ 2016 wellness assessments and is modifying its wellness program to address those issues.

The company discovered 27 percent of its participating employees smoke cigarettes – well above the national average of 9 percent. The company also discovered that 12 participants do not have a primary care provider, which can lead to a lack of preventative care and necessary vaccinations. But Corrim is intent on helping employees improve those measurements.

On the other hand, Corrim employees scored surprisingly well in several categories:

m 60 percent of participants have a healthy blood pressure reading.

m 44 percent of participants have a healthy HDL reading.

m 78 percent of participants have total cholesterol within the healthy range, a sharp increase from 60 percent in 2015.

m 69 percent of participants fall into the overweight or obese category for body mass index – which, although still high – is down from 81 percent in 2015.

It’s an admirable improvement, Brand noted.

The early success of Corrim’s wellness program owes much to Gluth’s top-down support and communication with employees, said Shelly Birling, human resources manager at Corrim.

“We hold all-employee meetings to inform our employees on health care spending and the outcomes of our wellness program efforts,” Birling said. “A recent example of this includes gathering our employees together to discuss health plan changes. The employees provided input via a confidential survey that the owner took into consideration when implementing the health plan changes.”

Gluth said he acknowledges the importance of a strong wellness program to enhance the company’s success on several levels.

“It will almost certainly bring down our health care costs, but more than that, it will make for healthier and happier employees, and that is going to help us succeed as a company in the long run,” Gluth said. “That’s an important commitment with me.”

Rick Berg is a writer and editor based in Green Bay.