this post is by ray goldberg, VP, benefits strategy & economics, at marsh & mclennan companies. ray is a regular participant in our #co_health chats and a great resource. you can follow him on twitter @raygoldberg.
The 2011 HERO Forum for Employee Health Management Solutions featured the most uniformly high-quality presentations of any conference I’ve ever attended. I want to share some key principles speakers raised, as well as a few specific, compelling ideas.
What Makes Wellness Click?
There was wide agreement that the success of wellness programs depends on culture, leadership engagement, communications, and incentives—in that order. In fact, the Google team concluded that culture—how we do things around here —is the most important factor; they’ve stubbed their toes when their programs clashed with their delight-our-employees-who-work-24×7 culture.
Leaders, too, play a powerful role, and from this Forum, it appears many are:
- Andy Crighton, Chief Medical Officer of Prudential Financial, a 2011 Koop Award winner, described their “State of the Company Health Summit,” a 3-hour presentation open to all colleagues where four of their senior leaders discussed the importance of colleague health to their business.
- The National Physical Activity Plan announced the CEO Pledge, a way for CEO’s to publicly declare their support for health and fitness activities for their employees—whether before, after, or during work hours.
- Mike Trueblood, the CFO of Karsten Manufacturing (the manufacturer of Ping golf gear), took a visible leadership role in addressing wellness. After concluding that most controllable health costs stemmed from weight management and stress, they ran two contests—weight loss as a percentage of body weight and minutes of exercise—with ongoing prizes and recognition, for individuals and business teams.
- And Eastman Chemical, also a 2011 Koop Award winner, shared how their CEO sees the firm’s health and wellness culture as his number-one legacy. I heard that from another firm, too. That’s pretty powerful stuff.
Highlighting the role of communications, Alcon, the third 2011 Koop Award winner, recommended that employers “keep the program in front of people all the time” and keep it fresh by continuously adding to it.
Presenters and attendees alike described their use of financial incentives: “Incentives can be a terrific catalyst to get things started. But they won’t sustain change by themselves.” But firms are using nonfinancial incentives, too, including employee testimonials, celebrations for team accomplishments, and—my favorite—meetings with the CEO for colleagues who make big changes.
Seeding a Culture
A number of firms discussed their approach to both corporate and business units’ needs.
- ConAgra’s Charlie Salter described their focus on measuring and reducing modifiable health risks. They’ve stratified their per capita health care costs by the number of health risks, as well as by participants vs. nonparticipants. Their dashboard shows these key figures for each major business.
- Corinthian Colleges’ Sheri Feibush relies on a network of wellness champions throughout each of its schools to drive corporate-wide initiatives, as well as work on programs for individual schools.
- Dover’s Amy Katzoff drives certain initiatives from corporate, and each of its 35 OpCos has a HERO Scorecard reflecting its own practices. (You, too, can complete the HERO Scorecard to see how your organization stacks up. And HERO’s Employee Health Management Best Practice Scorecard, reflecting the practices of 450 different firms, is available to anyone.)
Measuring What Matters
I’m always on the lookout for hard data that shows the value of wellness. I found three research presentations particularly compelling:
- Healthways’ Carter Coberely showed that the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index is correlated with health care utilization and costs, as well as with absenteeism, disability costs, individual performance, and job satisfaction.
- And Ron Goetzel and OptumHealth’s Stephen Hartley separately summarized available literature about employee health management, including financial savings, effectiveness of incentives, and the use of online tools and mobile apps.
All in all, it was a very powerful learning experience; highly recommended.
I offer one closing thought, courtesy of one of our speakers: “Be sure to take advantage of the programs you’re putting in place—to act as a role model for your colleagues, and for your own wellbeing.”