free-ranging conversation with michelle james, health communication specialist, intel

February 2, 2010

in free-ranging conversations (interviews with wellness innovators),health communication,social media,wellness

this interview is part of an ongoing series of conversations on workplace wellness.

intel wants to create a health and wellness culture. to foster that, they offer employees “health for life,” a three-step program consisting of on-site health checks, health risk assessments, and wellness coaching. in addition, they partner with the mayo clinic for more specific interventions, such as tobacco cessation and stress management. they offer u.s. participants an incentive of up to $75 and have recently added preferred medical plan pricing for participants (effective 2011). the program’s been in place since 2007 and is offered to employees in the u.s., costa rica, israel, and china today, with plans to expand in more countries down the road.

michelle and i focused on what she’s learned about communication messaging since they first rolled out health for life.

what’s the primary point you’d want others to walk away with?

communications play an important part in creating a culture of health. we don’t just focus our health communications during annual enrollment season; we make health a year-long campaign. we provide information on choosing your health benefits during annual enrollment, and for the remainder of the year we focus on making wise decisions on using health benefits and living a healthy lifestyle. we leverage multi-media channels to reach not only our employees, but also our employees’ families who are major choosers and users.H4L_Blog_020110

intel’s use of social media is well known. how are you using it to support a shift in employee health and wellness?

you may have heard about planet blue, intel’s social media network. on planet blue, we have a health for life group where employees share their perspective and experiences of wellness programs and can ask questions of one another. topics range from “my workout forum” to “healthy recipes” and “stress management tips.” we’ve also created a group for health benefits, which makes it possible for employees to discuss their health benefits and our benefits representatives to blog about them. to date, 67% of u.s. employees have viewed our health social media groups.

do you have guidelines for use?

benefits representatives monitor the group, in addition to our wellness coaches, who often refer employees to creditable resources. but we welcome constructive comments and encourage employees to keep the discussion real. when constructive comments are posted, we often see other employees respond with a positive comment or useful information.

during annual enrollment, we did see some employees posting questions or expressing a negative perception about consumer-driven plans, such as the plans don’t provide comprehensive coverage. other employees were quick to provide correct information, including personal stories.  we attribute greater take-up of our consumer health plan to these open conversations. constructive comments also help us improve our communications and allow us to address issues we may not have considered.

convincing leadership to open the communication gateways can be a challenge, to say the least! what was key to gaining your leaders’ support?

the value of word-of-mouth and showing engagement. most of us can relate to going down the hall and asking a co-worker their opinion on what benefits they’re choosing during annual enrollment or what their experience was when participating in a company program. social media provides this at your fingertips—in masses. and allowing two-way communication engages  employees in the topic.

most companies who tackle health and wellness experience employee concerns about privacy and the company’s intent. what advice do you have?

you’re right. employees have questions about privacy and “why are you doing this?” we had an idea that confidentiality was an issue, but once we held focus groups, we were able to drill down to the specifics. employees thought that insurance companies would get their HRA information and drop their coverage. we’re self-insured, so nobody’s going to be dropped. the feedback from the focus groups helped us develop key messages about these concerns.

finally, what results have you seen?

fifty percent of all eligible employees currently participate in health for life. we’ve tracked a global cohort group that’s participated in year 1 and year 2—47% of this group reduced their health risk by at least one level. (note: this is a referral to data from a health risk assessment, where reports isolate a health risk level for employees, such as low, medium, and high.)

we’re excited to see the health risk results and want to continue engaging more employees. our goal is to better understand why some employees haven’t participated and develop communication messages to engage them.

if you have a question for michelle, leave it in the comments. she’ll answer them through next week.


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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Teryl Taglieri February 2, 2010 at 11:17 am

good stuff fran, very interesting.


Frank Roche February 2, 2010 at 12:12 pm

Excellent stuff…great learning. Thanks!


fran February 2, 2010 at 1:32 pm

teryl and frank, thanks for letting me know that these conversations are valuable. feel free to ask any questions. michelle’s happy to expand on any topic or tactic.



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