Friday, April 13, 2012

WOWIE Winner Shares Wellness Tips

(L) Donna Rogers - ISC Chair, Cindi Elstien - Alper Serv., 
Charlie Judy - Emcee and   Babette Puckett - Alper Serv..(R) 

Chicago-based insurance broker and consultants Alper Services has been very competitive in both WOWIE Award competitions to date—the company finished third in 2010 and second in 2011.  So, we asked Cindi Ferrara Elstien, senior vice president of Human Resources at Alper Services, to share some tips with other HR pros who are thinking about starting, or improving, their company’s employee wellness programs. 

1.) What have you learned from your success putting together employee wellness programs and what new wrinkles are planned for 2012?

Employees and employers benefit from participation in wellness initiatives by creating measurable, significant, predictable, and sustainable improvements in employee population health. Employer participation at the work site in promotion and active communication about the value and benefits of participation is critical to the breadth and depth of a program's success.
Key points:
  • A "Strategic Communication Strategy" is necessary with management's buy-in
  • Incentives must be offered
  • Programs have to be fun and/or interactive
  • Management must be on board 
  • Increase employee engagement of program offerings 

At Alper our challenges for 2012 include keeping the wellness challenges interesting and continuing to get a large employee population's participation within the company.

2.) How does Alper Services get buy in from its employees to participate in your employee wellness program?

We combine employee incentives, team building activities and awareness through newsletter and employee communication with an overall spirit of competition we have to stoke interest and buy in from employees.

3.) Have you been able to calculate health premium or productivity results or savings from your employee wellness program?

Every year we have biometric screenings on-site and each employee that participates in this program receives a comparison of the health report from year to year. Ultimately, the employee has a greater concern after reviewing results and is more proactive in controlling any health issues. This helps reduce health claims during the year by wellness awareness. We reward employees who participate in this program and reduce employee monthly premium contributions by $ 20.00 per month (calendar basis).

Incentives are key; for example, Alper Services has monetary awards in addition to extra vacation days off for our challenges throughout the year. The awards encourage behavior change and parallel what our values and culture is within our organization.

It’s very important to measure your program too.  At Alper we do a thorough analysis of our program and we have found that:
  • 81 % of our population has participated in some way in the HealthyRoads Program
  • 75 % of employees self-enrolled in the Telephone Coaching Program in the areas of health improvement & weight management 
  • 43 % of employees lost weight were in the program and the average weight loss  was six pounds. 
  • 66.7% of our employees improved in exercise and increased the frequency of exercise  

4.)  For companies just getting into the employee wellness game, what advice do you have for them?

For new companies just entering the wellness arena, I recommend they start simple and build over time as resources, interest and commitment become available.   It’s important to find a wellness champion or a  group of employees on a committee from different divisions within the organization  who will show leadership for the program. Alper has an Employee Advisory Council / Wellness Committee where decisions are made and tasks and programs are carried out.  Other essential tips include:
  • Management's buy-in
  • Strong strategic communication of the program throughout the organization
  • Employee input
  • Incentives must be offered
Posted by Dave Ryan Director of Social Media ISC SHRM

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