The Secret to 99% Participation in an Employee Wellness Program

June 1, 2011
WIKA Instrument says key to success is beginning program on voluntary basis.

WIKA Instrument Corp., a manufacturer of advanced pressure gauge, pressure transmitter and temperature measurement instrumentation, started exploring the connection between wellness, healthy employees and controlling health care costs in 2007.

After talking with medical providers and brokers to see what was available to their workforce, the company decided the best approach would be to enlist employee participation on a voluntary basis to see how employees would react.

In 2008 an outside contractor was brought onsite to perform screenings and health risk appraisals. The results of the reports would be presented in an aggregate report to WIKA, however employees would receive individual results. They were offered the opportunity to meet with a health coach for fifteen minutes to discuss the results of the report. "We had a 50% participation rate for this initial step," reports Cathy Bochenek who is Environmental, Health and Safety Manger at WIKA Instrument.

"To build on this success we brought the health coaches onsite, four hours a week during lunch time. The goal was to get people comfortable with the idea of coaches as resources to improve health." The company also held lunch-and-learn sessions based on issues that surfaced during the aggregate health report.

The goal for 2009 was how to capture the other 50%, explains Bochenek. Incentives were introduced. If an employee participated in biometric screenings, for example and attended a 15- minute meeting to get results, the cost of the their medical premium was reduced 10%. "This got everyones attention and we picked up that extra 49% we wanted," reports Bochenek.

"Employees were very appreciative of this opportunity. Convenience also played a large part as well," said Bochenek.

In 2010 the company was still looking for improvement. (This company is well known for its continuous improvement program and lean efforts. See Continuous Improvement: The Never-ending Story.) Realizing that spouses were significant contributors to health care cost, the company decided to offer to reduce premium costs 10% for spouses who participated in a wellness program. "While we didnt provide coaching to the spouses, only tests, we still received an 87% participation rate," says Bochenek.

The company moved further down the road in their efforts in 2010, by setting up wellness challenges such as "The Biggest Loser" competition. "This program had the added benefit of increased our team-building capabilities," says Bochenek. Employees also started walking and running clubs.

In 2011 the company will be introducing 10% premium reductions for employees who become tobacco free. As per their process back in 2008, smokers had a year to understand what the changes were going to be.

"The key to our success is that we gave employees time to understand and get used to the program by beginning on a voluntary process. We set aside resources for education via meetings with supervisors, newsletters and materials available in break rooms. Expectations were realistic. The program we created, "Gage Your Wellness," has provided employees on the factory floor as well as in the office, access to health information and activities so they can create healthier lifestyles. Its a win for everyone," said Bochenek.

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