California Corporate Chiefs Find That Workplace Wellness Programs Benefit Both Employees and Companies; ABL Organization to Present Workshop on Employee Wellness Programs

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The Adaptive Business Leaders (ABL) Organization recently surveyed its membership on their experiences with corporate wellness programs for their employees. ABL membership is comprised of chief executives of companies in healthcare and high technology industries, primarily in California. The survey's overall response rate was 28%. Of ABL's Healthcare Industry Members, 30% responded, and of its Technology Industry Members, 20% responded. With that in mind, ABL looked for further distinctions-by-industry in the responses to all of the questions posed.

But, separated out: ABL Health Member respondents agreed 61% of the time, compared to only 40% of the Technology Members. This question also generated the most comments, including several who said basic

The Adaptive Business Leaders (ABL) Organization recently surveyed its membership on their experiences with corporate wellness programs for their employees. ABL membership is comprised of chief executives of companies in healthcare and high technology industries, primarily in California. The survey's overall response rate was 28%. Of ABL's Healthcare Industry Members, 30% responded, and of its Technology Industry Members, 20% responded. With that in mind, ABL looked for further distinctions-by-industry in the responses to all of the questions posed.

In response to: "Does your company currently have a Workplace Wellness Program in place?", one-third of the Health industry companies responded affirmatively, compared with 29% saying "yes" overall. Of the 29% who do have a program, 85% are Health companies. And of the 71% who do not yet have a program, 55% of respondents had at least thought about implementing one. But again, most of those "thinking about it" were Health companies: 65%, compared with only 25% of the Technology industry respondents.

"It's not too surprising that most companies -- even those in the healthcare business -- don't have 'Wellness Programs'," noted Mimi Grant, ABL's President. "Unfortunately, the emphasis in the United States has really been on sickcare, and responding to acute and chronic ailments after they've occurred, rather than preventing them. At least, we're seeing the healthcare industry starting to think about how to keep their employees healthy ... and, I do believe, all other industries will soon follow, since reducing the overall cost of delivering care is about the only approach left to dramatically lowering the cost of health insurance premiums. And that's something virtually every employer is concerned about."

The one area that both Health and Technology respondents agreed on were the Obstacles reported in response to "What are the reasons your company does not currently have a Wellness Program in place?" All respondents agreed on the top three reasons: "I don't have the resources (people or financial) for that type of initiative" (48%); "Just haven't found the time" (32%); and "Never thought about it" (29%).

Some of the specific reasons for not having a program were "employees are scattered all over the country," and "trying to work through how to preserve employee confidentiality." Perhaps more to the core issue: "I'm not convinced the benefits outweigh the costs" and "in a young company we have not seen this as a top 10 priority."

Perhaps the most interesting response was to the question: "In thinking of your company as a whole, on a scale of 1-5, how would you rank your organization's overall health?" Overall, the respondents saw their organizations as: 2% Very Healthy, 43% Healthy, 45% Somewhat Healthy, 9% Unhealthy, and 2% Very Unhealthy. The respondents whose business is Health ranked their organizations as: 3% Very Healthy, 39% Healthy, 45% Somewhat Healthy, 12% Unhealthy, and none Very Unhealthy. Technology industry respondents, on the other hand, ranked their organizations: 60% Healthy, 30% Somewhat Healthy, and 10% Very Unhealthy.

When asked "How much a company should set aside (of gross revenues) for a Workplace Wellness Program," overall the responses were: 11% zero, 40% 0.05%, 18% 1%, 7% 2 %, and 24% other, with insignificant variation between the Health and Technology companies' responses. Additional comments on this question were: "It may not come down to a % of gross, but rather an exact dollar amount based upon need and goals;" "3-5% of medical benefits spend isn't unreasonable;" and one CEO specifically added that the spend should be "part employee and part employer model." This may be a particularly important point in that a couple of respondents implied that those who needed the program most didn't participate.

There was a marked difference in the replies to the question: "Do you feel companies should be able to determine employment based on a prospective or existing employee's life-style choices? (i.e., controllable actions, not predisposed or genetic health issues). Overall, the answer was 56% "Yes," and 44% "No." But, separated out: ABL Health Member respondents agreed 61% of the time, compared to only 40% of the Technology Members. This question also generated the most comments, including several who said basic "fitness screening" was applied in the hiring process openly or, as one respondent put it, "I think we do this in certain respects anyway, but don't admit to it." Others expressed concerns about the legal/discriminatory aspect of "screening," yet the majority still said they believe it is an appropriate action for employers.

For the 29% of survey respondents who do have a Wellness Program, the specific services it provides include: for 92%, seminars and training; for 85%, both Wellness Coaching and a Health Risk Assessment; for 77%, Targeted Programs; and for 69%, Online Tools. On average, 19% of these services were provided through the company's health insurance, and 81% were provided separately from the insurance plan.

For those Technology and Health companies, alike, that have a Wellness Program in place, the top six "Benefits that you have 'visually' noticed and/or statistically documented" were:

54%     Improved Physical Fitness
46%     Improved Employee Relations/Morale
46%     Weight reduction
31%     Lower levels of stress
31%     Increased well-being/self-image/esteem
31%     Company's enhanced recruitment/retention of healthy employees

When asked what types of fun or interesting ways their company has implemented to encourage wellness the answers were inspiring: the dedication of a gym area with equipment and a trainer; walking and running groups, the creation of a "Healthy Company "logo; classes: dance, meditation, pilates, yoga, cooking; "Greatest Loser" contests; walking groups and competition; calorie counts of meals; fashion shows; showers and change-rooms; recipe contests; flexible time to take exercise / health breaks; healthy vending machines; and from a Medical Device company: "We offer a professional trainer, equipment and space for training, and seminars.    

Finally, perhaps most important to the ABL Organization, the survey asked: "ABL is considering holding a "Special Event" to acknowledge the Wellness Programs -- Does this sound like an event you'd like to attend?" 54% replied 'Yes,' with 40% looking to bring their head of HR. And when asked if ABL were to create a Group Purchasing Organization (GPO) to promote access to "Wellness Programs" at a discount -- would you be interested in participating in it?, 59% said yes.

As a result of this survey, ABL is planning a workshop to be held in early 2009 on "Wellness in Your Workplace," with a panel composed of those who have looked squarely at the obstacles to such programs, and implemented them anyway. ABL also plans to have a panel of the first "vendors" in the "ABL Wellness GPO."

About the Survey Participants
In August 2008, ABL surveyed its 112 Members from the healthcare and medical device sectors of the Health Industry, and 51 Members from high technology companies -- on "Wellness in Your Workplace." The results were tabulated from the 45 respondents, all of whom are company chief or senior executives who participate in one of ABL's California-based CEO Round Tables. Each question's response percentage was based on 42-45 individual participant responses; not a single question had less than a 93% participation rate. Of the executives who took part in this survey, 60% have a title of either (or combination of): Chairman, President, CEO, COO, Executive Director or Administrators, the remaining 31% are Division Presidents/GMs, Sr. Vice Presidents or Managing Partners/Principals (8% unknown). The Health companies' industries include: hospitals, facilities and systems; medical groups and IPAs; home health, imaging and dialysis; managed care and other insurance-related firms; medical devices and diagnostics; pharmaceutical, biotech and drug discovery; healthcare IT and healthcare-focused professional service firms. The Technology participants' companies include: software developers and solution providers; system integrators; multimedia; technology manufacturing and management solutions.

About the ABL Organization
For over 25 years, California's Technology and Health Executives have relied on ABL's CEO Round Tables, through its unique multi-coach approach, to accelerate their corporate and professional growth and help them build great companies. In monthly, confidential Advisory Board sessions, Members share and discuss industry trends -- and their most pressing concerns. ABL supports the needs of its top-level Member Executives (CEOs, Presidents and Division heads of publicly traded, private and not-for-profit companies) by providing them a "safe-place" to draw on the experience, knowledge and skill sets of their peers in a non-competing, vertical-industry, personal advisory board setting.

Mimi Grant, President (714/245-1425)
Laura Grant, ABL Event and Marketing Director (714/245-1427)
Adaptive Business Leaders Organization

http://www.abl.org

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