Wellness @ Works Feature Story: Q&A with Chrysler
Cindy Bjorkquist, Director, Wellness, Care Management and Health Promotion Program Development at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, recently sat down with Kathie Neal, Director of Integrated Health Care and Disability at Chrysler, to discuss the company’s health and wellness program, specifically the BCBSM Connect 2Bfit program. Read about what Chrysler is doing to encourage a “Culture of Health” among its employees and the positive effect it’s having company wide.
Cindy Bjorkquist: Chrysler recently added the BCBSM’s Connect2Bfit program to the employee wellness program. Can you tell us about the program and how it has taken effect at Chrysler?
Kathie Neal: Chrysler Group has created and supports a “Culture of Health” for its employees and their families. Over the last three years, we changed our salaried plan designs to include the completion of an annual physical examination and a Health Assessment (HA) for employees and their spouse or domestic partner. In return, employees receive a lower deductible in our PPO plan or a higher employer contribution in our HDHP HSA. Based on aggregated member data from the HA, we learned that members were receptive to change in two areas: physical fitness and nutrition. We recognized that Connect2Bfit could provide a medium for members to become more active and an opportunity to improve their health in a group environment.
On January 1, 2013 Chrysler launched Connect2bfit wellness challenges for its salaried employees. All salaried employees are eligible to participate in online challenges and the BCBSM Wellness suite of products at no additional cost to them whether or not they take medical coverage through Chrysler. The Connect 2Bfit challenges are for employees only, but spouses/domestic partners are welcome to participate. We made an investment in prevention and health and encouraged members to be engaged in their own health. The response has been very positive with 98% of Chrysler’s employees opting into Connect2bFit.
CB: How has participation increased since the program started and what kind of feedback are you hearing from employee participants?
KN: In 2012, eighty percent of our salaried employees and spouses enrolled in our medical plans, completed a Health Assessment and had a yearly physical. Currently our employees are participating in our first Connect2Bfit challenge, “Ready Set Go,” utilizing their Company provided pedometers. Our engagement numbers are very high with 70 percent of salaried employees participating in our first challenge. To date, feedback has been very positive and there is a great deal of talk about Connect 2Bfit in meetings and around the Company.
CB: Connect2Bfit is a social wellness program with challenges. Do you think Chrysler employees are exercising more? Have employees started running?
KN: Yes, you can visibly see the increased activity around the Company. During lunch, hallways and stairwells are busy with employees getting their steps in, increasing their activity and endurance. At our headquarters facility, stand-up work stations in the main corridors have increased in popularity and some managers are conducting walking staff meetings. Our on-site Health Activity Center is busy with 1,121 active members. Chrysler Group offers over 100 different classes, with enrollment in exercise classes averaging 16 employees. Cycling, Yoga and weight training classes are the highest in demand. Employees can work out Monday through Friday from 5:00 am to 8:00 pm. This data supplies Chrysler Group with some metrics for us to monitor going forward.
CB: Please discuss how the various challenges are incentivizing participants
KN: All employees are encouraged to participate in our Healthy People Rewards program utilizing the Connect 2Bfit challenges. They receive a total of $480 for successfully completing two core challenges, each worth $240. The $480 can be used as a premium offset, applied to other benefits or used to purchase additional vacation days.
For our second challenge “Flex Your Food”, we have solicited support from our food services supplier Aramark who has arranged to bring in Chef Billy Strynkowski, Executive Chef from Cooking Light magazine, to provide a live cooking demonstration on healthy eating. Product samples and food giveaways will support the weekly initiatives in the Flex Your Food challenge.
For the “Fight the Flu” challenge offered later this year, we will continue to offer free on-site flu shots to employees and offer educational content and awareness on the signs and symptoms of the flu. Employees will have numerous opportunities to participate in wellness challenges.
CB: Can you share engagement statistics (i.e. how many participants/increase in participants, user data, top performers, average weight loss etc.)?
KN: Although, we are currently completing our first Connect 2Bfit challenge, we are very encouraged by our employee’s engagement. To date we have:
- Walked 2.6 billion steps – 5.5 times from the Earth to the Moon
- Exercised 124,348 hours
- And lost 16,777 pounds – roughly equal to three Ram 1500 pick-up trucks
These numbers are self-reported and aggregated weekly by Shape up.
- In our first challenge we had 1,279 teams participating in competitive standings.
CB: How does social media play a role in Chrysler’s Connect2Bit program? Is the use of social media increasing engagement among participants? If so how?
KN: Social media helps connect our members in different ways. They can support each other and help others meet their personal health goals. Team members do not have to be employees. Members can invite family, neighbors, friends and external exercise partners to join their team. Members can send a quick challenge to a friend (i.e., let’s only take the stairs today), or they can accept the weekly challenge (i.e., drink more water this week), or participate in the core challenge. Team captains can send encouraging notes to motivate their team or celebrate the success of a team member. Having real time feedback, support and encouragement makes a big difference in the level of engagement.
CB: Why did Chrysler feel it was important to offer employees the opportunity to participate in the Connect2Bit program? How does the Connect2Bfit program fit in with Chrysler’s overall corporate health and wellness program?
KN: Connect2Bfit was important to Chrysler Group as it complements our “Culture of Health” wellness cycle: Excellent medical and pharmacy coverage, prevention and personal health accountability. As an employer, Chrysler Group wants healthy productive workers. For more than 20 years we have supported our employees with workplace wellness, including health activity centers, on-site wellness programs and coaching, flu shots and, most recently, the on-site CVS pharmacy and Henry Ford Health clinic for employees at our headquarters facility. We are fortunate that many of our facilities have walking trails, exercise equipment and dedicated wellness/employee assistance advisors. Connect 2Bfit takes wellness to the next level. We know that by encouraging good behaviors that are repeatable and sustainable in a fun environment with the support of peers, our employees will succeed.
CB: Promoting health and wellness among employees is clearly a priority for Chrysler. What other ways do you encourage healthy behavior and positive attitudes towards wellness in the workplace?
KN: Promoting health and wellness among employees is a priority for Chrysler Group starting with our Executive leadership team’s commitment to a Culture of Health. In staff meetings, in our hallways and in our cafeterias, employees are talking about exercising, eating healthier and walking more. We have managed the Connect 2BFit launch like our vehicle product launches utilizing our key suppliers: BCBSM, Aramark, Staywell and Healthy Life/ Health Fitness together with our internal customers and several employee groups to help support our strategic health plans. With each challenge, we will utilize our communication channels, marketing and employee portal to offer tools and assistance. Our common goal is a positive, engaged and healthy employee at every touch point.
CB: What recommendations/tips do you have for other Michigan organizations looking to improve health and wellness among their workforce?
KN: Our first recommendation for other Michigan organizations looking to improve health and wellness is to make sure that you have the support of your executive leaders. Secondly, have an integrated communication plan with different modes targeting different points of receptivity. Third, make it accountable and actionable with defined steps, measurements and metrics. And lastly, make member engagement fun.
CB: In your opinion, what is the best part of the Connect2Bfit program for the Chrysler employees and why?
KN: In a short period of time, we have visibly seen behavioral change. Employees and spouses are making choices that can positively influence their lives. They are aware of their health assessment numbers, are talking to their doctors and have an action plan to get or stay healthy. When employees receive their reminder text message from Connect 2Bfit to input their steps, they take notice and enter their data. They want to walk more, share it with their coworkers and family members and overall want to improve their health. Simply by wearing a pedometer every day, they are taking steps both mentally and physically towards better health.
Photo credit: Ricardo Giaviti