BizVoice July/August 2014 - page 57

July/August 2014 – BizVoice/Indiana Chamber
care and concern. That is a key driver to that
employee being loyal to the company,” explains
Walker Information President Phil Bounsall.
Indianapolis-based Walker is a customer
intelligence consulting firm that also collects
information on employee engagement.
“Wellness programs are a very tangible
way to demonstrate that care and concern
and it clearly ties into employee loyalty,” he
continues. “We also think it’s a major
differentiator for companies. When you have
good wellness programs that are attractive to
employees, that’s going to differentiate you
when you are competing for employee base.”
Orme knows just how true that piece is.
It’s not always easy to recruit to Nebraska.
National media coverage, including a 2008
series on Lincoln Industries by CNN’s Dr.
Sanjay Gupta, certainly doesn’t hurt those
efforts. Gupta got wind of how the company
rewards its top performers in the wellness
program: a company-paid three-day vacation
to climb a 14,000-foot mountain in
Colorado. Seven people initially made the
trek; this year there will be 140 employees
taking part.
That’s the kind of thing employees are
seeking, Bounsall says.
“They’re looking for jobs that they
enjoy, looking for jobs that allow them a
greater balance in work and life and they’re
looking for the ability to spend more time on
community activities. Things like a wellness
program fit right in there.”
Treating the employer-employee
relationship as more than just an exchange of
money for work is key for Walker
Information and the main reason the company
has a wellness program.
“It’s a relationship and one that needs to
be treated like a relationship. We believe it’s
the right way to build a relationship with
associates,” Bounsall expresses.
Community impact
A healthy individual impacts families,
communities and businesses. Michael J. Hicks,
Ph.D., director of the Center for Business and
Economic Research at Ball State University,
explains that poor health typically leads to
more spending to deal with health-related
problems and that is where the financial strain
comes in.
“There’s no doubt that lack of health or
poor health leads to a lot of negative
economic consequences. The big one is just
going to be shorter lifespans, more
morbidity, less enjoyable life. We don’t think
about those a lot in the economy, but they’re
real,” Hicks contends.
“The health care spending costs for
employer-based health insurance is typically
going to be very closely tied to the wellness
of that population and/or the community.”
Hicks also notes that some preventable
diseases tend to “cluster by community.”
“Nobody has an extraordinarily good
explanation for this. There is a variation in
communities in measures of health … things
like Type 2 diabetes, obesity and things like
that tend to cluster by community,” he
shares. “We’re beginning to see evidence that
places with more access to recreational
activities are going to be healthier and that is
completely rational. We’re very early in this
wellness craze and 20 years from now it will
be (so) ubiquitous in business considerations
– it’s like our retirement plan is now.”
Hicks suggests businesses should partner
with communities and use the amenities and
infrastructure already in place, while also
giving back to the area. He gives the example
of a business choosing to locate its headquarters
in a community with a walking trail.
“The reason is that it was much easier for
(the owner) to institute a wellness program in
that community because the infrastructure
was in place. For businesses, one of the
easiest things to do is to say, ‘We would like
to partake in your park system. Where can
we participate? What can we do?’ ”
‘Thinking like Carmel’
Here’s another scenario: A community
with a walking, biking or foot trail increases
the property value of the average home by
$10,000 (and typically with a return in less
than five years).
Hicks led a 2004 study on trail systems
in two West Virginia counties and discovered
those results. A previous study out of
Greensboro, N.C., he notes, identified nearly
the exact same thing.
“There’s not a mayor in America that
wouldn’t consider (this) – these are like six-
mile, three-mile trails through a community
using flood plains and other undeveloped
property that would make these
improvements,” he says.
There doesn’t have to be a lot of work
or money put into this type of community
infrastructure, Hicks asserts.
“The money isn’t the problem.
Imagination is the problem. I heard somebody
earlier today say a community is going to say
they can’t be Carmel. But you’ve got to be
thinking like Carmel,” he contends.
“There are a number of ways to integrate
trails. Cities own a lot of the right of way
around many of the facilities they have. The
cost of that sort of public improvement is
about the least cost improvement that most
communities can make themselves.”
But, Hicks cautions, trails (for example)
aren’t a cure-all for what ails a community.
“This is an environment where it’s very
hard to have a bad idea. These are low-cost
improvements; they tend to self-reinforce,”
he emphasizes. “One of the things that
commands this action is the relatively low-
cost, low-risk nature of doing something,
rather than waiting for the perfect
opportunity to emerge.”
Phil Bounsall, Walker Information, at
| Michael J. Hicks, Ball State University, at | Hank Orme,
Performance pH, at
Workplace Wellness
There is never a better time for a community to pursue wellness initiatives – such as bicycles to rent, or
walking and biking trails.
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