Aug. 5, 2014
Credit Union Management’s online “HR Answers” column runs the first Tuesday of the month.
|Runners line up before starting Goldenwest's
annual five-kilometer charity run.
Since the '70s, "Schoolhouse Rock!" and "Sesame Street" have been showing that learning can be fun. Today, wellness programs are showing that healthy living can be just as entertaining.
Wellness programs use incentives and innate competitive responses to form healthy habits, turning exercise back into fun. This "gamification" empowers employees to make small changes--like getting enough sleep and eating more fruit-- that can make a big difference in both their lives and their work.
Hubbub Health, an online wellness program founded by a team at Cambia Health Solutions in the Pacific Northwest in 2010, has demonstrated success by combining healthy habits with gamification to foster definitive change.
Hubbub's five "pillars" focus on physical, nutritional, emotional, mental and social health. Online quizzes and group goals take advantage of the program's interactive and gradient platform, outlining healthy lifestyles that are accessible to anyone.
"We know that not everyone is seeking to be a marathon runner," says Brian Berchtold, Hubbub's VP/sales and marketing. "We also understand that employees are most influenced by friends and family, outside of work and the traditional 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. shift. Hubbub’s challenges focus on taking small steps; you can focus on family time or home cooking. Turn the digital devices off and pick out a menu together. That could be a corporate wellness challenge."
According to a 2010 study from the Mays Business School, published in the Harvard Business Review, wellness programs can save companies as much as $6 for every dollar invested. Although most of the financial savings only show in the long term, the study indicates that, because of the leadership engagement and continued communication a successful wellness program requires, programs also foster community growth and increased productivity right away.
The Affordable Care Act encourages employers to offer wellness programs with increased coverage of preventative care and lower insurance premiums for employers that offer them.
One of Hubbub's first customers, $995 million Goldenwest Federal Credit Union, Ogden, Utah, joined when CEO Kerry Wahlen, a CUES member, decided to take a more proactive approach toward employee health.
"I was really concerned with our culture and our employees," Wahlen says. "We provide jobs where people are mainly behind a computer and a desk. What can we do to have some meaningful impact on our employees?"
Wahlen was unsatisfied when he found that many wellness programs had rigid guidelines, using negative incentives for participating companies, such as minimum enrollment limits and higher premiums for those who didn’t participate.
"We were looking for a model we could tailor," Wahlen says. "[With Hubbub] we had access to wellness coaches for all of our employees at a reasonable cost and we were able to put together wellness campaigns that were positive."
Today Goldenwest FCU has built a Hubbub program that uses such incentives as financial bonuses to encourage participation, and 80 to 85 percent of the CU’s employees are actively engaged with the program regularly.
The Goldenwest FCU staff quickly realized that Hubbub's group challenges were the most effective at motivating the organization’s employees. For example, each year the CU holds an employee spirit week and a community charity run that draws over 2,500 Hubbub members, including families and friends of Goldenwest FCU employees. Recently the CU participated in a Hubbub event where multiple CUs competed in a series of small fitness challenges.
"It was exciting to see. Those who wouldn't normally get involved joined in," says Ashley Shreeve, an assistant vice president at Goldenwest FCU. "Every time you turned around, someone in the branch was doing a wall sit. It became part of the routine."
Shreeve believes that as long as management supports a wellness program, the changes they've seen can carry over to any CU.
"It was successful because it was supported by our executive team," Shreeve says. "We also chose to launch to our managers first. [They] could help us adjust and personalize the program."
"It required a lot of motivation" personally, Wahlen says, "If the CEO doesn't want to improve their life and work on wellness, it won't trickle down. It can't move up from the HR department."
After two active years with Hubbub, Goldenwest FCU is starting to see more tangible long-term benefits, and Wahlen has lowered his cholesterol.
"It's to the benefit of our employees and culture," Wahlen says. "In my case I would have had to take an expensive medication that would've cost the credit union a lot of money."
Hubbub's flexible platform allows members to create their own wellness challenges, participate at their own level and tailor the challenges to their schedule. The design has caught on quickly, and the company nearly tripled its customer base in 2013. Berchtold says Hubbub is looking to continue its "wild and crazy organized growth," but it's clear Goldenwest FCU, as one of its first customers, isn't going anywhere.
"We feel like it's been really successful," Wahlen says. "I felt like if we could change the lives of two or three employees then it was worth every dollar in doing the program."
Kait Vosswinkel is a CUES editorial intern.