All posts by Andrew McIlvaine

Selling Employees on Wellness

Employee engagement is “the tough part” of having a successful wellness program, said AztraZeneca’s Dr. Joe Henry, who spoke last Thursday at the Innovations in Wellness summit sponsored by GlobalFit in Philadelphia. Henry oversees health and well-being at Wilmington, Del.-based AztraZeneca U.S., a subsidiary of the global pharmaceutical giant.

Getting employee engagement on anything has gotten a lot tougher these days in the pharma industry, which is being squeezed by competition from generic drug manufacturers and a shortage of new so-called “blockbuster” drugs. Morale has taken a beating, Henry said, and it’s upped the ante to be ever-more creative in getting workers to participate. One approach that’s worked well has been in using “celebrities” to draw attention to wellness efforts. Headquarters staff turned out recently to get health tips from an Olympic runner, while local celebrity chefs have given classes on healthy cooking, he said. Of course, it’s easier for HQ employees to attend health events than the staff at AztraZeneca’s manufacturing facilities, where bottlenecks can occur in the production lines if too many employees fail to return on time from “lunch and learn” health seminars. It requires Henry and his staff to carefully coordinate wellness activities with site managers and keep them as short as possible.

It’s also important to “always be trying new things,” Henry said. This summer, the headquarters location will see its first-ever onsite farmers market,  in which employees will be awarded points for purchasing fresh produce from local growers. The points are part of the company’s “Get HIP, too!” health incentive program, in which employees accrue points for engaging in healthy activities and redeem them for gift cards.

Getting employee buy-in was also a challenge at Fox Rothschild, a 104-year old Philadelphia-based law firm with 16 offices spread throughout the country. Attorneys are not the easiest group to pursuade, especially when it comes to making healthier choices, said Felicia Z. Smith, the firm’s CHRO. Having wellness committees at each office proved helpful in obtaining buy-in, as did regularly surveying employees to get their thoughts on what was working and what wasn’t, and “keeping things fresh, not letting programs go stale, and understanding that it’s better to have a few high-quality programs than lots of different programs that don’t resonate with anyone,” said Smith.  She credited the firm’s wellness program with helping it reduce total healthcare costs by 15 percent between 2007 and 2010 (she also credited the firm’s switch to a self-insured health insurance model).

Both AztraZeneca and Fox Rothschild branded their wellness programs with logos. At AztraZeneca, the logo is a penguin on a treadmill. “You can’t tell whether or not he’s thin, and he looks like he’s working hard,” said Henry.  At Fox Rothschild, it’s a white figure against a red background holding his/her arms in the air, signifying health and happiness, said Smith. Of course, the firm’s cynical and jaded lawyers put their own twist on it. “They said it looks like a person suffering from a heart attack or something, ” she said, chuckling.

Wellness, Mediterranean-Style

Dr. Will Clower had fully expected that the two years he and his family would spend in France, where he was to work at the Institute of Cognitive Sciences in Lyon,  would result in all of them gaining weight. After all, the French diet is filled with heavy creams and cheeses. How could one possibly emerge from spending two years there without some extra pounds?

So imagine his surprise when, eight months into their tour, he and his family had actually lost weight, despite fully partaking in the French diet. “The French diet comes from history, culture and tradition,” said Clower, who spoke last Thursday at the Innovations in Wellness summit, an annual event hosted in Philadelphia by GlobalFit, a wellness-services provider also based in the City of Brotherly Love.  “The American diet used to be based on these things as well, but since then we’ve been bombarded with fads and faulty information–‘Eat nothing but fruit,’ ‘Eat nothing but meat’–and we’ve lost our way.”

People in the Mediterranean region, including France, eat a diet that emphasizes lean meats such as fish and chicken, healthy oils like olive oil, whole grains, dairy on a daily basis and very little processed foods, says Clower, who’s authored two books–The Fat Fallacy and The French Don’t Diet Plan–based on his experiences living in that country.  Trained as a neuroscientist, Clower is today founder and president of Mediterranean Wellness Inc., which consults with companies and institutional clients on healthy eating programs that emphasize the principles of the Mediterranean diet. His clients include Westinghouse, Alcoa and Citizens Bank.

A key piece of advice that Clower, an Alabama native, dispenses to clients is: “If it ain’t food, don’t eat it.” A quick glance at the ingredient labels of the processed foods found in the typical American supermarket reveals things that “have never been found anywhere near a kitchen, nothing that’s ever been alive, that’s ever had a momma and a daddy.”

Most of today’s prevalent diseases, including coronary disease, Type 2 diabetes and the majority of strokes can be avoided by adhering to the principles of the Mediterranean diet, he said. A diet rich in vegetables, whole grains, fresh fruits and lean meats is the way to go–along with portion control and taking the time to eat together as a family, said Clower. He urged HR leaders to work closely with the vendors that manage their employee cafeterias to use healthier ingredients and make basic changes to their menus to bring them more closely in line with the Mediterranean diet. He acknowledged that making such changes is rarely easy. But the proof that it works can be found in countries like France. “The French have fewer heart attacks than we do, lower rates of obesity and they live longer.”

The (Wildly) Underpaid Mom

I don’t envy the job my mother once had. With my dad spending long hours at work, raising four strong-willed kids on a farm in deepest rural Pennsylvania while balancing the family checkbook and overseeing the care of our various animals undoubtedly required the combined skills and fortitude of Annie Oakley, IBM’s Lou Gerstner and Boutros Boutros-Ghali. So I read with interest’s latest “Mom Salary Survey,” which this year is based on the input of 6,616 mothers, 1,724 of whom work outside the home. says it based its “Mom Job” on Certified CompensationProfessional benchmarking principles that determine the value of a job. In the case of stay-at-home moms and their counterparts who work outside the home, the job description includes, among others: psychologist, Computer Operator I, facilities manager, CEO, cook, day-care teacher, van driver and laundry machine operator.

Based on the hours they devoted to each of those duties, a stay-at-home mom would’ve earned a base salary of $36,968 plus $78,464 in overtime, for total compensation of $115,432. A mom working outside the home would have earned (in addition to her actual paycheck) a base of $39,968 plus $23,709 in overtime, for a total of $63,472. Funny, but all I remember my mom getting in compensation was random gifts throughout the year plus a (badly prepared) breakfast served to her in bed on Mothers Day. Not to mention: no access to an EAP, paid time off, benefits or job training. Well … thanks Mom! And Happy Mothers Day.

Lawson Talks Back

Not everyone is a fan of the just-announced planned acquisition of Lawson Software by Infor and Golden Gate Software Holdings Inc. In a post on her “In Full Bloom” blog, tech consultant Naomi Bloom describes Infor as “an ERP graveyard” where “old software goes to die, to be milked for its installed base’s maintenance revenues, with only modest, ongoing upgrades.” She further writes “I could be very wrong, and I surely hope I am.”

A spokesman for Lawson takes issue with that view. “No disrespect to Naomi, but that’s a dated perception of Infor,” says Terry Blake, Lawson’s vice president for corporate communications, during a brief phone interview earlier today. “The experts in this space really need to understand what Infor is doing these days.”

The company has a new management team in place and a “vision” that involves delivering “even more applications to customers,” he says.

“Infor is in no way an infrastructure vendor, they’re not trying to be a stack provider–they’re focused on applications,” adds Blake.

Infor’s new CEO, Charles Phillips, plans to rebrand Infor as a competitor to SAP and Oracle, says Blake. A number of Lawson customers have expressed support for the acquisition, he adds. “Infor’s track record is to acquire and keep products–they don’t necessarily try, like Oracle, to put someone into some type of Fusion re-do of existing applications.”  

Lawson customers have also expressed concern as to whether their “investments will be protected and whether there is a ‘plan, going forward, for the products I have?’ ” says Blake. “Our response is, Infor has put forward a commitment to continue investing in products and providing customers with a path to future products.”

Although a recent article in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune (Lawson is based in St. Paul, Minn.) speculated that up to 25 percent of Lawson’s 700 or so headquarters staff would be let go as part of the acquisition, Blake says no personnel announcements have been made and most likely won’t be made until after the deal closes, which he anticipates will likely occur in the third quarter of this year

Infor is planning to hire 400 additional software engineers in the near future, according to an Infor press release annoucing the acquisition.  It also plans to ship 60 percent more products and enhancements compared to last year.

Infor and Lawson are a good fit because each will complement the other’s strengths, says Blake. “Lawson has some presence in the gaming industry but Infor is very strong in that industry, while Lawson has a very strong HCM suite that Infor does not have, so there are many opportunities for customers of both companies to benefit.”

… and SuccessFactors Acquires Plateau

Hot on the heels of Infor’s acquisition of Lawson Software, talent-management firm SuccessFactors has announced its acquisition of learning-systems vendor Plateau for $290 million. SuccessFactors will pay for Plateau with an even mix of cash and stock.  SuccessFactors describes the Plateau acquisition as a “symbiotic combination” with another vendor it’s just purchased,  mobile-learning provider Jambok.

Plateau brings more than 350 new customers to its new parent, according to SuccessFactors. Once the deal closes this summer, Plateau’s SaaS-based learning-management system will be integrated directly into SuccessFactors’ BizX talent-management suite.  

The SuccessFactors-Plateau combination drew praise from several HR technology analysts, who are quoted in a SuccessFactors press release announcing the deal. “[The acquisition] brings together the market share leader in talent management with one of the market leaders in learning management to create a global powerhouse in end-to-end talent-management software,” said Josh Bersin, president and CEO of Bersin & Associates.

“This is, in my opinion, a merger of true leaders,” said Lisa Rowan, IDC’s program director for HR, talent and learning strategies.

“SuccessFactors just acquired another big piece of the periodic table of elements,” said Jason Averbook, CEO of Knowledge Infusion.

Infor Acquires Lawson Software

Consolidation in the HR technology arena continues apace with the latest news that Infor and private-equity firm Golden Gate Capital have acquired St. Paul, Minn.-based Lawson Software for $2 billion. Under the terms of the transaction, Infor and GGC Software Holdings will pay $11.25 a share for Lawson, representing a 14-percent premium for Lawson’s shareholders, according to the NY Times’ DealBook blog.

“We are pleased to have entered into a transaction that will offer Lawson stockholders an attractive valuation,” said Lawson president and CEO Harry Debes in a statement.

More to follow …

More Consolidation Ahead?

Lawson Software confirmed last Friday that it’s received a $1.8 billion takeover bid from Atlanta-based enterprise-software maker Infor Global Solutions and Golden Gate Capital. According to the bid, the would-be buyers seek to acquire all of Lawson’s common stock at a price of $11.25 per share in cash.

According to a press release from Lawson spokesman Joe Thornton, the company’s board of directors has retained Barclays Capital Inc. to assist it in evaluating the proposal. The press release notes that the St. Paul, Minn.-based company long-term strategic plan will remain in effect unless the board decides to sell the company or engage in another transaction.  According to the New York Times’ Dealbook, Lawson had a market value of almost $1.9 billion at the close of the market on Friday and it had $228 million of long-term debt as of Nov. 30.

Makin’ It Easy For Jobseekers, the recruiting consultancy founded by Gerry Crispin and Mark Mehler, have come out with their annual study identifying the 25 companies out of the Fortune 500 that have the best jobs sections on their corporate websites.

CareerXroads reviewed each company in the Fortune 500 and ranked them into the following four categories:

Best-in-class: About 8 percent are “consistently welcoming a range of specifically targeted candidates, providing brand, content and communications that reflects today’s realities and suggests they are listening to the candidates.”

Solid: Another 25 percent have essential career content but “have limited 2-way communication.”

Undistinguished: Just over 54 percent “just have jobs and basic content.” Another 8 percent are “seriously flawed with minimal content.”

Non-existent: Just over 4 percent have no career sections–they either don’t exist or cannot be found “despite our best efforts.”

And, the Top 25 firms, representing the 5 percent of the Fortune 500 that provide a best-in-class experience for jobseekers and serve as excellent benchmarks, are:

1. Yahoo  2. Whirlpool  3. Target  4. Stryker  5. State Farm Insurance 6. Southern Co. 7. Raytheon 8. PSE&G  9. Procter & Gamble  10. Pepsico 11. MorganStanley 12. Lockheed Martin  13. Intel  14. Home Depot 15. Google 16. General Motors 17. General Electric 18. Fluor 19. FedEx 20. EMC 21. Eaton 22. Capital One 23. BestBuy  24. AT&T  25. Altria Group

Not Just Smoke-Free: SmokER Free

The trend of refusing to hire smokers seems to really be taking off in the healthcare industry. According to a story in today’s New York Times, hospitals in Florida, Georgia, Massachusetts, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Texas, among others, stopped hiring smokers in the last year and more are openly considering the option. A number of these organizations have justified the new policies as advancing their institutional missions of promoting personal well-being and finding ways to reduce the growth in health care costs. 

We’ve documented this issue before in our magazine, profiling companies such as Scotts Miracle-Gro, which found itself in the bulls-eye of public attention a few years ago for refusing to hire smokers and firing employees who failed urine tests for nicotine. It’s easy to see why organizations are sick and tired of smokers: the Times notes they cost $3,391 more a year each for healthcare and lost productivity, according to federal estimates.

I can sure sympathize with hospitals for taking this route—after all,  can you imagine a patient stepping outside and seeing the doctor, nurse-practitioner or physician-assistant who’s just counseled them about living a healthier lifestyle puffing on a cancer stick? On the other hand, it seems like it’s yet another intrusion over the line between work life and private life, especially the part about urine tests. If I want to smoke a cigarette now and then, then shouldn’t I, as a hardworking employee, have that right without risking my livelihood? Sure, I can always go work elsewhere, but as evidenced by this growing trend, my options would appear to be growing more and more limited.