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.