Collaboration Key To A Successful Wellness Program

Strategic planning and collaboration are keys to executing a successful corporate wellness program, according to Mike Wenadka, employee wellness manager at ConAgra Foods.

ConAgra Foods, as Wenadka explained, is a company that produces and markets such brands as Orville Redenbacher popcorn, Healthy Choice, Pam, Hunts and Swiss Miss, among other brands.

The company has approximately 20,000 employees in addition to 10,000 spouses, which are included as eligible for the wellness program.

ConAgra has 125 locations across the nation and Wenadka said these sites are diversified and include corporate, manufacturing, plant, and mill settings; “we even have farmers … so we have a diverse group of employees among our population.”

Wenadka urged that wellness managers be open to collaboration opportunities to maximize the program.

“I want to talk about collaboration opportunities related to benefits,” he said. ConAgra redesigned its benefits program and branded it Work Perks.

“We wanted the employees to feel like these benefits were a perk to them,” he said.

The wellness program was included in the launch of Work Perks. As an incentive to join the wellness program, ConAgra offered its employees a 10 percent premium discount.

“We actually came up with what we called the wellness premium rate … so employees can actually visually see what their savings are related to their premium,” he said.

The company, working with its prescription drug plan, made maintenance medications available at no cost via mail order. The medications include those to control cholesterol, blood pressure, pre-natal vitamins and in some cases insulin for diabetics.

“From a cost point of view we feel it’s very important for people to be on their meds instead of creating a barrier for people to not be on their meds because of cost,” he said.

Another collaboration that energized the wellness program was with the consumer products division, he said.

The company decided that it was essential to have its healthy products available to consumers.

Needing to practice what they preached, he said, the healthy products were given a big push withemployees to enhance the wellness program.

The practice-what-you-preach attitude was significant to senior management when it was developing its strategic business plan, he said.

Senior management does play a key role in the success of a wellness program and Wendaka said “it’s very important to interview senior management and actually figure out and know how they report key business objectives. We want to follow suit with that same concept and same dashboard approach.

“We set up the ability to report everything we do by divisions as well as drill down to outcomes and participation at location level among all 125 different locations,” he said.

The reporting “fostered the concept of senior management ownership and accountability,”

Also if senior management sees something it does not like at a particular location it can push the location to change.

Another group that he cooperates with is called the Research Quality and Innovation group.

Wenadka said this group develops new products and improves existing products.

Market analysis is also conducted by this group.

Wendaka said he wanted to find out the frequency ConAgra employees were eating the company’s products.

“We promote our own products to our employees as a health improvement opportunity,” he said.

His wellness organization also collaborates with the safety group.

“What we’re trying to do is with this group is tackle ergonomic related … events or incidents,” he said.

Wendaka concluded that “I think the value of maximizing these collaboration opportunities not only increase the visibility and credibility of your program, but it also increases senior leadership accountability and support.

“You’re really positioning your wellness program as an operational objective by doing this and I truly believe that with wellness it truly is a link betweenpower and numbers,” he said.

Wenadka was a presenter during a webcast sponsored by Wellness Program Management Advisor and the Wellness Management Information Center.

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