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Creative solutions to engage employees in corporate wellbeing programs

By Nicole Chaudet, executive director, product execution

It’s no secret: corporate wellbeing programs are hugely popular. And, it’s a trend I’ve seen evolve first-hand the last 5-7 years.
But, as corporate wellbeing programs have surged, so too has the need to determine how best to engage employees in them. And, for many companies, that has been an ongoing challenge.
In fact, according to research from HealthFitness, nearly 60 percent of eligible employees don’t participate in their corporate wellbeing program. From a lack of information to a corporate culture that doesn’t support and engage them, many employees simply aren’t taking advantage of these programs.
So, companies increasingly are getting creative with how they engage employees in corporate wellbeing programs.
Case in point: Med tech giant Boston Scientific collaborated with HealthFitness to develop a plan to help workers eliminate or reduce the risk of injury on the job.  Project Manager Loren Redinger and Production Supervisor Dan Dehmer were tasked with reducing the number of ergonomic injuries among their production lines at Boston Scientific 
They started by contacting HealthFitness, who manages and staffs the employee fitness center at three of their Twin Cities locations. Together, we studied the 14 individual production lines to determine the common injuries and repetitive motions associated with each area and worked with HealthFitness injury prevention professionals to create a custom stretch program. As HealthFitness and Boston Scientific continued to develop the plan, employee engagement became the next priority because success requires employee buy-in and i ongoing, sustainable participation.
Boston Scientific started to think well outside the proverbial box by using three unique tactics to engage employees:
1. Introducing a musical cue and making it fun (with a side of pop culture)
When Boston Scientific introduced its ergonomic stretching program, music was not used as a cue to announce stretch breaks. “We used a mega horn (bull horn),” Dehmer recalls, “Not a big surprise, but the mega horn didn’t work. It was too jarring and unsettling to the team.”
Dehmer is the man responsible for managing 80 medical device specialists who work on 14 manufacturing lines throughout three shifts. Employees rotate throughout the workstations on the lines during their shift. And although employees are encouraged to take stretch breaks, there was no schedule in place to ensure stretching was a priority.
The company’s medical device specialists working in its Maple Grove, Minn., facility build catheters that are used as access tubes for medical devices. This unique job requires strong attention to detail, from frequent grasping of small parts and tools to long periods of standing and sitting, and often completing the work under a microscope (literally!).
Boston Scientific, in collaboration with HealthFitness, implemented a customized ergonomic stretching program designed to proactively address and prevent issues before they become more serious medical concerns. One key to success has been the use of a popular, yet unexpected, cue to signal it’s time for a stretch break. The song of choice? None other than the theme song of the most storied and celebrated villain in movie history, Darth Vader. Cue the “Imperial March.”
“Once employees hear the music shift to the ominous marching beat they know to finish their task and stretch,” Dehmer says. “Workers even shout out ‘time for a stretch break!’ to their co-workers to serve as a reminder.”  Dehmer plans to continue to change up the music ahead to keep the program fresh and fun. 
2. Make models of your employees—literally
When working to engage employees in daily exercise, it doesn’t hurt to see a familiar face. Another unique approach Boston Scientific implemented: making its employees the face of an internal communications campaign.
A number of the medical device specialists who work on the assembly line serve as the models for posters and handouts in the plant, demonstrating stretches and exercises.
“Our employees make realistic models,” Dehmer says. “Our diverse workforce comes from all over the world and ranges in age from recent high school graduates to pre-retirement,” he explains. “If employees see one of their co-workers on the posters demonstrating the stretches, they are more likely to participate and own the program.”
He’s absolutely right—employees are so excited about the stretching program, they are even volunteering to be models for the campaign!
3. Participation at every level
An especially important key to success for any program is visible support and participation from the company’s leadership—at every level. This demonstrates that not only is stretching an important practice for preventing injury, but it is also part of your job. 
“Once the Darth Vader music starts and the stretch break is announced, everyone has to stretch—from executives, to engineers to safety managers, to production workers,” Dehmer says. “If the employees see leadership doing it, they are going to follow suit and we can sustain the program. Leadership support helps us get it right the first time.”
As more industries and employers place greater emphasis on employee wellbeing in the years ahead, finding creative ways to engage employees will be key. Learning what companies like Boston Scientific are doing to reach and engage their employees around corporate initiatives provides a great starting point and encourages others to get creative with their efforts.
Nicole Chaudet, executive director, product execution, is charged with leading the team that takes new products, services and product enhancements to market. She has been delivering employee wellbeing programs and solutions, both on-site and in a consultative role, for more than 20 years.

Posted on March 08, 2019 in Engagement