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Humana Revs Up Workplace Team-Based Activities

by Corporate Wellness Magazine

Bruce Broussard, CEO of Humana, know that wellness can affect businesses large and small, even his own.

Corporate Wellness Magazine interviewed health insurer giant Humana about its goals of healthcare delivery within a revolutionized industry. Humana CEO Bruce Broussard provides insight how the company plans to surpass its objectives–and how all employees, including executives, stay healthy.

CWM: What sorts of goals do you set for your wellness programs?

A: Our goals reflect the fact that Humana’s organizational purpose is to help people achieve their best health and, ultimately, lifelong well-being. That’s why our primary goal is to foster a culture that brings that purpose alive inside our own associate community. In line with that purpose, we publicly announced a goal to improve the health of the communities we serve 20 percent by 2020 by making it easy for people to achieve their best health. Internally, we made this goal even bolder – to get there by the end of 2017.

It’s important to note that this goal is accompanied and enabled by goals to improve the overall well-being of our people, encompassing not only physical and emotional health, but their sense of purpose, belonging and security. We have specific goals and measures that are meaningful at the individual, team and company-wide levels that help us focus our efforts, engage our culture and achieve outcomes.

I’m proud to say we’re not only on track to meet our 2017 goal, but are measurably changing the lives of our associates for the better. In the big picture, when our goals focus on a thriving culture and improved health and overall well-being, other meaningful goals like increased productivity and lower population health costs are achieved as well.

CWM: More and more CEOs are looking beyond ROI, what are you looking to?

A: We’re looking to grow a positive, caring culture focused on helping people toward their best health – and that starts with each other. As we each engage in our well-being journeys and support one another along the way, it creates a more resilient work environment that puts our values and purpose front and center. It also has a real impact on the consumers we have the privilege of serving. Not only are we more engaged and productive as a team, but when our consumers interact with us, they are encountering people who believe in our purpose and experience it first-hand.

CWM: How do you define success?

A: For us, success means that when people are part of Humana, they’ll share experiences that lead to positive changes and real outcomes that help them be their best. Achieving our goal of 20 percent improvement in health is an important milestone, and we’re making significant progress there. For instance, our number of Healthy Days®, a measure established by the CDC that evaluates physical and mental health at a population level, has improved. Plus as a cohort, our associates employed since 2012 have significantly fewer health risks on average than three years ago, with seven out of 10 people either sustaining or improving their health risk profile, despite the general tendency to accumulate risks as we age. These risks include factors like hypertension, BMI, blood glucose and cholesterol that lead to the onset or progression of chronic conditions, and other challenges. The overall average number of risks per-person have been reduced nine percent in three years, with forty-two percent of the population eliminating risks and improving their health. Thirty-seven percent of these associates went from elevated blood pressure to normal levels, and twenty-six percent moved their elevated blood glucose levels (associated with diabetes risk) to normal range. Very often, we see weight loss accompany improvements in other measured risk categories, and ten percent of the group moved from being overweight or obese to a normal BMI. In fact, our associates who have lost weight have shed over 100 tons in that same three-year period, and we have cut the prevalence of pre-diabetes by twenty percent. Witnessing that kind of difference made in the lives of thousands of our teammates is an inspiring indicator of success, though there’s much more to do. As we progress, maintaining focus on the whole person is key, so continuing to measure and improve all our dimensions of well-being will be important. Since 2012, across the company we’ve seen a thirteen percent improvement in the overall well-being of associates, measured by the four dimensions I referenced earlier.

CWM: Have you seen an ROI? And, if not, are you concerned? 

A: We see positive ROI in several important aspects, and also understand that the full enterprise and societal value of this work isn’t easily quantifiable on a ledger. The broad impact on our workforce, culture and empathy with customers means taking a holistic view on value. That said, in terms of productivity, we are experiencing 30 percent fewer unscheduled days of absence when associates are engaged in the HumanaVitality®, program, our wellness rewards platform that helps people embrace healthier lifestyle behaviors and achieve personal goals, which about seven out of 10 associates actively engage in today. We’re realizing lower health costs than many similarly sized organizations as we shift the longer-term health trajectory of the company in a positive direction, which will continue to have a significant impact down the road.

When you look at the general commitment and connection among our associates, we’ve experienced world-class associate engagement levels — in the top 10th percentile globally— for the past four years as measured by the Kenexa engagement survey, which directly translates into higher productivity and many other positive impacts. Each of those years, the #1 driver most correlated with engagement has been our commitment to associates’ well-being. Consider the impact of that fact on how we serve our consumers and engage our talent. Then there are all the lives changed for the better – and I get to hear so many stories – when thousands of teammates are inspiring each other to take action and achieve better health. We strive to start with the big picture on value and ROI, while making smart investments and always measuring impact. 

CWM: Do you implement the wellness program itself, or have you hired a consultant. If so, how much value has that relationship? 

A: We design and implement our strategy internally, driven out of our Human Resources team by an enterprise leader of associate well-being. Along the way, we strive to bring all our own assets and capabilities involving health and wellness to our internal community, with a heavy focus on integrating them around people, meeting them where they are. Where it makes sense, we approach our internal community as a place where we can learn and pioneer new approaches that may one day serve our external communities.

CWM: We hear a lot about creating a “culture of wellness”. How important has that been to your program? Would you say that you have achieved that culture? How do you know? 

A: It has been central; it’s the most important aspect of what we do in this space. We think and communicate in terms of a well-being movement inside our company. This movement is very grassroots, social and local on one hand, but strongly connected to our shared purpose as a company on the other. The grassroots movement aspect is invaluable because the inspiration, support and ideas that frequently best drive results originate that way. We have a network over 1,000 volunteer well-being champions and advocates, who energize and focus the culture at the front-lines. That commitment is mirrored by how leaders model and champion the cause. This year, for instance, 86 percent of associates agreed when surveyed that their leader really cares about their well-being. You never fully declare victory on this, since aspects of culture can be so local and varied, but we have resounding evidence that well-being is at the heart of our culture, underpinned by our values. Not only is it the top driver of associate engagement, it is by far the most often discussed topic through internal social media, where associates support and even challenge one another on their health and well-being journeys. In addition to the many local, team-based activities there are enterprise-wide, shared experiences like our 100 Day Dash, an annual step challenge that revs up the culture. This year in the Dash we took more than 15 billion steps together, and the executive team’s average step count was even higher than the associate community’s average, which speaks to the importance we put on leaders’ inspiring the health of our Humana teammates. Maintaining focus and momentum is important too, so teams and business units monitor their shared progress, set goals, create action plans, and have caring conversations about part of how we operate together. Today, 87 percent of associates say Humana is committed to creating a work environment that contributes to their health and well-being – a very solid indicator for us.

CWM: Wellness program engagement can wane over time. Have you experienced this and how did you remedy it? 

A: To the contrary, we’ve seen steadily increasing engagement in health and well-being over the last several years in our population overall.

It is the power of integrating the elements – benefits and incentive design, leader practices, social support, programs and the environment, that sustains momentum and makes change easier… even fun. An example is activity within our HumanaVitality® program, which is tightly integrated within the health plan design and workplace activities. Today, 93 percent of our associates participate, but more importantly, 68 percent are actively engaged – learning about their health, setting goals and making positive changes. That’s up from 28 percent in 2012.

Increasingly growing engagement like that supports higher productivity and lower health costs, but most importantly a better health destiny for the people of our community.

We find that simple, integrated experiences combined with a culture of inspiring health is the key to engaging people over the long term.

CWM: Is your program outcomes based at this point? If not, do you think that you will move that direction? Why or why not? 

A: Our approach is strongly focused on outcomes, along with the engagement and experiences that enable those results. Our goal of 20 percent health improvement is a clear example of that. Supporting people in our community to set goals and see their individual progress, and that of our entire community, is important to sustaining positive changes and inspiring our journey. Technology and culture make that much easier. Ultimately, people who engage are hoping to achieve results, and our goal is to help them do that in a measurable and meaningful way that lasts. Individually, that means meeting people where they are. For some, the ideal path to achieving a certain health measure is working with a Humana health coach to help make the path easier. For others, it’s an on-line experience and for still others it may be a mutually supportive team working together on a shared health goal. While the paths are as varied as our workforce, the company’s outcomes must be thought of in broad terms: the well-being of our people, our values and culture, and the brand customers experience through a highly-engaged workforce.

CWM: What is the wellness outcome that you are the most proud of at this point? What would you really love to achieve within the next two years? 

A: I’m very proud of the positive impact our well-being commitment has had on associate engagement and our team’s commitment to Humana’s purpose. Likewise, I’m proud of the measurable health improvement we’ve seen in our associate community over the last few years. Since 2012, our modifiable health risks are down 9 percent, CDC Healthy Days® have measurably improved, overall well-being is up 13 percent, rates of associates logging volunteer hours in their communities have more than doubled, and use of preventive clinical services is up 20 percent.

Over the next couple years, I’d like to see us continue to pursue our goal of 20  percent health improvement for both our internal and external communities, while nurturing a culture that always puts people—and their well-being— first.

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