Getting a move on

Wearables help employees commit to fitness in company wellness programs

Posted on Jun 30, 2017 :: Health Care , Healthcare , Insight On
Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer

For Terry Albrecht, president of Packer Fastener, fitness has been a passion: He began strength training in his 20s, leading to a personal training certification, eight marathons, a 50-mile ultramarathon and an Ironman triathlon.

So naturally, Packer Fastener has had a wellness program since its beginnings 19 years ago.

It was kind of sporadic, though. Sometimes employees would set weight-loss goals, or maybe they would run a race together. But there wasn’t consistency. Then, two years ago, Packer Fastener partnered with a local company that developed a customized fitness tracking system using wearable technology, and the results were a noticeable change in participation.

“It really took (our wellness program) to the next level because it gave us a systematic online platform that engaged the entire organization on a regular basis,” Albrecht says.

Companies like Packer Fastener are using wearable fitness technology both to help employees meet wellness goals and to enhance company culture. Motion Connected of Green Bay saw the potential in wearables and took it to the next level by developing a program that companies can use to set specific goals — and to measure return on investment.

“The quantifiable nature is something that both finance and HR departments want to get their arms around when it comes to wellness,” says Drew Leatherberry, director of business development for Forsite Benefits, the parent company of Motion Connected. “They’ve really struggled with the ROI question.”

With wearables — and the right wearable strategy — companies can create an objectively measurable program, Leatherberry says.

The right strategy develops a lifestyle change over time, says Michael Troup, CEO of Forsite Benefits and Motion Connected. Financial incentives or rewards only go so far in motivating people.

“Just to buy an employee population a wearable and say, ‘Good luck with it, we’re going to be healthier now,’ does not solve that problem,” Troup says. “You have to have a strategy in place.”

Wearables allow companies to incorporate fitness and wellness into a company culture, building behaviors over time. Motion Connected lets companies use activity challenges, pairing individuals or teams on different goals, for instance. It creates a social, competitive environment to engage employees and keep them wearing their devices and meeting challenges, Leatherberry says.

“Over time, what you see is a formula: You add some of those fun, social competitive aspects with the rewards strategy, and you get people to engage beyond just extrinsic reasons,” Leatherberry says. “They start to realize, ‘This is good for my health.’”

Forsite Benefits launched Motion Connected and its myInertia corporate wellness platform in 2008 after seeing the opportunity to help companies offer corporate challenges through wearables. The program essentially scrubs activity data and aggregates it however a company would like to use it, such as running it against claims reporting numbers.

Motion Connected added Wellness Outlet as a way to distribute the discounted trackers, sending them to employees’ homes and managing direct purchases and upgrades. The company is also partnering directly with Garmin and Fitbit, which use Motion Connected’s database structure to market its devices in a variety of corporate and organizational settings. 

Motion Connected counts among its local clients Holy Family Memorial and Prevea Health, as well as national clients like the 75,000-employee Cleveland Clinic.

Through the myInertia program, Packer Fastener was able to engage employees across its six locations with the use of Garmin devices, creating its own unique challenges.

“Because step challenges are kind of vanilla, we made it a challenge for who could walk from each branch to the next the fastest,” Albrecht says. “We calculated that it took about 200,000 steps to get from Green Bay to Wausau. It was really a fun way to showcase the company and tie in wellness.”

Albrecht’s goals for company wellness have been primarily to engage people in healthy lifestyles and to teach them that the best investment they can make is in themselves, he says.

“What myInertia did is allow us to make it a constant kind of ritual or reminder so everybody could track their own activity to ensure they were accomplishing their own personal goals,” he says.

As far as ROI, the company investment goes beyond keeping a workforce healthy — it’s more about enhancing culture, Albrecht says. Packer Fastener has a strong emphasis on building its culture through a number of attributes, including its popular wellness program. That’s helped it to grow quickly and find skilled workers — a challenge for many companies.

“In my opinion, it’s our No. 1 driving force and attribute that attracts talent,” he says. “We have basically a 100 percent retention rate, and our wellness program, which we also have 100 percent participation in, helps build that culture.”