When CHSdecided two years ago to put a new focus on employee health andwell-being, company leaders knew they had a challenge toovercome.

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CHS is the country’s largest co-op with 12,000 employees atlocations spread across the country, from headquarters withhundreds of employees sitting at desks to grain elevators with justa handful of employees, many of whom are on their feet much of theday and have no access to email at work. Each location has its ownidentity, interests, and needs, making it difficult to find aone-size-fits-all solution.

Challenge

When it came to employee health and well-being, CHS had specificneeds in a few key areas. More than three-quarters of the company’savoidable health care costs — 79.1 percent — came from weight,stress, cholesterol, depression, and lack of exercise.

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CHS wanted to reduce the number of employees at risk forobesity, heart disease, cancer, orthopedic conditions, andrheumatology issues, among other health problems.

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Part of the motivation for any employee well-being plan is theopportunity to reduce health care costs for an employer, but it wasalso important for CHS leadership that their program reflectemployee needs and interests.

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Doing so required a program which was both comprehensive andflexible. It had to address a diverse set of health concerns andwork environments and help employees realize it was in their bestinterest to participate — all while accommodating diversecommunication needs.

Solution

In 2015, CHS launched a program called CHS Fit360° which looksbeyond the basics of workplace well-being and uses some of whatmakes CHS unique to get employees excited about improving theirhealth.

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The program focuses on encouraging employees to completepreventive screenings, boost physical activity levels, and improvenutritional habits. CHS leadership also wanted to go beyondphysical health to focus on financial, social, and emotionalwell-being for all employees.

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“We know our employees have a range of well-being needs that gobeyond exercise or nutrition,” says Kevin Newton, director ofemployee benefits at CHS.

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“With CHS Fit360°, we created a program that factors in theentire person and that centers around the idea that improving onearea of a person’s health and well-being can have a ripple effecton their overall well-being.”

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The development of CHS Fit360° started with interviews of seniorleadership to set priorities. From there, it was up to the CHSFit360° team to get employees excited about the program.

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Getting to that point required building trust among employees.CHS wanted to make sure employees knew their bosses had their bestinterests in mind and to establish a baseline level of trust, whichwould allow them to open the door to other important conversationsabout health and well-being.

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But those conversations were not always convenient. Becauseabout 60 percent of CHS employees lack access to email on the job,members of the CHS Fit360° team had to get creative in theircommunication and outreach. So, they relied on grassrootsenthusiasm, flyers, posters, and onsite events to buildexcitement.

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That meant identifying wellness champions at each location whocould help get their coworkers involved. Champions didn’t have tobe the fittest person in the office, but they had to beenthusiastic about the program and connected enough to get themessage across. To date, 90 CHS employees serve as volunteerwellness champions.

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CHS also took steps to make health screenings more convenientfor employees, providing 11 onsite screening locations across thecountry.

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To create a personal connection for employees, the wellness teamtook a community-based approach which drew inspiration from thefact CHS is often the largest employer — and sometimes one of theonly employers — in many of the communities where it islocated.

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As a result, employees are often actively involved in theircommunities. CHS capitalized on this community connectedness byoffering locations with the highest completion rate for the annualhealth assessment a cash reward employees could use to improvetheir community.

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High levels of screening completion could earn a location asmuch as $2,000. Employees used their prize money for efforts likebuying playground equipment, giving to local food shelves, donatingto their local fire department, and supporting Toys for Totsprograms, among other efforts.

Results

Appealing to employees’ altruism seemed to strike a chord. Manylocations saw 100 percent participation in the health assessmentafter the introduction of the community-giving incentives. Inaddition:

  • 63 percent of employees completed health assessments in 2015,the program’s first year, up from 24 percent the year before andbetter than the company’s goal of 60 percent;

  • 49 percent of those participants completed all recommended examsand immunizations;

  • In the program’s first year, CHS saw a 9 percent decrease in theaverage number of health risks among employees, from 3.43 to3.1;

  • 77 percent of employees said they felt CHS was committed to thehealth and well-being of its employees;

  • 74 percent of employees called the wellness program an importantbenefit; and

  • CHS saw an estimated $3.1 million reduction in direct andindirect health care costs.

Having a large and diverse workforce presents a challenge to thedesign of a comprehensive well-being plan, but it’s a barrieremployers can overcome with thoughtful planning.

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By paying attention to employees’ needs, and to the uniqueopportunities that exist within the company, employers can build aprogram that truly gives everyone an opportunity to improve theirhealth and well-being.

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