Podcast: Culture of Health with Hayley Hines
In this episode of the Well-Being Experts podcast, we’re discussing health promotion strategies for organizations and the common question, what is a culture of health? We sat down with Hayley Hines, RVP Health and Wellness Solutions at Onlife Health, to talk about incentives, how to communicate when rolling out a new program, building a supportive culture, and what the future looks like for wellness programs and businesses.
“You’ve got to shift pretty much every other aspect in order to help them be sustainable in those new behavior changes. So you don’t want to do a weight loss challenge and have pizza as the prize, right? Just make sure that everything is in alignment with the overall goals and objectives of the program. You’d be surprised at how many employers just miss that part.”
Want to dive deeper into this Well-Being Experts podcast? Here's the full transcript from our discussion with Hayley Hines, RVP Health and Wellness Solutions at Onlife Health.
Hayley: If an organization is going to get really serious about launching a program and an overall health management strategy for their organization, it’s really, really important to then support them in the environment that they’re in.
Host: This is a Well-Being Experts podcast. You just heard from Hayley Hines, Health and Wellness Consultant at Onlife Health. This episode addresses the common question, what is a culture of health? We talk about topics like how an employer communicates changes to their team to get buy-in.
Hayley: You’ve got to shift pretty much every other aspect in order to help them be sustainable in those new behavior changes. So you don’t want to do a weight loss challenge and have pizza as the prize, right? Just make sure that everything is in alignment with the overall goal and objective of the program. You’d be surprised at how many employers just miss that part.
Host: On our fifth episode of the Well-Being Experts podcast brought to you by Onlife Health, we’re discussing how to communicate when rolling out a new program, building a supportive culture, and what the future looks like for wellness programs and businesses.
For more content like this, go to onlifehealth.com/resources. Enjoy the conversation!
Hayley: I’m Hayley Hines and I am currently a health and wellness consultant at Onlife Health. I’ve been in the industry for about 20 years. I’ve been both on the vendor side and the consultant side, so I’ve worked with a little over 200 employer clients to create and craft their health management strategy, and also have been involved in a lot of product and strategy innovation on the vendor side. So kind of a broad mix of both what the clients are looking for and also what the vendors are able to provide in the market.
Host: Today we’re going to be talking a little about the culture of health and what that looks like for implementation, what that looks like for ongoing support from the employer to the members so it’s not just a successful implementation, but there’s a culture that’s built around it and that culture is what sustains that over a period of time and keeps the program going, keeps it strong, healthy – all of the above. I’m really looking forward to talking with you. First, let’s start off by just defining, what is a culture of health? How do you look at that? What’s that mean to you?
Hayley: I think it can mean a lot of things depending on the organization, but from my perspective, what it means is that health is a consideration for pretty much all of the major business decisions that are made in an organization, so anything from the food that they order in meetings all the way to, are members given the opportunity to climb the stairs versus take the elevator. It can be a multiple approach, and then it can also be giving people walk stations to work from or standing desks. It can mean a lot of things, but I think the main objective from an organizational perspective is that the senior leadership has buy-in for health promotion, and everything trickles down from that.
Host: When is it, usually, when an employer is ready to make the shift to a wellness program? What does that dialogue usually look like? Are there questions that are coming up? How do you describe that moment?
Hayley: In my experience, I’ve seen it begin with a personal story or a personal experience from a senior-level team member. Somebody has a heart attack or someone in their family. There’s something, a significant life event, that sometimes spurs them on to make a decision, to take action. Or they get double-digit increases in their health claim costs and they have no idea what else to do and this is the last solution. Those are really the two main things that I’ve seen to trigger a senior team or an executive team to make a decision to fully engage in a health management strategy.
Host: Are there any stories that come to your mind regarding how important a culture of health is at a workplace?
Hayley: A co-worker that I had at my previous job, we were about the same age. He had two little kids and he was their softball coach or soccer coach, and he was about 60-70 pounds overweight. I started working with him and he joined the program – it was the company wellness program – and over time he just kept losing and losing and losing. Everyone was like, “Oh, my gosh, you don’t even look like the same person anymore.” It just was really exciting to see how he not only was able to improve his own lifestyle, because now he does more with his kids, and he’s much more available and much healthier, and he also leads the charge and has motivated five or six other guys in the same company to do the same thing. They had this huge bet, and it was this peer challenge that they got really excited about, so he’s kind of the poster child for one of the success programs. That’s really common, which is nice to have those in the program as well.
Host: This could be a whole nother conversation, but creating a culture of health within an already established and existing culture – they have their own patterns, their own norms – how do you bring in a change? How do you shift in something new?
Hayley: Usually we start really small so, like I mentioned earlier, you might say, “We’ve created a new policy where we only allow healthy meals at lunches or meetings.” For example, that same organization used to get these trays of lasagna and garlic bread and all these big, huge, heavy, carb-laden, fat-laden, lunch meals, and people would be in a carb coma in the middle of the afternoon, so what they started to do is have more healthy options, portion-controlled, and people have ended up loving it because they ate so much less and they felt so much better. That was one little initiative.
The next thing they did was create a strategy or a policy for their vendors to not bring those big huge tins of popcorn for holidays, and chocolates, and all that stuff. They asked either make a donation or bring us a fruit basket, so even just little things like that that they were doing to start to shift the culture. They also provided free fruit. Instead of having bowls of candy on everyone’s desks that you can’t say no to, they just brought in fresh fruit delivery every week and people ended up eating a ton more fruit. It’s just little stuff like that as part of an overall strategy. This is within their overall health management strategy to help create and support those healthier habits.
Host: Speaking to the employer, how do they communicate changes to their team and try to get buy-in and momentum?
Hayley: It really depends on the organization and what their philosophy is. You have some that say, “We care about you. We want you to be healthy. We want you to be here for a long time and we want you to feel great so we’re creating this program to help support you because we know fundamentally people want to be healthy.” It’s more about, “We care about you” message, so that’s the messaging that they create with their communications. And then the other end of that spectrum is, “We’re going to penalize you for not doing these certain things.” And it feels a lot different. It just depends on what the organization’s philosophy is in their approach. I personally think it feels better, and you get more buy-in, when you approach it in a way of, “We’re all a family. We care about you. We want you to be healthy.” I think people are more receptive to that. Now, not to say that incentives don’t help because clearly our research that we’ve done in our organization has shown that the level of incentive that you provide obviously will drive engagement, so that’s also a benefit to you for driving participation.
Host: Over the years have you experienced any really interesting incentives that have taken place, that have driven maybe surprising results for engagement?
Hayley: I had one client that gave a deer license for a prize. They put them all into a raffle and they gave away licenses, and big screen TVs – it depends on the culture – all the way to creating a premium differential for their insurance plan so every month they would get a discount on their insurance plan, if they met the requirements for their program. The benefit of incentive management is it has to be meaningful for the population. I wouldn’t care about a deer license, personally, but there are some populations that do.
Host: Right, and by asking your employees – because this is for them. You said that, “Hey, this is an opportunity we’ve created for you. We really want you to benefit. What are things that you care about? Let’s help you achieve those items and also help you create new habits.”
Well-Being Experts is supported by Onlife Health. Onlife Health is a comprehensive wellness provider serving health plans and large employers nationwide. With over 10 million members and 20 years of industry experience, Onlife takes a high-touch, high-tech approach to wellness that creates real results for your population. Find out more at onlifehealth.com. Back to the interview with Hayley.
Host: What advice do you have for employers that are trying to roll out a new program and they want to get as many people as possible involved? It’s going to help the health plan, it’s going to help the employees, help the employer. Any things that you’ve seen that have worked especially well?
Hayley: I would say, making sure that, first of all, you select the right partner to implement the program, one that’s been doing it for quite some time and has experience. That’s step one. Two is get a really solid incentive strategy and design for how you’re going to implement it. The third would be a really solid communication plan. If people don’t understand the program, they’re not going to engage. I’ve seen a lot of clients make mistakes around making it too complicated. You’ve got to get 25 points of this and 15 points of that and do 10 different things in this form or fashion. It gets really confusing for the members, so they won’t do it. Keeping it simple, clean, and easy to communicate I think are really important factors to have a successful program.
Host: When a company decides they’re going to implement that, what types of team members need to be involved? You mentioned communication is critical to making sure it’s rolled out correctly and efficiently. Who are the different stakeholders in that and how do they interact with each other in the best case scenario?
Hayley: I would say, beginning with the senior leadership team, I think it’s really, really important for them to be visible, for them to be excited about the program. And by that, I’ve seen CEOs get on treadmills and do videos and say, “Hey, I’m doing this. We’re all in this together.” That’s really, really impactful to start there. Then I think the more broad throughout the organization you can get is great. So the more variety that you can get in that steering committee or planning committee is also really impactful. Then also different levels within an organization is important. Let’s say I’m a senior-level team member. Great, I want to see my peers doing it. If I’m every piece in the organization, every level, I need to have representation, basically, so I’m going to be more likely to engage in a program if I feel like other people are doing it too.
Host: And senior leadership, if they’re not involved?
Hayley: Don’t bother doing it.
Host: It’s going to fail?
Hayley: I’ve seen it happen, but it’s rare that a program will still be as successful, if none of the senior team is on the wellness bus, if you will.
Host: From your experience, what do you think are the most common pain points – especially most recently – from the employer, from the health plan, from the members, generally speaking?
Hayley: I think from an employer perspective there are now so many companies that are doing some type of wellness program or initiative. It’s now becoming a way to recruit new talent and retain talent. If they’re not doing it, they’re going to be less likely to retain the top-quality talent. And then, also, I think from an employee perspective, people are going to the companies that are going to be supportive of their healthier lifestyles. From the client level, they’re continuing to see increases in their health claims, in their health spend every year, so this is almost the last thing that they can do. They’ve done all of the plan design changes; they’ve shuffled deductibles and cost shifted as much as they can. Now, really, they just need to help support their population in being healthier because there’s nothing else that they’re able to do to shift costs at this point.
I think those are big ones, and then I think from a health plan perspective, they’re needing to offer something in order to stay competitive in the market. So they’ve got to be able to offer initiatives that are compelling and impactful. I think, at least what we’re seeing is, that they’re getting even more and more sophisticated and more innovative in their offerings than they ever have been in the past, so that’s a really exciting trend that we’re seeing. It’s becoming a much bigger part of their strategy and they’re also leading more with that in the marketplace, to be a differentiator for them.
Host: Have there been any significant changes that you’ve seen on how culture has been changing as technology has been shifting and getting stronger?
Hayley: I would say there is definitely an increase in utilization of the wearables and devices. I think it creates a fun and competitive environment in some organizations. They’re able to have leader boards and competitions and say, “so-and-so’s got 5,000 steps and so-and-so has 7,000.” You see people really engaging in the utilization of those when it’s created in a way that’s supportive of that kind of peer-to-peer challenge approach.
I think giving people the option to utilize the device or app that fits their lifestyle has become really more popular versus just giving them the option to use one device. Everyone’s different. You might do different things than I do, and I like to use different devices to track my activities, so giving people the flexibility is becoming more and more of a personalized experience which makes it more meaningful to the individual.
Host: As we’re wrapping up, I’m curious to see if there are any final thoughts that you have as it relates to overall culture of health in organizations today, anything that we’ve not talked about yet that really is significant to you.
Hayley: Yeah, I would just say that if an organization is going to get really serious about launching a program and an overall health management strategy for their organization, it’s really, really important to then support them in the environment that they’re in. You’ve got to shift pretty much every other aspect in order to help them be sustainable in those new behavior changes. You don’t want to do a weight loss challenge and then have pizza as the prize. Make sure that everything is in alignment with the overall goal and objective of the programs. You’d be surprised at how many employers just miss that part. That would just be a big thing for me. Yeah, important.
Host: What does the timeline look like of the entire culture life cycle? You’re getting the program design, you’re implementing it, you’re getting people bought into it, now you’ve established a little bit of a culture, and that’s growing. Now, how do you keep that going, and how do you ensure that that remains sustainable?
Hayley: I think it depends on the organization and how aggressive they are from the get-go. Like I mentioned, there’s small steps you can take and you can do those over time. Most of us in our human behavior respond better to smaller, incremental changes versus completely saying, “Never have another Coke; never have another piece of pizza.” That’s just not really the way our minds work. I think it takes some time to get people prepared and let them know what’s coming.
Back to the communication strategy. You want to give plenty of time to say, “This is what’s happening. We’re here to support you. These are the ways we’re going to do that. It’s coming soon. It’s coming soon. It’s coming soon.” Then you actually start and launch a program and then you can ease into those other things that I mentioned. I think it depends on how aggressive people are with their incentive strategy and also what they’re asking people to do. Those can all vary by organization depending on what the goals and objectives are for the company. They don’t all look the same, basically.
I think supporting people long-term, again, going back to this weight loss example, because everyone has struggled with weight at some time – that 10-to-15 pound swing that everyone seems to have. What happens is, if you do a challenge and you encourage people to lose weight, you’ve got to then support them going forward in order to maintain that weight loss. So, again, encouraging either additional programs, additional support, additional stress management programs because of the ebb and flow of life, people go through things that are not necessarily as easy to maintain that new weight loss goal, so just making sure it’s consistent and that the culture is then supportive of all of those new behaviors that you are trying to have them achieve over time.
Host: That is a nice way to look at it – start, middle, continuing on. One of the final questions that I’m curious about – and this is about today’s culture, but it’s also about the future culture – how frequently will we see wellness programs in businesses? You can reflect back on your 20 years’ experience, but also looking at what you’re predicting the future to look like.
Hayley: I don’t think that it’s going away, for sure, and I think also with all the ACA regulations, it’s only going to get stronger and more and more employers are going to be – if they haven’t already – they will be including these programs. I just read something today that said that now they’re required to offer dietary nutrition counseling and coaching. They’re almost going to be required to offer some level of programming, if they’re not already doing so. I think it’ll just continue to grow and increase in popularity.
Host: This has been really insightful talking about the culture of health. It fits really well into defining it, talking really well about what we can expect in the future, and how this is changing, how it’s growing. I really appreciate you sharing your insight and I’m really look forward to having more dialogue like this in the future.
Hayley: Sure, thanks for having me.
Today’s podcast and additional perspectives from Well-Being Experts can be found at onlifehealth.com/resources. We welcome any comments, questions, feedback, anything at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks.