Retaining high-performing employees starts with wellness. And wellness starts when a company becomes focused on creating a culture that helps employees achieve success.

Marcus Gagnon, wellness coordinator at Trek Bicycle, Waterloo, Wis., shared Trek’s transformation from a low-key, voluntary approach to wellness to a highly-accountable, enterprise-wide
belief that better health and fitness is essential for everyone.

Marcus Gagnon, Trek Wellness Coordinator

Marcus Gagnon, Trek Wellness Coordinator

Gagnon coordinates wellness programs for approximately 850 employees who work at Trek’s headquarters, where wellness services include a 4,000-square-foot fitness center; exercise and educational programs; and an onsite clinic.

Highly Satisfying

Gagnon continually noted the link that connects the creation of a wellness culture and retaining high-performing employees. Trek’s turnover is roughly half the industry average.

“You’ve got to create a work environment that’s conducive to success,” Gagnon said.

Outsiders often assume that as a bicycle manufacturer, all Trek employees are already inclined to fitness. Yet among the 40 percent of Trek employees who work in manufacturing, 60 percent are obese.

Trek was motivated to improve the health of all employees when it lost several people covered by its health plans – both employees and spouses – to preventable health conditions in 2007. That led
CEO John Burke to hold an all-employee meeting to announce that Trek was making changes. The first steps were hiring a full-time employee to strengthen the program and setting company-wide
goals.

“Unfortunately for us, it took tragedy to figure this stuff out,” Gagnon said, urging companies to act before tragedy occurs.

Trek’s Wellness Beliefs

  1. Focus on people first. Alive. Healthy. Happy.
  2. Be the healthiest company on the planet.
  3. Invest money in wellness. Cost savings will follow.
  4. Provide a good place to work. Educate people about their health.
  5. Hold people accountable.

Making It Work

Gagnon said Trek recognizes that it has to make it easy for employees to pursue better health and fitness. Key offerings include:

  • An onsite fitness center that is open 24/7, with fitness classes, certified trainers, showers and full towel service. All services are free. Trek plans to expand services to reach more spouses and children in the coming year.
  • Partnerships with vendors and community resources to offer additional services. For example, Trek doesn’t have a pool, so it works with the local high school to gain noon-time employee access.
  • Commuter programs to encourage employees to bike to work to earn $4 a day. Carpooling earns $1 a day. Commuter bikes are parked indoors, while carpoolers’ vehicles and hybrid vehicles get preferred parking.
  • Appealing, nutritious food offered on-site by two chefs employed by Trek, which Gagnon describes as a “huge game changer.” Unhealthy food is still available, but at a high cost that helps subsidize a low-cost salad bar that features locally-grown produce. Coffee is free and meals to go are offered at a reasonable cost to help employees overcome barriers to healthy meal preparation.
  • Trek Trails on the company’s property. They can be used for biking, hiking, running, snowshoeing or cross-country skiing.
  • Weight loss programs that adapt the “Biggest Loser” approach to meet the needs of Trek’s workforce, with 667 participants losing 4,410 pounds in 11 sessions. A similar program has been developed to offer individualized assistance to high-risk employees.
  • An onsite medical clinic to offer free, easy access to medical care, with cost savings for Trek’s self-funded health benefits.

Accountability Matters

Trek has gradually shifted from offering voluntary health risk appraisals (HRAs) and programs to providing penalties for people who fail to participate in efforts to improve health. Today, biometric testing of cholesterol, glucose level and blood pressure is used in a scoring system linked to health premiums.

Beginning in 2014, when employees have a score of 750 or better, Trek pays the full employer contribution to health benefit costs. Employees who score below 750 points pay 30 percent higher health
premiums. Employees who score below 750 points and use tobacco pay 50 percent higher premiums.

The focus on wellness and accountability helped Trek attain an average employee biometric score above 800 for the first time in 2013, up from a score of 774 in 2008.

Ask the Right Questions

Gagnon acknowledges that it can be hard to measure return on investment from wellness programs. While cost savings are generated by the onsite clinic, other programs are more difficult to track.

Instead of focusing on saving money, Gagnon encouraged businesses to be aware of the strong correlation between successful Trek employees and employees who participate in wellness services.

“It’s about getting employees healthy, being alive and being productive,” Gagnon said.

Read Marcus Gagnon’s presentation, pdf Corporate-Level Efforts: Trek, A Wellness Story

Darla Dernovsek
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Darla Dernovsek

Marketing Communications Manager at The Alliance
Darla Dernovsek joined The Alliance in 2013 as marketing communications manager. Dernovsek is responsible for managing and developing communication strategies as well as marketing plans to help fulfill The Alliance mission by raising market awareness.

Dernovsek has more than 25 years' experience in communications, public relations and marketing. From 1992 until joining The Alliance, Dernovsek owned her own freelance marketing and writing business to provide marketing consulting and writing for health-care related entities and credit union organizations. Earlier, she was the director of public relations for Rockford Memorial Hospital and city editor for the Beloit Daily News.

Dernovsek graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire with a bachelor of arts degree in journalism.

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