Manufacturing executive makes business case for wellness programs

October 24, 2012

Manufacturing executive makes business case for wellness programs

When retired Whirlpool executive Hank Orme came to Lincoln Industries in 1999, he found a company with employees who were, generally, active and interested in their well-being. He decided to use that to the company’s advantage.

“We never talked about savings, but people who tend to be that way tend to perform better and have better attitudes,” Orme told a crowd of business executives at the Alliance’s annual meeting Tuesday in Madison.

It paid off.

Last year, the Nebraska-based manufacturer spent $6,000 per employee on health care, well below the regional average of nearly $11,000. It estimates it gets back more than $5 for every $1 it spends on wellness, amounting to $2.5 million in savings in 2011.

Lincoln offers boot camps and other fitness classes every day after work. It’s implemented a tobacco cessation program and hired a physician assistant to staff an on-site clinic for employees and their families. For workers that reach a certain level of fitness, it funds a three-day trip to Colorado to climb a 14,000-foot mountain.

But, most importantly, it’s made wellness a part of its business model, Orme said. Its wellness manager is at the table during high level strategy meetings. Senior executives are engaged in the program.

It takes about three to four years to change the wellness culture of an organization, Orme estimated. He said that a decade later, Lincoln is still evolving.

“We did a lot of things that didn’t work,” he said. “We kept testing the waters.”

Wisconsin Health News is an independent, nonpartisan online news service. For a free trial to its daily email newsletter, contact Tim Stumm at tstumm@wisconsinhealthnews.com.

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