Few issues have gained more national attention over the past few years than the rising costs of health care and the importance of a healthy workplace. More businesses and families are struggling to afford higher insurance premiums as they engage in a tremendous national debate about the government’s proper role in health care and health insurance.
In this environment, businesses that provide health insurance coverage for their employees are confronted with two critical tasks:
- How to find the most comprehensive health insurance plan with the least cost.
- How to educate and engage employees in a cooperative effort to improve their health on an ongoing basis.
The first task is appropriately specific to each organization and its insurance carrier. But the second priority — identifying and implementing effective employee education and wellness programs — can be universally applied to employers of almost any size.
NCCI recognizes that keeping employees healthy is an important means of controlling workers compensation costs, specifically in regard to the detrimental effects of obesity and the rising costs of treating injured workers.
As a self-insured corporation, we are faced with the same rising health care costs and need to control workers compensation expenses just as every other American business has to. But after looking at the research showing just how effective wellness programs could be, our firm determined to implement our own companywide push for employee wellness in 2008.
The mission of the initiative was to develop a multifaceted approach to assisting and educating employees in making behavioral changes designed to reduce health and injury risks, improve their ability to make healthy choices, and enhance their productivity and well-being. We also wanted wellness to extend beyond the physical to include mental wellness, financial wellness and more.
Get your numbers
The first step was encouraging employees to participate in annual biometric screening and online health assessments. We’ve sponsored the screenings — designed to raise employees’ awareness about their personal health numbers — since 2009. Just knowing their critical health care numbers gives employees the information they need to begin taking better care of themselves.
Choose a theme
A successful wellness program includes programs and activities around clear goals. One way to clarify the goals is to use themes. In 2010, our firm embraced the theme “Mission Nutrition,” which included offering a weight-loss class and nutrition counseling plus retooling our on-site cafeteria and vending machines to provide healthy food options.
The following year our focus was “Get Moving,” and we improved our on-site fitness facilities — adding additional exercise equipment, expanding hours and offering free membership to all employees.
Make it an ongoing effort
This year — as part of our “Choose Well” theme — we are building upon the foundation we’ve started by offering employees increased support and education around health and financial issues that may arise, adding programs including:
• one-on-one nutrition counseling
• on-site smoking cessation program
• free annual flu shots
• fitness center programs
• celebration of national employee health and fitness day
• participation in the local corporate fun run
• financial workshops
• a holiday weight loss program
The result? Employees have not only responded enthusiastically to the wellness offerings and our goal to improve overall health, they’ve taken action. Our company’s biometric screenings show that blood pressure and blood sugar results are better. Employees are increasing fitness levels, eating more nutritiously and smoking less.
In fact, many screening participants have moved from a medium- or high-risk category to a low-risk category since the original assessment.
Even as health care costs continue to rise with inflation, many companies are steadying overall expenses by taking this proactive approach to corporate health. In the end, making wellness a company priority not only makes for healthier, happier employees — it supports a healthy bottom line.
Stephen J. Klingel, CPCU, was appointed president and CEO of NCCI Holdings Inc. in 2002. Before joining NCCI, he was a leader with the St. Paul Companies for more than 25 years.
Every customer is different.
As a service provider to the insurance industry, NCCI has learned from extensive experience that we need to be able to move as quickly as our most nimble customers while still accommodating customers who tend to move more slowly.
It can be a tough balancing act, but it’s one that has caused us to examine all of our systems and electronic communication efforts so that we can adopt techniques that leverage technology to improve services and education.
We have not found, for example, that the best way for us to communicate with our customers is through social media programs like Facebook or Twitter. And while we use videoconferencing and instant messaging for internal communications, we do not employ it for external communications. Instead, we continue to lean toward using e-mail, the phone, and yes, personal visits for most of our customer interactions. Those revelations will surely leave some shaking their heads at our archaic communications practices.
To which we say “not so fast.”
We use the above techniques for direct customer interactions and to answer inquiries. But we are also fully engaged in a broader electronic communications effort that we think others can learn from when it comes to offering customers valuable information in a form that is most useful to them.
As might be expected, our main avenue for electronic communications is our website, ncci.com. The site serves a dual function: We have a public side to our website and a subscriber/member side. The member side is for customers who subscribe to NCCI services. It is open only to our data partners and provides them with a menu of support services and tools. But our members —and the press and public — are also very engaged in our public site. That is why we integrate our public and private services on our site.
As a promulgator of some of the most important rules and procedures for the workers compensation system, we are constantly trying to find the best methods for educating our customers in a manner that is understandable, accessible and available to them on their schedule.
How do we do that? Webinars.
In the past three years, NCCI has produced more than 100 informational webinars, which are available at no charge on NCCI’s public website. Designed to be viewed in 30 minutes or less and categorized by interest for ease of use, these webinars can be accessed conveniently over the Internet. Whether you're an underwriter, actuary, data reporter, product or claims manager, agent/broker, or just interested in workers compensation, you can benefit from an extensive library of online educational modules.
Webinars give viewers something very close to a live presentation, but make it available on demand. This saves on travel time and expenses as well as other training costs.
The customer response to our webinars has also been very positive. In fact, many of our customers have already incorporated NCCI educational modules into their own training programs.
It’s a program that works for us — and more importantly, works for our customers.
Every employee knows that at the end of the day we are only as good as our last customer interaction. So NCCI’s continuing challenge is to leverage the latest technologies to increase our communications abilities, while being mindful that some of our customers tend to move more slowly when it comes to adopting the latest electronic tools. Our task is to find the best and most workable tools to make each and every such interaction a success — whatever the form it takes.
Stephen J. Klingel has served as president and CEO of NCCI Holdings Inc. since 2002. Before joining NCCI, Klingel was a leader with the St. Paul Cos. for more than 25 years. You can reach him at Steve_Klingel@ncci.com .
In the wake of disasters such as the 2010 Gulf oil spill, it seems many consumers took on the belief that corporations and businesses have little social or environmental conscience and too often focus on sales and profit as the sole concern. Not only is that notion largely incorrect, it is wrong for the simplest reason: such an approach would be bad business.
Too often, businesses are lumped together as profit-driven enterprises with no thought of how their actions help or hurt the community. However, the business leaders that I work with and speak to on a regular basis understand that an active social conscience combined with broad community involvement almost always helps to improve the bottom line. At NCCI, we’ve identified four key elements that we believe define a successful corporate social responsibility philosophy.
• Community: A responsible company is involved in the communities where it does business.
• People: The best companies are committed to hiring and retaining a highly skilled and diverse staff.
• Practices: Leaders are known for integrity and the transparency of business practices.
• Environment: Responsible businesses are committed to conserving natural resources.
Perhaps the least tangible of these goals is the call to preserve natural resources. It can be hard to see how such a mandate — apart from encouraging an altruistic workplace — might be called a good business decision. Yet our experience might serve as a useful guideline for combining that altruistic calling with tangible business requirements.
For the last several years, our company has been actively engaged in pursuing green operations as well as encouraging practices that call on all of our employees to perform their responsibilities in the most environmentally conscious way.
To be clear, this was not a decision that we approached lightly. There were some considerable expenses associated with idea of greening our operations, and some thought the benefits might not outweigh the costs. The fact that employees were driving the project and volunteering to serve on committees and study environmentally friendly recommendations helped drive a positive decision.
To identify corporatewide initiatives, we put in place a new Green Operations team that is charged with evaluating green options and maintaining the company’s focus on being an environmentally responsible company. The areas they’ve identified range from the mundane to the truly unique, from changing to LED lights, setting all printers to print double-sided copies and switching the settings on desktop monitors to implementing innovative structural changes that reduce cooling needs in our data center.
We are justifiably proud of our employee’s interest and ambition in pursuing green initiatives and practices. Since the program’s beginnings, there have been literally dozens of new ideas from employees suggesting greener business practices. We have also earned recognition for our efforts, including a Green Plus Certification from the Institute for Sustainable Development in North Carolina, which works with several other prestigious institutions.
At this point, another CEO or senior manager might say, “This is all well and good, but how do you sell the green company idea to a board of directors, your owners or shareholders?”
The answer is simple. Like every other business decision we make, we look at the bottom line. What does the cost-benefit analysis tell you?
In the case of NCCI’s green initiative, we’ve realized some remarkable savings. For example, our paper costs were reduced by 27 percent in a single year. And more impressively, we’ve been able to realize an annual savings of $125,000 in energy costs to improve our bottom line.
In the end, embracing social responsibility and encouraging environmental awareness has brought our company numerous rewards — both fiscal and personal. There are tangible business savings that come from meeting our need to act responsibly and in an environmentally friendly manner. Moreover, this encourages our entire staff to renew its commitment to finding and suggesting further green initiatives that can be successfully implemented.
Stephen J. Klingel was appointed president and CEO of NCCI Holdings Inc. in 2002. Before joining NCCI, he was a leader with the St. Paul Cos. for more than 25 years.
Abraham Lincoln once observed, “Public sentiment is everything. With public sentiment, nothing can fail; without it, nothing can succeed.”
Implicit in Lincoln’s words is the notion that people who are well informed are well motivated, and therefore, much more likely to work together toward ultimate success.
Effective communications policies not only make for motivated employees, they also help drive results by:
- Sparking meaningful conversations
- Driving innovation
- Building corporate loyalty
- Fostering employee engagement
Yet in today’s world of increasingly staccato and frenzied communication, the challenge of shaping sentiment and sharing information with employees has never been more challenging.
At NCCI, we’ve devoted considerable time and resources toward identifying effective communication tools and two-way communication vehicles for employees and managers. Among these are traditional methods such as e-mail, meetings, conference calls with video, and individual face-to-face sessions, but we’ve also taken it a step further.
*We host regular town hall meetings, where every NCCI staff member is invited to hear from senior management about our company plans and mission. While the meetings give us an opportunity to speak directly with employees about the vision, employees can also suggest town hall topics and submit questions for discussion.
*We put on “President’s Circle” luncheons where nine employees from across the company are invited to an off-site lunch with just the CEO. These informal gatherings help employees get to know the company head on an authentic, personal level. It’s also a chance to have their questions and concerns addressed directly from the top. In 2010 alone, we hosted six of these luncheons.
*We’ve built and populated our own Intranet site (InfoZone), which holds everything from corporate compliance rules to employee profiles to breaking company news updates. If something is happening at NCCI, there’s an excellent chance that activity is documented here.
*We produce a weekly, all-employee e-mail (InfoMail), offering time-sensitive information about company projects as well as information about new employees, social activities and even the cafeteria menu.
But again, to have effective communication with your employees, it has to go both ways. Developing strategies and tools to better listen to our employees has perhaps been our most effective communications effort in the past several years.
Not only are NCCI’s senior staff and managers accessible to our employees, but we’ve also developed a series of electronic tools to encourage constant employee feedback, including weekly online surveys. We constantly ask employees for their opinions about company news, articles or events, and we’ve put in place an open-door policy for communication between employees and any leader in the organization.
Our continuing emphasis in each of these efforts is to engage managers and employees in transparent and authentic conversation.
So how is our communication effort and emphasis working here at NCCI?
In a recent all-employee communication survey, 87 percent of NCCI employees said they are kept well or fully informed, and 88 percent of employees said the amount of communications they receive about the company is just right.
Perhaps the most rigorous test of our open communication strategy to date occurred last year, when we had to share the difficult message that there would be no merit raises for employees in 2010. Because that message was honestly conveyed ? despite the undeniable hardship it must have caused some ? NCCI employees responded in truly remarkable fashion, breaking their previous record for contributions during our annual United Way drive.
In short, we think Lincoln had it about right. Company leaders may not succeed in every effort, but with informed employees motivated by open, honest, and frequent two-way communication, our failures are not only less severe, they are much less common and far easier to address.
That’s not only an effective communication strategy; that’s an effective business strategy.
Stephen J. Klingel has served as president and CEO of NCCI Holdings Inc. since 2002. Before joining NCCI, Klingel was a leader with the St. Paul Cos. for more than 25 years. You can reach him at Steve_Klingel@ncci.com.