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Senator KOHL. Thank you, Mr. Evans. Mr. Herman, tell us about your company.
STATEMENT OF MR. BILL HERMAN, VICE PRESIDENT OF HUMAN RESOURCES, HIGHSMITH, INC., FORT ATKINSON, WI Mr. HERMAN. I am happy to, Senator. Good morning. It is a pleasure to be here.
Like most businesses in our country, Highsmith is a small business. We are a family owned distribution company located in rural Wisconsin, halfway between Milwaukee and Madison.
We have approximately 220 employees. Our customers are libraries and schools.
Over the last 10 years, we have received a remarkable number of awards and a flood of national publicity for our wellness and employee development initiatives. We earned that recognition by managing our health care costs; at the same time, we improved the quality and productivity of our workforce. In fact, those two things are closely linked. But we really set out to accomplish much more.
We set out to ensure the long-term vitality and viability of a growing business.
Our response to the crisis in health care costs and health risk management has always served that goal. In fact, my point today is that wellness and employee development have been successful at Highsmith because we have made them a part of our business plan.
We have learned the value of a well thought out strategic approach to implementing and sustaining health and wellness concepts within our organization, concepts that continue to influence and effect the lives of employees after they retire. Our culture is supportive of health lifestyle choices and encourages good nutrition and lifestyle activity.
At Highsmith, wellness is not viewed as just a program, but rather as a strategic initiative to nurture the human capital necessary to meet corporate goals and objectives.
Over time, we found that traditional definitions of wellness and health promotion often fell short of encouraging personal responsibility for health and wellbeing.
Highsmith undertook a fundamental transformation in our view of wellness. We think the terms wellness and employee development are interchangeable. Engaging employees in their jobs, emphasizing learning and development, providing tools to balance work life responsibilities, along with health and wellness have all been integrated at Highsmith.
This initiative encompasses a carefully managed blend of seven components: job-career development, work life enrichment, personal wellbeing, self-care, physical wellbeing, monetary incentives as applied to health insurance premiums, and a comprehensive array of benefits.
A key piece is the monetary incentives. If an employee and spouse qualify for the incentive, Highsmith pays 75 percent of their single or family health insurance premium. If one doesn't participate, we pay only 60 percent. The voluntary eligibility requirements to qualify for the incentive are enrollment in our health insurance plan, to be a non-user of all tobacco products, participation in our annual health screening, plus age and gender specific physical exams.
Eighty-three percent of our employees on our health plan do participate.
The annual health screening for employees and spouses measures height and weight, blood pressure, a carbon monoxide screen to determine if one smokes, a full blood lipid panel, glucose, and a treadmill fitness test.
Participants also complete a coronary risk profile. The most critical part of the health screening is delivering immediate feedback and helping people understand it.
There are four distinct feedback stations as part of the health screening. One of the stations is a focus on emotional wellbeing. Some of the results that we have been able to measure in the period 2000 through 2004 are we have had a 53 percent decrease in total participants with high-risk cholesterol levels. We have had a 52 percent decrease in total participants with high blood pressure; a 72 percent decrease in total participants whose VO2 submax was high risk-how healthy your heart is. We have normal blood glucose levels in 84 percent of all participants.
We have experienced an average increase in health insurance premiums of only 5.4 percent over the last 4 years. Employee turnover is single digit, and our average tenure is 14 years.
Utilization of our employee assistance program was 22.8 percent for 2004. The national average hovers between 4 and 6 percent.
So in conclusion, I would like to reiterate that wellness and health promotion is not a program at Highsmith. It is not a stand alone. It is really a strategy initiative to have the human capital necessary to meet our corporate goals and objectives. Thank you.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Herman follows:]
Providing libraries and learning with products, services and ideas,
Senate Special Committee on Aging
Highsmith Inc. is a distributor of supplies, furniture and equipment to public,
The company has a reputation as an innovator in organization design, employee development, health risk management & wellness programming. Highsmith received one of the 2004 Secretary's Innovation in Prevention Awards from the Department of Health & Human Services and is a two-time recipient of the Wellness Council of America's Gold Well Workplace Award and the inaugural recipient of the Platinum Well Workplace Award. In 2003, Highsmith was recognized by the State of Wisconsin with a Corporate Culture Award for our focus on employee retention, motivation and our unique learning and development model. And most recently, we were recognized with the Wisconsin Psychologically Healthy Workplace Award. Highsmith has also been featured in The New York Times, Business & Health magazine, MSN.com and on NBC, The Nightly News with Tom Brokaw.
We have been active in health promotion and wellness initiatives since 1990. At that time, there was very little research that indicated there would be a return on investment for wellness dollar expenditures. We intuitively believed if we promoted healthy lifestyles, we could have an impact on healthcare cost and productivity. We knew this couldn't happen overnight. We needed to slowly raise the awareness of our employees on health, and shift our corporate culture to be more in alignment with supporting healthy lifestyle behaviors. We began to target dollars for services to nudge and encourage employees to make healthy lifestyle decisions.
Fifteen years later, Highsmith's commitment to health and wellness is stronger than ever as evidenced by our successes with employee development, and has allowed us to achieve an average of only a 5.4% increase in our healthcare premiums over the last four years.
We've learned the value of a well thought out strategic approach to implementing and sustaining health and wellness concepts in our organization. Concepts that continue to influence and affect the lives of employees after they retire. Our culture is supportive of healthy lifestyle choices and encourages good nutrition and lifestyle activity. At Highsmith, wellness is not viewed as just a program, but rather as a strategic initiative to nurture the human capital necessary to meet corporate goals and objectives.
Providing libraries and learning with products, services and ideas.
Over time, we found that traditional definitions of wellness and health promotion often fell short of encouraging personal responsibility for health and well-being. Highsmith undertook a fundamental transformation in our view of wellness. We think the terms wellness and employee development are interchangeable. Engaging employees in their jobs, emphasizing learning and development, providing tools to balance work/life responsibilities along with health and wellness must all be integrated.
T.A.G. extends beyond the traditional aspects of job/career development. We
Within T.A.G., we offer a comprehensive menu of health promotion, disease
Monetary Incentive Approach for Health Insurance (See Exhibit 1)
Additional Awareness Campaigns and Educational Opportunities
The Highsmith approach is non-traditional and on the forefront of taking wellness
83% participate in Highsmith's monetary incentive approach to health
Highsmith has been investing in the health, wellness and development of our workforce for over a decade. That investment has been paying off in many different ways.
Reduction in Health Risk Factors 2000-2004:
53% decrease in number of health screening participants whose total
At a time when health insurance premiums are increasing at double-digit rates, our premiums have held steady. Over the last four years (20022005), Highsmith's healthcare premiums have risen an average of only 5.4%