Improving Employee Engagement and Becoming an Employer of Choice
Through the Health Care Authority (HCA) and the Employees and Retirees Benefits Division (ERB), Washington state provides well-being benefits for more than 270,000 state employees in over 400 organizations across state agencies, higher education and government organizations.
Washington state employees range from state ferry drivers to teachers to social workers — each with their own interests, goals and barriers to well-being and engagement at work. Organizations within the state also have their own sub-cultures and priorities, so delivering relevant benefits to state employees is complex
In 2022, the effects of the COVID 19 pandemic continue to challenge organizations to find new and innovative ways to care for their employees. Washington State wanted a program that was engaging for employees and made it easier to focus on their whole-person well-being. According to the Washington State Office of Equity Director, Dr. Karen Johnson, “It is so important to take care of the state workforce because people are stressed about COVID and all that’s going on today. If we are going to deliver services in a way where everyone is treated with humanity and dignity, we must first take care of the state workforce, the people who take care of the people who come to us for service.”
After careful consideration, the HCA chose Limeade as its well-being and engagement partner. The HCA selected Limeade for its comprehensive, whole-person approach to well-being, and the flexibility of the platform allowed the HCA to tailor programs to internal agencies while bringing a unified culture to life.
Together, the HCA and Limeade launched SmartHealth, an online well-being and engagement program for eligible employees, spouses and retirees. While employees participate in similar activities based on state-wide goals, events, resources and values, they are also empowered to create their own well-being journey. Cathie Browing, a State of Washington Employee shares, “I’ve been involved in a lot of health and wellness programs over the years and nothing is like SmartHealth. I feel it’s a clear indication the state is focused on telling people that we want you to stay, and we’re trying to engage you.”
In addition to encouraging employees to focus on their well-being, Washington State also prioritized building a culture of inclusion. Sue Birch, the Director of the Washington State Health Care Authority emphasizes that, “DE&I is really a high priority for our entire Washington state public service. It’s vitally important that we work towards well-being. When people really feel connected to others at work, their experience is much better. We’ve been able to leverage SmartHealth to connect more employees to their work and to each other.”
Leveraging leadership support
Governor Inslee personally believes in the power of well-being and he was eager to act as the face of the program. To highlight his confidence in the program and his own personal commitment to health and well-being, Governor Inslee launched his own program video. To demonstrate ongoing support for the SmartHealth program, Governor Inslee also holds the annual Governor’s Walk. Employees from across the state join a rally on the steps of the state Capitol in Olympia, Washington, and take a guided walk around the campus. Employees not located in the area are invited to virtually walk with the governor in their respective locations. In 2018, nearly 2,000 employees across the state participated in the Governor’s Walk, demonstrating the far-reaching importance of well-being.
Targeting Employees to Reduce Health Risk
SmartHealth leverages Limeade targeting capabilities to reach employees with the programs they need to improve their physical health. For example, dental claims data revealed a significant number of employees hadn’t seen the dentist for two to three years. According to Delta Dental of Washington (DDWA), employees with a history of regular dental care have costs $292 less than those who forgo a regular routine – only to need emergency care or extended remedial care later on. To support preventive care, SmartHealth targets employees with their own dental coverage benefit information, which differs across the three plans provided by the HCA. Then, the HCA rewarded employees for choosing a dentist and getting an exam. Following this effort, dental plan usage increased 2.7%, which projects more than $2 million in cost savings according to DDWA.
Delivering a relevant experience
With many internal organizations and sub-cultures, it can be difficult to make a program feel relevant to everyone. Washington State used Limeade targeting to deliver a series of activities and challenges that are personalized for employees based on interests, location, job role and other demographics. Cathie Browning, a Washington State Employee adds, “SmartHealth has a wealth of options, which other programs that I’ve experienced in the past do not. You have education about all sorts of topics like nutrition, wellness, or how to be happier. You also have classes where you learn more about specific issues of nutrition and how your body metabolizes different sorts of foods.”
Other activity examples include:
The Attorney General challenged agency leaders to champion SmartHealth and encourage their teams to complete their Well-Being Assessment (WBA). The organization with the highest WBA completion rate was awarded points in the SmartHealth program.
The Apple Cup Challenge, a team steps challenge, leveraged friendly competition between the University of Washington and Washington State University football teams during their annual rivalry game.
Supporting the Department of Corrections
The Washington State Department of Corrections (DOC) employs more than 8,000 employees, many of whom have no access to computers or cell phones during the workday. In addition to feeling disconnected, correctional officers working in jails face daily physical risks, making it hard to remain positive about society and how prisoners’ lives can change for the better. To reach this population, Limeade and SmartHealth developed a three-point plan:
Connect well-being to business results: The team developed DOC communications highlighting well-being as an engagement and productivity driver, helping jails meet and even exceed their goals.
Leadership support: The Secretary of the DOC went all in. In 2018, he recorded several action-oriented videos showing his commitment to whole-person well-being and challenging his organization to participate. He also added well-being messages on pay-stub emails, placed the SmartHealth quickstart icon on all DOC desktops for easy access and sent personal email messages to staff about SmartHealth activities.
Manager support: The team also developed a custom activity targeting DOC employees called “Put the Big Boss to Work.” When 60 percent of employees completed the Well-Being Assessment at any correctional facility, their Superintendent took an eight-hour shift in the prison. Three correctional facilities hit the mark (compared to just one in 2017 without the activity).
In just one year, program registration at the DOC increased by 43%, participation in SmartHealth activities increased 100%, Well-Being Assessment completion increased by 21% and 25% more employees qualified for their program incentive.
Since the launch of SmartHealth, the State has witnessed measurable improvement in well-being, employee engagement indicators, and desirability as an employer — all important metrics that tie directly to the State of Washington’s organizational initiatives. Sue Birch adds, “SmartHealth is a strong wellness initiative that augments productivity, efficiency, and impacts our healthcare spending. Healthy people simply cost us a lot less money, but healthy people also perform at their peak and they help create better health policy. They create greater efficiency, and they are role models for each other and to the broader community at large. That is why we feel strongly committed to SmartHealth.”
Using Limeade Dashboards, the State of Washington found that program users with higher well-being had 25% lower turnover compared to employees with low well-being — a potential savings of $1.6m in turnover costs.
Additionaly, employees with high well-being use 37% fewer overtime hours per employee — a potential annual savings of $1,100 per employee. They also use 10% fewer sick days per year — a potential annual savings opportunity of $260 per employee.
“We know you’re dedicated to your work, but we want you to be dedicated to yourself and your families as well. Your health is important to me personally. It’s also important for your ability to do your job and serve the public. So, I want to thank you for your personal efforts.”
Governor Jay Inslee to State of Washington employees
When an executive order was issued to improve the health and productivity for State of Washington employees, Limeade was elected to bring focus to well-being. See how the initiative saved the state $1.6 million in turnover costs.