4 ways Montana University System rethinks wellness
By: Mady Peterson
Montana University System (MUS) recently stopped by Limeade HQ to speak about their Limeade program and share their successes and key learnings. We heard from Connie Welsh, Director of Benefits; Mary Lachenbruch, Associate Director of Benefits; Cristin Stokes, Nutrition & Health Education Specialist; and Neal Andrews, Employee Exercise & Fitness Specialist.
About the MUS Wellness program
MUS includes all the large universities in Montana – that’s 14 sites across the state for a total of 8,500 benefit-eligible employees. MUS uses their unique statewide workforce as an opportunity to make its MUS Wellness program all about Montana, resulting in a very local program featuring the state area code, national parks and more.
The program recognizes the whole employee – which can be seen through various Montana-branded activities that help employees improve their fitness, nutrition, mental well-being and work engagement.
4 things we learned from the visit
1. Statewide programs have unique advantages
MUS Wellness exudes state pride. The program is designed around themes that Montana residents care about to unify employee populations across the state. One of the most popular activities is the Montana Moves challenge, which encourages employees to get outside and explore Montana. Another is the ongoing Trek the 406 step challenges, which incentivizes employees to walk the equivalent length of well-known historical routes, such as the Beartooth Highway or the Lewis and Clark Trail.
2. Diverse populations require new ways of thinking
MUS reminded us that diverse employee populations require various ways of thinking and engaging. So we helped them create a program that appealed to those just starting off on their wellness journey as well as experienced athletes looking for a new challenge. For example, in addition to the 40K step challenge, MUS Wellness created a 70K step challenge for those who wanted to push themselves farther.
3. Incentives are powerful
MUS wanted to offer meaningful incentives to motivate employees at all levels. By offering a Fitbit for completing Level One, MUS increased employee participation at open enrollment meetings by 300% and as a result increased awareness of benefit programs. And when MUS rewarded employees who subscribed to the Montana Moves & Montana Meals blog, they saw an increase of 500 new subscribers in one day. Be sure to check out the blog yourself – we love it here at Limeade!
4. Incentives can also be stressful
We’re creatures of instant gratification – and when we earn something, we want it immediately. MUS experienced this in the soft launch of its program. Participants earned a Fitbit for completing Level One of MUS Wellness and they expected to receive the reward instantly. This left no time for the MUS Wellness team to verify the winners and deliver the devices across the state. During the program’s official launch a few months later, MUS partnered with Limeade and Fitbit to let participants order their Fitbit immediately upon completion.
Despite the pandemic, Gallup reports a sharp drop in the percentage of employees who strongly agree that their employer cares about their overall wellbeing. Check out this guide on how to reduce employee attrition with a well-being program.