The United States spent enough in health care costs in 2013 to total an average of $9,086 per person. That total spend translated to more than 17% of gross domestic product, according to a 2015 report from The Commonwealth Fund — a foundation that promotes a high-performing health care system. Of the 12 other high-income countries included in the study, health care spending in the United States far exceeds that of other countries.
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Despite this spending, according to the report, the United States achieved worse outcomes in terms of rates of “chronic conditions, obesity, and infant mortality.” It’s a challenging problem, says Garrick Throckmorton, assistant vice president of organizational development at Allegacy Federal Credit Union ($1.2B, Winston-Salem, NC). But Throckmorton sees a solution in America’s businesses.
Garrick Throckmorton, Assistant Vice President of organizational development, Allegacy FCU
For the past 18 months, Allegacy has participated in a Vitality Institute working group of 16 organizations and experts — including IBM, Johnson & Johnson, and Harvard University — whose goal is to determine best practices for reporting workforce health metrics.
"Employees spend 36% of their adult lives at work," Throckmorton says. "We have the ability and responsibility to create an environment that helps them be their best by influencing their well-being in a positive way."
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In this Q&A, Throckmorton discusses being the first company to publicly release its health records, implementing a culture of health, and spreading community awareness.
How did you find out about the Vitality Institute’s initiative?
Garrick Throckmorton: In June of 2014, the Vitality Institute put out a report called “Investing in Prevention: A National Imperative.” It said the United States has a large consortium of thought leaders from large organizations; however, more than half of employees in America work at small- to medium-size employers. So the report asks, how can we engage employers of all sizes?
CU QUICK FACTS
Allegacy federal credit union
Data as of 12.31.15
HQ: Winston-Salem, NC
12-MO SHARE GROWTH: 7.14%
12-MO LOAN GROWTH: 3.07%
We contacted Derek Yach [the chief health officer of Vitality and leader of the institute] and discussed the success we’ve had in building a culture of health at Allegacy, our passion surrounding the topic, and our interest in helping create a call to action at a broader level.
We are constantly encouraging our peers at credit unions and trying to positively influence employers of all sizes in our footprint. But we also want to raise awareness at the national level about the ownership employers must take to solve this problem.
Allegacy Federal Credit Union was the first company in the country to release its corporate health metrics report. What was that process like?
GT: It was exciting. It was 18 months of work that culminated in Allegacy becoming the first organization to pilot the scorecard we created with the working group. In April 2015 we reported our corporate health metrics to our board of directors and our community. We will do so again in April 2016.
Click here to view the report, "Allegacy Health Metrics Reporting"
Why did you choose metrics like “culture of health,” “leadership,” and “corporate capacity & voice of employee?”
GT: The scorecard has multiple sections to it. It’s focused on the degree to which an employer is creating a culture of health, which is a broader lens to take when it comes to organizational health. It’s more than talking about a wellness program or a specific initiative that an organization is doing. If you’re building a culture of health, every touchpoint along an employee’s lifecycle should remind them that their overall well-being matters.
With the scorecard, we wanted to represent an organization’s effort to truly build a holistic lens of their investment into a culture of health. For example, one category is “leadership,” so some questions on the scorecard concern how a company’s mission statement and business objectives relate to employee health. Is there somebody at a senior executive level that is accountable for health within the organization? Does the company have a network of health and well-being champions — whether that is a committee that champions the work being done or liaisons in the departments? This is less about creating programs and more about the broader approach to implementing a culture of health.
Read more about Allegacy's AllHealth Wellness program in "Mind, Body, Soul, Finances," only on CreditUnions.com.
How did Allegacy implement a culture of health?
GT: Our efforts to build a culture of health started in 2009. Where we are today is the result of building on that messaging, programing, and investing in the well-being of our employees. Over time, we’ve been able to shift culture and can see the impacts. The level of trust we measure in our organization has gone up 225%. Our engagement levels have also gone up 116%. And just as importantly, risk factors per employee have dropped 50% since 2009.
To get those statistics we use Denison Organizational Culture Survey. It’s an anonymous survey we do every two years. We have more than 85% of the organization take a part in that each time.
Building a culture of health has taken years, but everyone — including the board — has been supportive of our efforts, which is why we’ve achieved the success we have.
What are some of the long-term goals of the Vitality Institute initiative?
GT: The long-term goal is to make health metrics a core indicator of company performance inside broader frameworks of reporting for all companies. The vehicle we use is the annual report. Some of the feedback we’ve received from our board members is that it has increased their confidence in our ability to face challenges. In essence, the transparency we’re providing gives them a greater sense of the performance, stability, and resiliency of our employees.
So we’re going to continue to report on corporate health metrics in this broader framework of annual reporting. But if we step beyond Allegacy, part of the vision is to make sure we are becoming champions for this important work. We want organizations of all sizes to understand improving corporate health can impact this giant problem that is facing the vibrancy of America. It’s the right thing to do for business and the right thing to do for employees.
You mention feedback. What have you heard from members and nonmembers?
GT: The feedback has been positive. We’re on the forefront of this drumbeat for small- and medium-size employers. We’re also leading the way for large organizations to show the strong connection between employee well-being and performance. Business challenges are going to happen; we know we’re going to face fluctuations to the environment. But our ability to adapt, flex, and mange those changes comes down to our employees. If we’ve invested in them and their overall well-being is strong, we’re positioned better than we would be otherwise to face those challenges.
— As told to Erik Payne