Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Miami dealership group's wellness program aids employees, cuts health costs


Carmelo Saavedra, finance director at West Kendall Toyota, competes in a fitness challenge.

Competitive, healthy

Bean Automotive Group’s wellness program has reduced absenteeism and improved engagement as employees eat better, lose weight and pay less for health insurance.

By encouraging employees at its four dealerships to substitute smoothies for junk-food snacks, Powerumba classes for pastelitos and pushups for pastries, Bean Automotive Group in Miami is nurturing a fitness culture that has decreased absenteeism and improved employee engagement.

As a result of the multifaceted Tune Up Your Health program, some employees also are significantly slimmer, courtesy of 307 total pounds lost in a weight-loss challenge last year. The less-is-more charge was led by dealer principal Lori Bean, who lost more than 60 pounds, said Jiselle Perez, human resources director.

For its efforts, the dealership group — which includes Lexus of Kendall, Lexus of West Kendall, Kendall Toyota and West Kendall Toyota — was named by the South Florida Business Journal as one of 10 finalists among thousands of businesses in a Healthiest Companies competition. The four dealerships combined sold 15,192 new and 6,682 used vehicles last year.

“When employees spend the majority of every week in an environment that supports healthy choices, it makes it easier to develop good habits,” Perez told Automotive News. “It’s a win-win situation because your associates feel better and their quality of life is better … and they’re more engaged and more effective at what they do.”

High participation

Employees have embraced the program. For example, nearly 57 percent of the group’s roughly 760 employees participated in an annual biometric screening that measured things such as blood sugar and cholesterol levels, blood pressure and body mass index. That tops the national average participation level of 46 percent, according to industry statistics.

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“There’s also more awareness about certain health-risk factors and the personal responsibility each individual has to mitigate them by incorporating healthy alternatives into their daily lives,” Perez said. “We’ve also seen a reduction in nonscheduled personal time off as it relates to illness.”

Moreover, employees can qualify for reduced health insurance premiums by completing an annual physical and participating in a biometric screening and a secondary preventive screening, such as a dental checkup. So far, about 400 employees have qualified for the premium reductions, Perez said.

Even service customers get in on the fitness mentality. Instead of offering customers in the waiting room doughnuts and other fatty snacks, the department provides whole-grain nutrition bars, mixed nuts and other healthy options.

“Customers have noticed it and say they appreciate it,” Perez said. “It’s easier to put out a box of doughnuts than to be consciously aware of customers’ best interests.”

The group implemented the wellness program about three years ago, but it took off last year. Perez credits President Chris Roberts, a triathlete, and CFO George Wiltz, an Orangetheory Fitness enthusiast, for their leadership by example.

The program comprises many components: lunch-and-learn sessions about topics such as breast cancer, nutrition and diabetes awareness; catered meals provided by health-food trucks; seasonal flu shots; regular weigh-ins; exercise classes; healthy-cooking, juicing and smoothie-making demonstrations; and periodic free on-site biometric screenings.

“We set up a standardized compliance area where Baptist Hospital of Miami brings in a M.A.S.H.-type unit for screenings and lab work on-site, so employees don’t need to take time off work,” Perez said.

Competitive

The program also includes bigger events such as the three-month Biggest Loser weight-loss challenge. Held early last year, the contest pitted the group’s east campus, including Kendall Toyota and Lexus of Kendall, against the west campus’s West Kendall Toyota, Lexus of West Kendall and a collision center. Weigh-ins were held every two weeks and participants got a coaching push from nutrition and exercise counselors. Nearly 100 employees participated. The east campus won.

“When you bring in a competitive aspect, you see people engage even more,” Perez said. “I just think the auto industry is based a lot on metrics and numbers, so people can identify with something quantifiable like weight loss.”

A substantial prize pot also helped: $6,000 in all, with $3,000 for the biggest loser, $1,800 for second place and $1,200 for third. The dealership group provided part of the prize money while participating employees kicked in $2 per pay period for three months.

The group followed that competition with another weight-related challenge called Maintain, Don’t Gain, intended to help employees avoid weight gain during the holidays. The three employees on each campus who recorded the biggest drops between their initial and final weigh-ins received an exercise bike for first place and Fitbit fitness trackers for second and third.

This year, the group is kicking up the fitness factor another notch with a series of challenges. For example, in the first challenge, Roberts and the four dealership general managers competed in lower- body strength contests against Wiltz and his four corporate directors. Then the dealership general managers and their directors within each campus squared off in upper-body strength contests. To avoid injuries, a personal trainer comes in to show participants the correct form for exercises, Perez said.

“After that, we’ll have employees from the service departments at both campuses compete, then the sales departments, parts departments and so on for the rest of the year,” Perez said. “And in the meantime, we will still hold weight-loss challenges and a blood-pressure challenge. The feedback from employees about these events has been wonderful.”

In addition, the program is broadening its scope by focusing on emotional and mental health. That emphasis includes mindfulness coaching seminars and monthly massages. “We want employees to be physically active and mentally and emotionally happy,” Perez said.

While the total cost of the wellness program was unavailable and the results are difficult to quantify, Perez said dealership group officials intrinsically know it’s worthwhile. The corporate culture has changed dramatically, judging just by the snacks served, weight lost and the number of employees who substitute stairs for elevators and participate in competitions.

“Our goal was to change our culture — get employees to embrace fitness and do it in a way that they see the company is serving and helping them,” she said. “That way they’re able to give so much more at work.” With no doughnuts or birthday cakes required.

Competitive, healthy

Bean Automotive Group’s wellness program has reduced absenteeism and improved engagement as employees eat better, lose weight and pay less for health insurance.



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