As one of the nation’s largest producers and transporters of energy and with thousands of employees spread out across the country, there is a lot riding on the health of the employees at Dominion Resources.

Dominion, which is headquartered in Richmond, Virginia, has more than 14,000 employees at various locations in 16 states. The company’s energy portfolio includes approximately 24,600 megawatts of generation, 10,900 miles of natural gas transmission, gathering and storage pipeline and 6,455 miles of electric transmission lines. It also operates one of the nation's largest natural gas storage systems, with 949 billion cubic feet of storage capacity and serves utility and retail energy customers in 11 states.

And while the business of Dominion has been improving in recent years – the company was recently named one of the “most admired electric and gas utilities” by Fortune magazine – the health of many of Dominion’s employees was not so good. After conducting an annual health risk assessment and biometric health screening in 2012, Dominion, which is self-insured, found that the following five health risk factors accounted for 84% of the company’s costs for treating avoidable health care issues: weight, stress, blood pressure, eating and cholesterol.

Also see: 10 communities with high employee well-being

Leadership at Dominion decided it was time to help employees change behaviors that ultimately could reduce their quality of life and negatively affect the company’s bottom line. Management, in partnership with their internal wellness team and external provider, StayWell, set a short-term goal of driving participation and a long-term goal of engagement and behavior change.

Getting in front of potential health care costs wasn’t the only factor driving Dominion to embark on a wellness program. Improving employee health also connected to Dominion’s four core values of safety, excellence, ethics and One Dominion (which represents the company’s commitment to working together as a unified team).

“We believe that if employees are healthy and well, they will perform better and be safer while at work,” says Wendy Wellener, vice president of human resources. “Initially, we just wanted employees to know their numbers; but now, we are moving more toward a progress-based approach. Because employees are One Dominion, we are confident that they can work together to improve overall health and reduce health care costs.”

Also see: Workplace culture more important benefit than wellness

Program components

Dominion’s employee wellness program started officially in 2012 and is branded “Well On Your Way.” The program currently consists of leadership support and involvement, annual health risk assessments, biometric screening, lifestyle coaching (telephonic and mail based), incentive strategy (health plan premium reduction or credit), StayWell’s participant portal, online healthy living programs, wellness ambassador network, Dominion-sponsored onsite activities for employees, employee assistance program and onsite fitness centers at approximately 40 locations.

Leadership support and involvement, which is critical to the success of a wellness program, includes webinars that promote wellness opportunities during open enrollment and throughout the year. Leaders can also be found participating in a variety of wellness program activities and company-sponsored fitness events, such as softball teams, volleyball teams, Team Dominion Running Club, and the annual American Heart Association Walk. The company also sponsors blood drives and onsite flu clinics to make it easy for employees to stay ahead of their health care needs.

Communication plays an important role in the success of Dominion’s program, as well: from the “pop-up” reminders employees receive when they sign into their computers, to the numerous communication pieces they receive from partners like Aon Hewitt and StayWell; and through postcards, targeted emails, posters, flyers and the company’s intranet and internal news outlets.

Also see: Employees seek more personal health knowledge

Dominion also has established a growing network of wellness ambassadors. This initiative started at the employee level in 2013 and remains driven by employee volunteers. Currently, Dominion has approximately 80 wellness ambassadors working to promote its wellness program.

The leadership and wellness team at Dominion feel the program is moving in the right direction and is already producing positive outcomes, including:

  • The average number of health risks for first-time health assessment completers decreased from 3.17 to 3.00.
  • The average number of health risks for repeat health assessment completers went from 3.16 to 3.09. This demonstrates that people are maintaining their behavior change from year to year.
  • For people who participated in the company’s lifestyle coaching programs, the average number of health risks went from 3.73 to 3.54.
  • For people who participated in a NextSteps program, their health risks decreased by 5.1%.

In addition to enhancing program offerings with a continued focus on weight and more emphasis on stress, Dominion will begin to move toward a progress-based incentive structure in 2015 for some employee groups.
Employee response to the program continues to be positive, as more than 300 employees submitted personal testimonials of how the Well On Your Way program has helped them. The secrets to Dominion’s success are really quite simple, says Wendy Wellener: get management support, make sure your incentive matches your culture, and use behavioral economics to drive participation.

David B. Robinson is supervisor of benefits with Dominion Resources. Heidi Trow is senior account executive with StayWell.

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