Healthy body, healthy mind, healthy wallet
As chief human resources officer at Huntington Ingalls Industries, my job is to make sure every employee has the opportunity to do his or her best work every day. It might sound simple, but there are a lot of things that can go wrong along the way. That’s why we’ve developed a benefits and wellness strategy focused on three things: a healthy body, a healthy mind and a healthy wallet. Those three components will either contribute to or are detrimental to someone’s engagement at work, whether it be health stress, emotional stress or financial stress.
Centers for Disease Control research shows that 50 percent of an individual’s health status and health-care costs are driven by your behaviors. Twenty percent is driven by access to health care, another 20 percent can be traced to the environment you live in, and 10 percent to your DNA. If 50 percent is behavior and 20 percent is access, as an employer, I can influence 70 percent of that. Hence the reason for our company’s push on health risk assessments, annual physicals, exercise, flu shots and tobacco cessation.
We’ve also built our own HII Family Health Centers in Virginia and Mississippi. The centers treat our employees and their dependents’ acute medical, vision and pharmaceutical needs, but they also focus on behavioral modification. That’s why we have staffed the centers with wellness coaches, nutritionists and certified diabetes educators to help employees and their dependents with those problems.
We’ve gotten some great results early on. Since 2013, we’ve had 5,000 fewer emergency-room visits. That is huge. Our employees’ out-of-pocket costs have only increased about 3.5 percent when the market average has been about 6 to 7 percent. This is a long-game strategy, but we’re proud of the early results we got.
It’s not news to anybody that emotional stress is a huge problem. Just as we did with physical health, we were looking at where employees and dependents were getting help for their emotional health, and we saw there was a lack of expertise and a lack of availability for our employees. So, we reached out to our telemedicine partner and asked: What can you do to help us in this situation?
Just like now when an employee calls Teladoc and gets a board-certified physician to talk about a particular health issue, they also can reach out to a certified mental-health provider who will provide treatment and support for emotional and mental-health issues. We’re also adding full-time, employee-assistance program counselors in our HII Family Health Centers. With mental health, time is of the essence. Employees really can’t wait weeks at a time to get an appointment if there is a crisis going on.
When you look at financial wellness, most companies — and I was guilty of this myself— look at it as a “retirement-ready” problem. In fact, we found that the bigger challenge is a basic lack of financial literacy. It was really hard to have a conversation with an employee about retirement readiness if they’re struggling week to week on daily finances — how to balance a budget, how to get car loan, credit card debt, etc.
We invested in a variety of financial wellness programs. SmartPath offers classes where they educate and act as personal finance coaches for our employees and their families. Our partners at Alight introduced a retirement model where people can actually do modeling and see their financial trajectory — and make changes accordingly. We also have a partnership where employees can reach out and talk to their own financial adviser, and that’s free to them.
Again, just like health care, there are multiple ways to tackle this problem. There’s not going to be a silver bullet where one will resolve it, but I think with all of these, hopefully, we’ll be able to move the needle.
Our human-capital strategy has evolved over the 30 years I’ve been doing this, and it will continue to evolve. We’ve laid the foundation where we can be very agile, and we can pretty much shift where we need to to make sure that our employees have the best opportunity to do their best work every single day.
Even if you don’t work for HII, you can and should become more engaged in your health and well-being. No one owns your health except you, and that goes for physical, emotional and financial health. I encourage you to do your own annual check-up: When did you last see your doctor? How are you doing with nutrition and exercise? Do you have healthy ways to cope with life’s stresses? Are you balancing your budget each month and saving for the future? I know it can be easy to ignore these parts of our lives, but they’re arguably the most important.
Bill Ermatinger is executive vice president and chief human resources officer of Newport News-based Huntington Ingalls Industries, America’s largest military shipbuilding company and a provider of professional services to partners in government and industry. He discusses HII’s benefits and wellness strategy in greater detail on the HII Talking Points podcast: http://www.huntingtoningalls.com/hii-talking-points/.