For Dominion Resources, Power Is in a Healthy Workforce

A multifaceted wellness program lowered employee health risks, among other positive outcomes

By David Robinson and Heidi Trow Apr 8, 2015
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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, Va., has more than 14,000 employees at various locations in 16 states. The company was recently named one of the “most admired electric and gas utilities” by Fortune magazine. Unfortunately, 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 risk factors accounted for 84 percent of the company’s costs for treating avoidable health care issues:

Being overweight.

Stress.

High blood pressure.

Poor eating habits.

High cholesterol.

And So, the Journey to Better Health Begins

The 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 wellness team and external provider, StayWell, set a short-term goal of driving up participation and a long-term goal of instituting an 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,” representing the company’s commitment to working together as a unified team.

“At Dominion, we believe that if employees are healthy and well, they will perform better and be safer while at work,” said 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.”

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 assessment.

Biometric screening.

Lifestyle coaching (telephone- and mail-based).

An incentive strategy (health plan premium reduction or credit).

StayWell online participant portal.

Online “healthy living” programs.

A wellness ambassador network (see box below).

Onsite and Dominion-sponsored activities for employees.

An employee assistance program.

Onsite fitness centers at approximately 40 locations.

Leadership support and involvement, which is critical to the success of a wellness program, includes management-led 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, the 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 e-mails, posters, flyers and the company’s intranet and internal news outlets.

Dominion also has established an impressive—and 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.

Dominion Wellness Ambassador Network

Wellness ambassador networks are about giving employees the power, the support and the tools to promote your company’s wellness program through a network of champions, who can connect with other employees on a peer-to-peer and social level. Here are some of the steps Dominion has taken to build a successful wellness ambassador network:

Make it easy for employees to become wellness champions. Communicate clearly and often about the opportunity, what it entails, and how to get involved. And ensure that management at all levels is supportive of employees who serve as wellness champions.

Encourage and support networking among wellness champions. Dominion hosts monthly Wellness Ambassador conference calls, where ambassadors from different locations can share stories and outcomes, and exchange ideas.

Give wellness champions access to tools and resources. Dominion’s wellness and benefits partners, StayWell and Aon Hewitt, regularly provide educational tools that Dominion’s wellness ambassadors can use to promote healthy choices and onsite activities to employees. Ambassadors can access tools and information through an internal, shared web resource. In addition, they benefit from StayWell Activate, a specially designed website for wellness champions and onsite wellness coordinators.

Create a calendar of ideas to fuel onsite wellness activities. Dominion wellness ambassadors have access and can contribute to an annual calendar of onsite activities, a list of communications tools, health improvement themes and tips that they can distribute to employees in their location.

Recognize and celebrate success. Dominion regularly shares stories from wellness ambassadors about successful events and activities, paying tribute to their efforts and celebrating the healthy behaviors of employees.


Outcomes Are Promising

The leadership and wellness teams at Dominion feel the program is moving in the right direction and, since launching in 2012, 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 an average of 5.1 percent.

Planning for a Healthy Future

Dominion is now enhancing its program offerings with a continued focus on weight loss and more emphasis on stress. The company also 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 their success are really quite simple, according to vice president of human resources Wellener: Get management support, make sure your incentive matches your culture, and use behavioral economics to drive participation.

5 Tips for Maximizing Participation Among Union Employees

Because Dominion has a large number of employees represented by unions, the company has learned a thing or two about implementing wellness programs for this specialized audience. Here are five tips they recommend for greater wellness success with union populations:

Send mailings to home addresses for employees who do not have regular access to a computer.

Mailing information to the home also enables the spouse to remind employees about wellness opportunities.

Provide material to supervisors and administrators who have close contact with union-represented employees without computer access.

Create an extranet website that is specific to your program so union-represented employees can access information outside of work.

Create short videos about the program and post on an external site that is accessible to employees who work offsite.


David Robinson has held several human resources positions within the banking and utility industries over the past 20 years. His current role as supervisor–benefits at Dominion Resources, a power and energy company headquartered in Richmond, Va., allows him to focus on process improvements and cost-savings in benefits administration. He served as president of the Richmond Human Resource Management Association in 1995.

Heidi Trow is a senior account executive at StayWell, a health engagement company that helps educate and motivate employees to improve health and business results.

Related SHRM Articles:

From a Candy Culture to Health-Obsessed: A Wellness Convert's Tale, SHRM Online Benefits, March 2013

Labor/Management Collaboration Led to Wellness Success, SHRM Online Benefits, January 2013

Incentivizing Good Health: A Mid-Sized Firm's Success Story, SHRM Online Benefits, October 2012

Creating a Unified Wellness Program at Dover Corp., SHRM Online Benefits, May 2012

Developing a Cutting-Edge Wellness Program at Lincoln Industries, SHRM Online Benefits, (reviewed July 2013)

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