In this series, EBN profiles three companies with winning wellness programs. Here’s the second company to be featured: Whirlpool.

Whirlpool Corporation, the global manufacturer of major home appliances, began its exploration into wellness in 2009.

“We strategically wanted to be able to look at how to engage our employees in a comprehensive wellness program and in their health,” explains Debra Brandt, senior benefit manager of global health and wellness. “And within our plan design, we created a [system] that was very focused around wellness participation.”

The course of action included a buffet of wellness program options — 14 in total. They include everything from biometric screenings and individualized health assessments to lifestyle or disease management, plus employee assistance programs.

Also see: Profiles of achievement in wellness: Robert W. Baird

The Whirlpool umbrella includes more than 18,000 employees. The consumer product company grossed about $19 billion in annual sales last year through brands like Maytag and KitchenAid. But Whirlpool is not just a business, it’s also a “family organization,” according to Brandt.

“We like the face-to-face, high-touch culture, and so I felt it was very important that we put into place on-site programs for our employees,” Brandt explains.

Prior to 2009, Whirlpool was not winning when it came to wellness, which is when Brandt says the company decided to work with full-time health coaches, part-time pharmacists from local Walgreens stores, and local EAP professionals in order to help design customizable programs for each of its locations.

“Obviously, we didn’t want to start putting in programs and services just willy-nilly, thinking, ‘oh this will be good and this will be good.’ We really took a look at what makes sense for our organization,” Brandt explains.

And what made sense was a self-directed health program as well as optimizing networks, changing copays and deductibles, all of which have proved to hold the company’s health care costs to “flat,” Brandt says.

Also see: 10 ways to design a better wellness incentive program

StayWell, Whirlpool’s wellness vendor, reports that between 2010 and 2013, most Whirlpool employees and eligible spouses or domestic partners increased their participation in wellness activities in order to receive a higher benefit level. Health assessments increased from 78% to 89%, biometric screenings jumped from 18% to a whopping 93%, wellness exams increased by 30 percentage points to 65%, and EAP participation increased by more than five times to 10%.

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