Friday, February 28, 2014

Wellness programs: impact on employee engagement

In his appalling documentary (Escape Fire), Matthew Heineman explores ways to renovate our Healthcare system. In a Forbes interview with Michael Lindenmayer, he highlights 4 things that need to change:

1.Americans must own their own health and invest in prevention.
2.Physicians and insurers must switch to health outcomes vs. disease management.
3.Companies and insurers must integrate health into corporate culture.
4.As a society heading to healthcare bankruptcy, we must talk about the issues and act NOW!

The #1 and #3 points have found echo with the surge of wellness programs. More and more companies are investing in such programs to manage employee retention, engagement and productivity, but also as a mean to decrease their healthcare costs.

What are wellness programs and why do many organizations offer them to their employees?

Traditional wellness programs include nutrition and weight control, smoking cessation (according to a new study from Micah Berman at Ohio State, the average smoking private sector employee costs companies $5,800 more per yearthan one who has never smoked), fitness and stress reduction.  Companies have found that these programs provide a significant return on investment, for the employer, the employee and their families, but obstacles are hard to overcome.
CVS was widely criticized in March when word leaked that its employees would have to submit to health screenings or pay an extra $50 per month for insurance. But the pharmacy chain isn’t exceptional: nearly half of large companies have wellness programs that measure workers on such factors as weight, blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation survey.
Johnson & Johnson, a leader in wellness programs, offers a $150 benefits bonus to overweight employees who reduce their body mass index by 10 percent. Its wellness program slowed the rate of increase of healthcare costs by $565 per employee. Citibank debuted a wellness program in 2008 and found that every dollar spent on wellness returns $2 to the company!

In her blog, Cornelia Gamlen offers ideas on how to make a wellness program successful. Wellness programs can be simple or they can be as complex as your organization desires. The key to a successful program is the buy-in from the CEO to the entry-level employee.  As John Tozzi from Bloomberg BusinessWeek pointed out, adding a wellness program won’t deliver savings or make employees healthier without deeper changes to the workplace. The workplace metamorphosis needed “is hard, and it’s hard to outsource that to an outside firm, so most companies don’t try”. 

Wellness programs are only a tool to renovate our Healthcare system. Dramatic and drastic changes in people’s lifestyle are necessary to carry out a healthcare revolution. Nevertheless, wellness programs are a step in the right direction, according to Geoffroy Verney-Carron founder of WellnessPaladins. First, the wellness program must be part of a bigger change in the company’s culture. As companies ought to innovate to survive to a rapid and constant evolving market, a wellness program can be part of the plan. As mentioned above, such programs increase productivity, employee retention: happy, healthy and engaged employees (see a previous blog on customer engagement) will carry the transformation towards a culture of innovation.
As for any major change with an organization, the top management must lead the charge and employees will follow. Most of innovative programs die because management does not carry it through. Policies, processes and procedures must accompany the change, not slow it down or inhibit it.

It is easier to be and stay motivated among a group of fellow workers working towards the same goal, than working alone towards a healthy lifestyle change. This is why wellness programs within companies have a higher rate of success than individual programs. Employees will support each other, motivate each other, which will translate in a similar collaboration on all work projects. Management will interact with employees as peers, running on the treadmill, lifting weights, in zumba classes, taking down hierarchy. When such employees have an idea they want to bring to management, they will no longer be afraid of hierarchy barriers. Again, health, happy and engaged employees will carry the transformation towards a culture of innovation.

How about your company? Does it have a wellness program? Do you believe such programs can help create and nurture employee engagement? Share your thoughts.

New name for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway?

When I was a kid, my great-grandmother used to make pottery. In her backyard, she had a shop and a tiny museum, which she would show to relatives and friends… What’s the link between my great-grandmother and the IMS, you will ask me?
Should we rename the Indianapolis Motor Speedway the Indianapolis Motor Slowway? Growing up in France, like any European child, all I knew about car racing was Formula 1, with in the 80s and 90s the likes of Alain Prost, Ayrton Senna, Nelson Piquet, Nigel Mansell, Michael Andretti… However, I knew of the Indianapolis 500 as being the most prestigious race in the world. I had no idea what Champ Cars was, I could not place Indianapolis on a map, but I knew of the Indianapolis 500. For years, the Indianapolis 500 has been of one the most prestigious sports events in the world, not just in racing, but across all sports. Studies show that the wheel and wing logo of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is one of the top 10 most recognizable brands in the world.

As a (proud) Hoosier by adoption, I got to become emotionally attached to the IMS, to the Indianapolis 500, to the city. I still don’t know sh#t about Indy Car, or NASCAR. I only know a few drivers by name, but it stops here. I have been at all races at the Speedway, which is an iconic venue for any sports fan. US car racing was born in Indianapolis, damn it! But I am frustrated with the idea that there are so many lost opportunities because of the status quo, the conservatism, the lack a guts to restore the IMS to its past glory. Various IMS leaders have moved (if at all) way to slow (Slowway?) to keep the IMS brand upbeat and relevant to the present, and the future.
When I was a kid, my great-grandmother used to make pottery. In her backyard, she had a shop and a tiny museum, which she would show to relatives and friends… What’s the link between my great-grandmother and the IMS, you will ask me? One, they were born slightly at the same time. Second, my GG’s museum looked like what the IMS museum looks today: an old place, which has not changed in decades. When I look at the Indianapolis Children’s Museum, with its interactive, hands-on exhibits and activities, or the Dallara factory on Main Street with its simulators, real-time workshops, state-to-the-art building, I don’t understand how the IMS cannot keep up? I once took my son (only once - he was 5 at that time) to the IMS museum, and after spending only 15 minutes in the building, he told me he wanted to leave because he was bored! Isn’t that sad? I typically have to drag my kids out of the Children’s Museum after an entire afternoon spent there because they want to stay (we go there often, but they never get bored). If you ask anyone (and mostly adults) what their experience has been at the Dallara factory, their eyes will lit up, their face expands with a huge smile, and they will say “awesome”. WTF is going on with the IMS? They should have been doing this for years!

With such an iconic venue as the IMS, with one of the most prestigious sports events in the world with the Indianapolis 500, the IMS board should bring the track to the people, not try to bring people to the track (so far, the latter has been a failure – look at the plummeting number of spectators the last few years). As an example, the Gilles Villeneuve track in Montreal is open all year long to the public. When I lived in Montreal, I used to roller blade or ride my bike every weekend or evening in the spring & summer, for free. I don’t mean the IMS board should do the same, but they should make the IMS and Indy Car a sexy product. The only time Indy Car looked sexy in the past several years was when Danica Patrick ran in the series. Indy Car was sexy because of Danica Patrick, not because it was Indy Car itself. Maybe she was a distraction (at times) to the discipline itself, but at least she brought the spot lights, audience and sponsors to the league. Now that she is gone (she still is very sexy BTW), what’s left for Indy Car? Not much… Fans, sponsors, drivers are going away year after year. 
Indy Car, along with the IMS, must become sexy again, as stand-alone symbols, not through a Go Daddy sex symbol! Come on, IMS people, show that you have power in your engine, that you have the guts to run 240 mph (the unofficial track record is 239 and the track record for qualifying is 237 – so move faster) to move the IMS and the Indy Car into the future and make them relevant again. I still don’t know sh#t about Indy Car, but I know sh#t about developing unique brand experiences. What about you? Let the drivers be drivers and the engineers be engineers.

French car-sharing service set to arrive in Indy… Success or failure?

Autolib’ arrives in Indianapolis

On June 10, Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard joined forces with civic and business leaders to announce the 2014 launch of an electric car-sharing service led by the French company Bolloré.

This initiative is part of a bigger plan for the city of Indianapolis to replace its fleet with all hybrids and plug-in vehicles by as early as 2025.
Autolib’ was launched in Paris by BollorĂ© in December 2011. It's going down a storm in Paris, the company's latest figures showing its 1,800 Bluecars have taken over 2 million trips through Paris since late 2011, with 82,000 subscriptions sold. Just 11 months ago, those figures were half a million trips and 37,000 subscriptions.

Cars can be reserved by smartphone and picked up using an access card swiped against a reader on the windshield--the cars in Indy will use a similar system.
What Indianapolis won't be getting is a fleet of Bolloré Bluecars like those used in Paris. Instead, Autolib' plans to use either the Ford Focus Electric, or the familiar Nissan Leaf, as part of its car-sharing service. Both are more suitable for U.S. roads (and indeed, legal and federalized for U.S. use) rather than the French electric vehicle.
Mayor Ballard hopes the service will attract more international visitors to the city and raise its profile--providing an easy and inexpensive way for travelers to move about.

Strong potential
I strongly believe in the potential of this car-sharing service, but several obstacles lay on the road to make Indy Autolib’ a success.
First of all, unlike Paris and other US cities such as San Francisco or Portland (Oregon) which have a robust public transit system, Indianapolis is not known for providing good public transport.
In Paris, Autolib’ is more of a (private) enhancement and addition to public transportation, not a substitution. If you have ever ridden on the crowded metro or bus in Paris, you have had to endure the body odors emanating from your fellow commuters or have been forced into body-to-body positions like you are dancing the Salsa; you understand that renting a car to go from Point A to Point B would be a nice alternative. However, Paris being so vast, you won’t find Autolib’ kiosks in every part of the city, hence the need to eventually juggle between public transit and renting a car. Besides, traffic is horrifying in the French capital. Driving a car in Paris, even if your name is Dario Franchitti, can be as scary as eating frog legs or escargots for a Midwesterner.

The bottom line is that Hoosiers are not big consumers of any type of public transportation. Renting a car is a common practice for Americans while vacationing, but not for short in-city drives. The Midwestern culture of owning and driving a car is very much anchored in our daily commuting habits. Hoosiers don’t use public transportation if they can drive a car. Selling a car-sharing concept like Autolib’ to Indianapolis residents will be challenging in that regards.
Visitors and convention-goers are expected to be a major segment for Autolib’. For instance, the average cost of renting a car through Autolib’ is about $6-8 for a 20-minute ride. A visitor arriving at the Indianapolis airport will see a benefit vs. taking a $35-$40 cab ride to a downtown hotel. Easy to pick up the car at a kiosk at the airport and drop it off at the JW station downtown.

However, Autolib’ can’t be a stand-alone service in Indianapolis as it is in Paris to be vastly successful (for the reasons described above).  In my mind, it has to be integrated into a much larger global product offering. It has to be part of the visitor experience or the downtown business experience. The visitor experience can start with Autolib’ at the airport (Point A), but should not end at the drop off location downtown (Point B). Autolib’s should be linked to other services and products that create the visitor experience (hospitality, events, businesses…), should be one of the platforms to access an array of services available to visitors and business people.

It is great to have an innovative service such as Autolib’ here in our conservative Indianapolis, but transposing the Paris model of Autolib’ to Indianapolis won’t be as successful if it is not part of a much bigger offering.

What do you think?  Will you use Autolib’?  I have some ideas that I would be glad to share to make it a success.

Is there a future for soccer in Indianapolis?

Being a French native and Hoosier by adoption, I can’t be more excited to have a soccer team in Indianapolis, be it an NASL team. Based on Indy Eleven’s success in ticket sales, I am clearly not the only one looking forward to next season’s kick-off.

With the Colts’ sustainable success, the Pacers’ rebirth (what a season!), the Fever’s 2012 championship title, and the Indians’ steady strong attendance, is there a place for soccer in Indianapolis? Yes, definitely. But Indy Eleven’s future success beyond the next couple of seasons and the present excitement around the new venture is not about bringing soccer to the city, it is about creating a distinctive, unique experience around the team.

Unarguably, ticket sales have been a tremendous success so far, and the focus on the international community in Indy has been the right strategy. A good illustration was a packed Lucas Oil Stadium for the game between Chelsea and Inter Milan for the Guinness International Champions Cup last summer.

However, I see a few challenges lying ahead. The Chelsea/Inter game is a good indication of soccer interest in the city, but we are talking about two huge teams. As a reminder, Inter Milan won the UEFA Champions League in 2010, Chelsea in 2012. Hoosiers did not go to that game for soccer, they went for two big teams and theirs stars (the Mourinho, Lampard and others). Indy Eleven does not play in the same league. Hoosiers won’t go to Indy Eleven games to see elite players.

Second, the dichotomy between novelty and long-term support is not to be underestimated. Like a marriage, the first couple of years are great, but if you don’t build a solid relationship, it falls apart. This could be the same for the love story between Indy Eleven and the fans if the front office does not build a lasting fan experience.

For any foreign-born Hoosiers accustomed to elite soccer, there is always a stake at the beginning and the end of the season. Unlike franchise sports in the US where you can go 0-16 like the NFL Detroit Lions in 2008 and still play in the elite league the following season, in European or Latin American soccer, if your team finishes last, it is relegated to a lower league. This means that even of your team sucks, true fans will continue to cheer to avoid relegation. I am skeptical there will be the same enthusiasm if Indy Eleven sucks, as there is no relegation at stake.  The same goes with the championship title. The MLS title is a big reason why fans rally behind their home team, such as LA Galaxy (in addition to David Beckham when he was there). A NASL title is not very appealing, at least for true soccer fan. In other words, there is nothing at stake (title or relegation) that will motivate the fans to support the team, fill the to-be-built 18,000-seat stadium if they offer an unattractive game and poor results. Indy’s soccer team’s success passes through an attractive game.

Sponsor deals and corporate suites won’t get any suitors in the fans don’t come and the Indy Eleven brand is tarnished by low attendance and poor results.

The fan base is inclusive of hard-core soccer fans, broad sports fans (not just soccer), and families looking for entertainment opportunities. For the hard-core fans, Indy Elevens’ main competition is truly cable TV. For the same price as one season pass, you can buy premium cable channels where you have the guarantee to watch top soccer every weekend with the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid, Manchester United, Paris St Germain, or Bayern Munich. Do you spend $200-$300 a year to watch Indy Eleven, or get cable to watch the top European teams? 
For the average sports fans looking for any type of exciting sports events, they will follow the winning teams (Colts, Pacers, Fever) in top notch leagues. If our local soccer team does not have a winning tracking record and attractive game plan, will the average sports fans follow? Not so sure.
Finally, for the family in search of any type of entertainment, be it sports, concerts, movies, etc., they will spend their money where fun is guaranteed... Very versatile part of the audience that does not build a fan base in the long term.

Indy Eleven has done all the right things to build the buzz around this team. From the announcements of the team name Indy Eleven, to the hiring on the front office, the coach, the first player... They have reached out to the international community, the safest bet to build a strong support. They have successfully developed a continuous marketing campaign using social media, to keep the momentum going over the past year.

As Bob Kravitz wrote last summer, “history tells us professional soccer  doesn’t work in Indianapolis. The city has been a graveyard for soccer startups, including the ill-fated Indiana Blast. But there’s hope, specifically for the 2014 startup Indy  Eleven”. Indeed there is hope. Indy Eleven’s long term success is dependable on the fan experience the franchise will be able to build, not on performance. Competition will be tough, at all levels. Welcome to Indianapolis, Indy Eleven!

Downtown Indianapolis needs a food store attractor

Since my first visit to Indianapolis in 2000, the city has dramatically transformed itself from a dormant city into an attractive, busy, dynamic city.  Many trendy restaurants have opened, the convention center has expanded, the JW Marriott opened last year; many efforts have been made to revitalize the city center, from condominiums development, the classy Mass Ave, to the latest CityWay project.

I am originally from France, came to Indianapolis in September 2004, and since then have become a huge advocate of Indianapolis and Indiana.  The city and the state have numerous assets to attract investors, companies and people from all over the world.

In my first job in France out of college, I worked at a local Chamber of Commerce as a consultant in economic development and marketing to the retail sector.  In many cities, the “downtown” (or centre ville), has been deserted by the population who prefers to live and shop in the city’s outskirts (more convenient to access, to park, large selection of stores).  For city officials, having a major food store and open market has been a priority to revitalize the centre ville and attract people back to downtown, to live, or spend more time shopping, dining – in short to bring the city center experience back into their lives.

Before moving to Indianapolis, I lived for two years in Portland, OR.  Portland is an example to follow for cities across the country for public transit, downtown revitalization, city planning and green initiatives.  Just a few months after I moved to Portland, Whole Foods opened a store downtown, ideally located between the Pearl District (a sort of Mass Ave) and the 21st-23rd streets (a sort of Broad Ripple).  This was a major draw and boost to the city center.

Indianapolis has a Whole Foods on the North Side (86th street), two 
Trader Joe’s (86th street West and 82nd street East), but lacks of appealing/trendy offering in the south side or downtown.  I am convinced that having a Whole Foods or Trade Joe’s (probably a Whole Foods with its breakfast/lunch catering and seating area – more appealing to hang out) is needed downtown.  The Circle Center Mall is lacking a big brand to retain customers.  A Whole Foods for instance would not only serve downtown residents who need to buy groceries (downtown residents are the perfect demographics for a Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s), it would also serve those who work downtown to do their grocery shopping over lunch time or right after work.

Indy now has attractive restaurants, great hotel/convention space offering; it needs an attractive food store. Oh! And also an attractive/trendy/fashion European-style clothing store (being French, I have a hard time finding clothes I like in Indy and have to buy them during my business trips in Europe – or on line J).

What main retail attractor do you see for downtown Indianapolis?