Electrolux North America has more than 7,500 eligible employees in its wellness program. And most work in manufacturing facilities spread throughout the country.
As a result of this dispersed population, Kristin Irby realized that she faced a significant challenge when she was hired in 2017 by HealthFitness as a Health Promotion Manager to oversee and implement the company’s Lux for Life
wellness and disease management program. How could she communicate and deliver a consistent message that demonstrated the importance and potential of the program to improve employee wellness? Especially when the majority of employees didn’t have a company email address.
Irby decided that instead of just relying on HR business partners and staff, she would recruit an expanded team. She and her colleague partnered with Corporate Communications and developed an informal employee team of grassroots ambassadors and champions.
“We had to make sure we were reaching a dispersed population,” Irby said. “That meant more partnerships, a focus on grassroots, and identifying opportunities where we could share resources.”
The strategy has already demonstrated results. All five identified lifestyle areas (nutrition, physical activity, sleep, stress and tobacco) for Electrolux eligible employees have improved as have two health areas (cholesterol levels and blood sugar). Participation in health assessments also increased.
“We build ambassadors and champions into our program and really challenged them to get the word out,” Irby said. “All but one site this year increased participation.”
Carol Nahrwold, HealthFitness Director, Program Management and Engagement, said Irby’s focus on communications paid immediate dividends.
“She completely gained the trust and confidence of her client within the first year,” Nahrwold said. “She now has more autonomy in managing the current campaign. Things have flowed very well and Kristin continues to thrive.”
The right fit
Irby always wanted a career focused on health and wellness. Her first attempt, though, didn’t go so well. Early in her study of nursing she realized she wasn’t meant for the clinical side.
“Squeamish; didn’t like the site of blood,” she said.
Irby instead gravitated toward public and community health and found a niche within corporate wellness.
“There are a lot of opportunities to get creative in this space,” said Irby, who noted examples such as fun wellness challenges, incentives and team/community partnerships. “I like helping people identify challenges and to make the healthier choice the easier choice.
One of her favorite stories is how a current wellness ambassador transformed from essentially being “voluntold” to proud role model.
“It went from just another thing on her plate to something where she really saw the value of her role,” Irby said.
As a child, Irby spent much of her time competing in gymnastics and diving. Even her family’s vacations were active.
“There was no sitting on the beach; that’s not what our vacations looked like,” she said with a smile. “We could go hiking, horseback riding, scuba diving and swimming. That’s something my family instilled in me.”
Sure enough, Irby and her husband continue that tradition.
They enjoy spending lots of time outdoors with their two children. They have alternated carrying their 2-year-old on hikes as long as six hours.
“A good day for me”
At HealthFitness, Irby is all-in, focused on helping employees reach their health and wellness goals. When they do, nothing makes her happier.
“I’m not here just because we have a contract; I truly care about (members) and their health and wellbeing,” she said. “Not everyone eats, sleeps and breathes wellness the way I do, but I try to pass on a little of my passion. That’s a good day for me.”
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