In our December 2014 issue, the Greater St. Cloud region was referred to as ‘On the Grow,’ and now a strategic partnership has been formed to sustain the benefits of this growth. Greater St. Cloud and interested community members have taken steps to maximize the region’s advantages in order to support local businesses, residents and overall community well-being.
Located in the heart of Minnesota, the Greater St. Cloud region boasts a diverse economy, a vibrant community, strong local leadership and a commitment to economic and social development. Local citizens, businesses and organizations are engaged in working collaboratively to define and implement economic development plans.
The Greater St. Cloud Development Corporation (GSDC) is at the forefront of forging these partnerships in the interest creating a stronger and more viable Greater St. Cloud region. GSDC supports business development and growth through services and resources that reinforce economic and community vitality.
GSDC works to achieve these ends by employing six strategic initiatives: the support of business development, attraction, retention and expansion; improving access and establishing the region as a transportation hub; talent attraction and retention; innovation; workplace well-being; and downtown revitalization and space making efforts.
The corporation has undertaken substantial efforts to actualize each of these. It most recently dedicated a great deal of time and resources to the area of personal well-being and is working in partnership to identify ways in which this can be improved, both inside and outside of the workplace, to foster a more engaged, productive and overall healthier population.
The Greater St. Cloud Workplace Well-being Initiative is a unique partnership between GSDC, CentraCare Health and St. Cloud State University. The action was launched at the GSDC 2015 Well-being Summit which was attended by 282 participants, representing 125 organizations.
The initiative includes five goals and activities, the first of which is to build a coalition of leaders who are committed to the advancement of health, employer engagement and positive overall employee state. A major component of this is the well-being pledge that a company’s leadership can take, signifying a commitment to workplace vitality from the top down.
The second is related to training and certification in proven wellness strategies, processes and programs. A coalition of human resources and wellness committee professionals, once trained, can help realize the goals of the pledge using proven methodologies and approaches.
“We have partnered with WELCOA, the Wellness Council of America,” explained Sonja Gidlow, director of strategic initiative and communication with GSDC. “We provide employers a year of free membership to WELCOA, so folks in our region have access to their training and certification. One of our goals is to get as many folks in our region certified in workplace well-being and WELCOA’s seven benchmarks of America’s healthiest companies.”
The seven WELCOA benchmarks of results-oriented workplace wellness programs are capturing CEO support, creating cohesive wellness teams, collecting data to inform health efforts, crafting an operating plan, choosing appropriate interventions, creating a supportive environment and carefully evaluating outcomes. These benchmarks are central to GSDC’s well-being initiative.
The third component connects employers and employees with local and regional healthcare and education providers and offers the resources to support these connections. GSDC has established a resource directory to improve access and build stronger networks.
The fourth element is to measure well-being in order to create benchmarks for improvement. In doing so, the Greater St. Cloud region will benefit from the competitive advantages associated with being a population that enjoys a high well-being index. This will further brand the region as an ideal place to live, work and invest.
Lastly, GSDC is working hard to create a culture of, and common language for, overall well-being in the region. Through the annual summits, the corporation and its partners can keep a finger on the pulse of the needs of the region. Stakeholders measure well-being and use the resulting data to develop systems to strengthen networks.
“In 2014, we held a summit attended by eighty or ninety business owners, and we asked them around the subject of workplace well-being. ‘How can we help you with what you need?’ We took that information and crafted what is now our workplace well-being initiative. That initiative was launched in 2015,” Gidlow explained.
Tracy Schulte, GSDC volunteer and technology and well-being director with Granite Equity Partners, commented on the growing momentum of the summits. “Our first one had roughly eighty and our second one had roughly 280. The third annual summit, that we just had recently, had over 450 attendees representing about 190 organizations.” The next summit is planned for February 15, 2017 and promises to be even more successful than the last.
“In order to measure well-being we have partnered with Gallup-Healthways for access to their Well-Being 5 assessment tool,” Schulte noted. “Essentially, the idea here is that a company is going to focus on what they measure so they can move the needle on that.” The results are used to create company-specific programs to address each organization’s unique needs.
The workplace well-being initiative includes an opportunity for participating employers to offer an online life quality assessment to employees, giving them information about the five essential elements of well-being. Those elements are career/purpose, social, financial, physical and, lastly, community. The patented online survey and well-being measurement tool has been developed by Healthways in partnership with Gallup over the last ten years to be scientifically reliable and validated.
“In 2015,” Gidlow explained, “We had forty-three organizations and approximately 2,200 employees participating. Those employees got individual customized reports on their overall well-being. The report offers insight into where they are doing well, their strengths, but also their challenge areas. It offers suggestions on ways they can improve their well-being.”
In addition to the individual report, organizations with over twenty-five participants receive an organizational report that provides insight to the well-being of their workforce and programs or interventions that could address the organization’s specific circumstances.
“Lastly, the GSDC receives a community report which aggregates all participant data,” Schulte said. The reports ensure confidentiality while generating and dispersing well-being data.
Schulte explained that the GSDC is hearing that, “organizations are all over the spectrum, as far as where they are at in their well-being journey and engaging their employees on well-being. So they have varying needs and starting points, and with that in mind, we’re really trying to encourage a culture of well-being.”
“We are not doing this alone,” Gidlow added. “We are aligning with other partners. For example, CentraCare Health: they are developing a community well-being initiative. So, while we are helping folks through the workplace, they are working on a more broad community initiative.”
By collecting and analyzing this information, GSDC and its partners can better focus energy and resources to address the unique needs of local employers.
Having this information will make it easier to develop strategies to address workplace and community well-being challenges. A healthy community is key to a healthy workforce and, as such, impacts greatly on a company’s productivity and bottom line.
Improved health and wellness not only improves an employee’s productivity and engagement, it also helps companies to market themselves as an employer. A work culture that supports fulfillment is highly attractive to employees and can serve as a determining factor for job seekers. This is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to advantages associated with improved life satisfaction.
“We will have a healthier and a more well population and that benefits the individual, first and foremost, but it also benefits the employer,” shared Gidlow. “There is compelling empirical evidence about productivity gains when folks are well. Improved workforce well-being can also reduce the cost of health insurance and other related costs.”
As Schulte noted, “The reality is, we spend a lot of time at work, so it’s really important that the culture supports high well-being. It’s going to improve the environment, productivity, innovation and creativity in the workplace, but it’s also going to improve our home lives and our communities.”
It’s not simply about providing resources to support improved quality of life both inside and outside of workplaces; it’s about fostering the creation of a culture that permeates the lifestyles of the community. This culture helps to ensure that improved well-being is successfully integrated in daily activities and lives.
“We want to keep the conversation going in the community, share information, provide opportunities for networks to grow and cross-sector engagement,” Gidlow described. This happens through the annual summits and through the programs undertaken by GSDC and its many partners.
GSDC’s unique partnership with CentraCare Health and St. Cloud State University, offers a balanced approach to individual fulfillment. By approaching wellness from an economic, healthcare, and education perspective, and by taking a collective community approach to improving well-being, GSDC’s Workplace Well-being Initiative is sure to have resounding success.
“I think partnership is key to the success of our initiative,” Gidlow stated. GSDC is working to support the creation of healthier, happier workplaces and an overall improved quality of life for the Greater St. Cloud region.