According to the National Business Group On Health, about 70% of Fortune 200 companies offer fitness programs to their employees. These fitness programs have shown to increase employee productivity, increase employee retention, decrease employee absenteeism, and decrease annual health care costs. Due to all these outstanding statistics and benefits, many corporations have established annual budgets to pay for some type of wellness program for their employees. This article will help you, the fitness professional, get your foot in the door of a corporation to establish your corporate exercise program and land that desired annual contract.
First steps first: Find Your Corporate Contact. Kristen Carlucci, RD, nutrition expert and fitness instructor for Pitney Bowes, Inc., a Fortune 500 company with an award-winning employee wellness program, says it’s always easiest if you know someone internally within the company to recommend your services. Having a direct person to contact is preferred, but if you don’t know anyone, your next step should be to contact someone in Human Resources (HR). Make it even easier for yourself and try to locate someone who supports health and wellness initiatives or engages in regular physical activity themselves.
Step Two: Set Up The Proposal. Do your research. What does this employee population look like? Are they factory workers or high level executives? Mostly male or female? What age range? How many employees total? Look at what other similar companies are doing with their fitness programs, and mirror what programs were most successful for them. Your proposal should highlight the health care cost savings to employees through increased employee retention and presenteeism (how productive they are at work) and decreased absenteeism (sick days). Impressive statistics and graphs always help, advises Carlucci. Remember: a healthy employee is a happy employee who stays loyal to the company who cares about their health. If you have a more stable workface, you don’t have to worry about additional costs of turnover and new employee training. You can also include other statistics regarding increased employee productivity, energy, and alertness, and satisfaction. Carlucci informs to check on cost factor, too. If a company doesn’t have the budget to include a fitness program, remove this barrier by having the company offer to pay for 50% (instead of 100%) of the cost.
Third Step: Pitch The Program. Carlucci proposes to offer three different program options to the corporation. A Level 1 offering might be providing discounted fitness classes to the employees or having the corporation pay for half of the total cost of the class. Level 2 might be creating a 12 week fitness program, and Level 3 might be a year-long fitness program package including long term fitness programs, classes, personal training sessions, etc. You can label the program options as bronze package, silver package, or gold-star package.
Fourth step: Survey the Employees. Once you’ve gotten the go-ahead, you need to hear from the employees what THEY want. Start by having Human Resources or Benefits department send out a survey asking the employees what types of classes they’d be interested in. Yoga? Zumba? Boot Camp? Also check timing of the classes: Do the employees want classes offered at lunch or before or after work? This valuable employee feedback can help shape your program design and increase the number of participants.
Fifth Step: Get Employee Participation. Once the proposal and contract are signed, it’s time to get employees to participate. Carlucci advocates getting high level executives involved from the start to set the tone for the company and let employees know that participation in these health programs are encouraged. Also utilize internal communications such as the employee website, newsletters, flyers, and email listserves. External publicity doesn’t hurt either. Pitch to a local newspaper or news station about the new fitness program for employees at the company, or highlight employee success stories at the end of the program!
So many exciting options are available for establishing fitness programs in corporations. From yoga to Zumba to boot camps to P90X activities and more. All these types of exercises are very popular with corporations right now and they have the money in their budget to support these programs. Now is the time to get out there, do some research, and land that corporate wellness program contract. Who’s up for some stress-management workouts? I am!
Sarah Koszyk is a Registered Dietitian and Nutrition Coach at Eating Free, an online adult weight management program. She also provides in-person nutrition coaching at a private practice, MV Nutrition, in San Francisco, CA, where she specializes in sports nutrition and adult and pediatric weight management. She is the founder of Family. Food. Fiesta. a family-based wellness program and blog. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.