Invest in wellness

July 1, 2015
Creating and implementing an employee wellness plan will have a very positive impact on your sales, your productivity and your profitability.

On the one hand, having a business plan that sets performance goals for such items as sales, production and profitability is critical to our success but too often our greatest resource — our staff members — are an afterthought and little or no thought is given to their well being or health. Every year the automotive repair industry loses millions of dollars in sales, productivity and profits to a lack of attention to employee wellness, though study after study shows that investment here provides a huge opportunity for a strong return. Investing in the wellness of our technicians, service advisors and service managers is definitely worth the effort, not only for them but for our shop and for the automotive repair industry as well.

Have you ever had a technician who smoked or abused drugs or alcohol? Whether or not you want to know about or acknowledge the negative impact smoking, drug or alcohol abuse can have on our staff and therefor our shop, all three are common behaviors having a major impact on the workplace across all industries in the US. These behaviors are also, without a doubt, in one way or another impacting our sales, our profits and our productivity. That minor cold that turns into bronchitis and a weeklong absence is very typical of the challenge smoking brings to our work place. It is very difficult for that technician to be productive sitting at home on his couch hacking his lungs out. The impact of alcohol on our service operation is just as bad, if not worse. By promoting employee wellness, and in this, smoking cessation along with drug and alcohol programs, we could contribute significantly to the health of our staff members and our viability as a business.

It would be easy to say that wellness is not our concern as shop owners or as service managers. But just as our service advisors and technicians need to contribute to the viability and survival of the shop to assure their own wages and continued employment, we as shop owners and service managers need to contribute to the efforts and well being of our staff members to assure our own success and survival. Along with providing quality shop equipment and a good working environment, we need to invest in the health of our staff members and develop a wellness plan that will enhance their efforts, encourage improved behaviors and in this, assure their consistent and best effort.

Like everything else that we do, employee wellness programs cost money, but unlike a lot of the things we spend money on in the automotive repair world, wellness programs have the potential to provide a very strong return on investment (ROI). This is most clearly visible in reduction in both shop keepers’ and healthcare insurance premiums, as well as reduced absenteeism and improved productivity. In study after study it has been shown that wellness programs can reduce healthcare costs and costs associated with absenteeism from 25 percent to 30 percent within 3.5 years of inception, all of this without the additional benefits of improved morale and retention. This ROI comes from lower health insurance premiums, reduced worker compensation claims, reduced absenteeism and increased productivity. Believe it or not, employees tend to feel good that their employers are making the effort and taking an interest in their wellness, which takes the very positive effects of quitting smoking or weight loss and magnifies that impact by giving our staff things to feel good about and reasons to stick around and work smarter and more productively. What's not to like about that?

Wellness plans use a variety of methods to encourage employees to become healthier including health appraisals, counseling and weight-loss programs. Some provide financial incentives for participation and many companies create an environment that promotes healthy behavior, with smoke-free zones, on-site fitness facilities and free gym memberships for participating employees. Remember that studies have shown again and again that these wellness programs will generate a tangible return for us and for the business so be creative and thoughtful in whatever directions you move and make your effort toward improved employee wellness relevant to you, your shop and to your staff. If you have no smokers on staff, having a smoking cessation program will probably not be that impressive; however if you have a couple of guys who are overweight or struggle with the bottle, it might be a great thing to have a weight-loss program, free gym memberships or drug and alcohol counseling included in your plan. Another very important step is our full commitment and participation in whatever we do. If our staff members see us, as shop owners and service managers, losing weight or quitting smoking, our plan has a much better chance of having an impact and delivering that ROI we talked about. Talking wellness is one thing, but walking that walk is another.

No two wellness plans are alike. We need to make ours unique to our shop and our staff, with goals and expectations that suit us. We need to find our own way of spelling success and find ways to make the success of our staff members within the wellness plan part of our success as a shop. Their success, improved health and availability to work are as big a win for them as it is a win for our shop.

Incentives are important in changing behavior and are very useful in helping us measure commitment and success. A very important step is getting your staff interested in participating. Your actions and commitment here are crucial to making employee wellness something our employees will care about. If you care, I can promise you they will.

A great place to start in developing a wellness plan is with your healthcare provider. If they are unable to come up with a plan that works for you, find somebody who can. A Google search will yield any number of providers. The right plan is definitely out there. 

Successful wellness programs incorporate some or all of the following elements:

  • A company sponsor (that's you!)
  • A comprehensive plan design
  • Commitment and leadership from the top down
  • Assessments of employee health status, identifying risks or concerns
  • Individual counseling on assessment results, especially for high-risk employees
  • Risk-management strategies
  • Incentives that are relevant to our staff members
  • Proposed Changes (A published plan)
  • Efforts to maximize participation (Make it 'Our Plan' not 'My Plan')
  • A continuing commitment and leadership toward employee wellness

More than that canned marketing plan you just had to have and way more than that gas analyzer you bought last year that nobody uses, creating and implementing an employee wellness plan will have a very positive impact on your sales, your production and your profitability; but don't do it for that. Do it because your greatest resource, your service advisors and your technicians, deserve it and will benefit from your care and concern. If you take care of them, the sales, production and profitability will take care of itself.

Think of what you could do if three and a half years from today you were paying 25 percent or 30 percent less for health insurance, your staff members were missing far fewer days of work each year and as a result of this, you were generating 10 or 20 more billable hours per week. I am guessing maybe you could find something to do with that money and could easily live with the improved operation and reduced stress.

Employee wellness is not about them. It's about us, all of us. It's about being a good shop or a great one. Which do you want to be?