A Role Model for Wellness Programs: ING Direct

Delaware is one of several states that have implemented wellness and prevention programs.  State employee wellness programs are often launched as pilots for broader health initiatives and as examples of best practices that it is hoped the private sector will follow.  image

DelaWELL, Delaware’s pilot wellness program, was designed to set an example for private employers to follow, as well as to demonstrate the possible ROI.  Delaware employer, ING DIRECT, is unusual in that it adopted its own wellness program shortly after Delaware first began its wellness program. ING DIRECT saw so much intrinsic value in the wellness philosophy that it began to implement a full-fledged wellness campaign long before the state program could return any substantial ROI data.

In this multi-part post, we’ll look at the ING DIRECT program as a model for other businesses who are considering making the wellness investment.  In this post, we will focus on guiding principles that have directed the program’s priorities and initiatives, the real-world data that was used in assessing the potential value of the program, and goals the program is hoped will obtain.

Next, we’ll look to the various facets of the wellness program as it has come to be developed, an assessment of those initiatives, and the direction the program can be expected to take over the next several years. Undoubtedly, ING DIRECT has taken its own distinct path in implementing its deeply rooted wellness philosophy. As a frontrunner in the area of workplace wellness, other state employers can gain valuable insight from the ING DIRECT example.

ING DIRECT’s Arrival in America

ING DIRECT was born in Canada in 1997, a subsidiary of Dutch giant, ING Group. In 2000, several executives came to the U.S. to replicate the Internet bank’s Canadian success. By late 2003, ING DIRECT USA had acquired 1.5 million customers and had grown to employee more than 800 people. Realizing the potential implications of such sudden growth, CEO Arkadi Kuhlmann directed the company’s efforts towards creating a culture that valued work-life balance.

Kuhlmann’s strategy was influenced by The Power of Full Engagement, by Jim Loehr, Ed.D. In his best-selling book, Loehr advocates that individuals must manage their energy–not their time–in order to reach their full potential. Only by focusing on sustained performance can individuals maximize their health, happiness, and work-life balance. For Kuhlmann, the connection between a healthy workforce and a productive workforce was an easy one to make and he set off to create a working environment that would support this connection.

The Doctor Is In

In 2004, Kuhlmann approached Don Baag, M.D., with his ideas. Kuhlmann described his vision–to have a doctor-in-residence on the ING DIRECT campus–not just to tend to the daily healthcare needs of employees, but to address the overall health of the corporate culture. And just how was Baag to implement such an esoteric strategy? With a wellness program.

Intrigued by the opportunity to directly impact an entire workforce on a permanent level, Baag agreed. Kuhlmann offered no instruction or specific strategy–just to create a department that’s entire focus would be on the well-being of employees in whatever format Baag saw fit. Baag had never before developed a corporate wellness program. In fact, he’d never worked in a company that had one. But the absence of prior experience is not out of place in the ING DIRECT culture, which has found great success by innovating new experiences instead of copying the experiences of others.

To Be Continued . . . But, for now, here are some earlier Employer Wellness posts:

  1. State Employees Will Go From Fat to Fit–Or Else
  2. Health vs. Privacy: Employers Continue to Juggle Both
  3. What Does It Take to Be “Best Place to Work”?
  4. Three Days of the Bar Exam and the Next Great Wellness Benefit
  5. These Pumps Were Made for Walkin’
  6. Are Employers Getting Pushy About Weight Loss?
  7. Employers Should Know that Cancer Screening Saves Lives . . . And Money
  8. More Employers Giving the Gift of Wellness–via gift cards
  9. Employee Blogs as Part of Corporate Wellness Programs?
  10. Employees, Prepare to Get Healthy, Like It Or Not!
  11. DelaWELL, Delaware’s Health-Management Program for Public Sector Employees, Wins National NASPE Award
  12. DOL Offers Compliance Checklist for Wellness Programs
  13. Are Today’s Wellness Programs Running Out of Steam?
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