Ardent is based in Nashville, TN and is a premier provider of healthcare services. Ardent owns or operates surgical and medical hospitals and healthcare systems in growing urban and suburban areas.
What if every healthy choice you made throughout the year was proven to reduce your healthcare premiums the following year? Salad instead of cheeseburgers—$50 savings. Quitting smoking—$100 savings. Working out a few times a week, lowering your BMI and blood pressure in the process—$200 savings. In 2009, Ardent Health decided to embrace this participatory approach to employee health care. They hoped nearly 8,000 employees, many of them healthcare providers themselves, would embrace it, too.
Like prior years, 2010 promised to bring another rise in health care premiums. Just before open enrollment was to begin, Ardent decided to try something new. A voluntary program to help employees offset some of their health care premiums based on certain wellness indicators—like BMI, blood pressure, cholesterol, nicotine use, and glucose—much like the way good drivers receive preferred rates from their insurance companies.
Ardent would continue to bear most of the cost of employee benefits. But the company also wanted employees to see their healthcare benefits as a partnership. “We wanted employees to be appreciative of the benefits the company pays for,” said Melanie Miller, AVP of Compensation and Benefits at Ardent. “We wanted them to feel more accountable for their health and well-being, so they’d see the impact their choices had not just on themselves, but on their families as well.”
Despite the program’s advantages, Ardent feared employees might not rush to embrace a program that linked health premiums to wellness. “It was a big change from anything we’d ever done before,” Miller said. “We were afraid we’d get negative feedback from employees who didn’t feel they should have to lose weight or to do the right things to be healthy.”
In addition to introducing the wellness program, Ardent also wanted to consolidate their benefits information so anyone could find it—and so those who found it would want to read it. “In the past,” Miller said, “we were just trying to get the information out there. We weren’t as concerned about the way it looked, and we certainly weren’t thinking about what we could do to make it look interesting, fun and exciting. Also, the limited benefits information we did provide was spread out in different places. No one knew the one place to go to get information.”
A fresh, strategic approach to benefits communications was just what the doctor ordered.
The Benz Communications team quickly got to work, helping Ardent promote a new voluntary wellness program; launch an enrollment campaign—including a website employees and their families could refer to year-round; integrate social media features; and develop supporting print materials. A visual brand was created for HR, along with this memorable tagline: “Know more, choose better, live well.”
The new benefits website is engaging and accessible—super-charged with social media. The integrated benefits blog and Twitter feed make it easy for Ardent to keep communications fresh all year long—and give employees one more way to stay connected. Rather than hiding behind a firewall, the website is freely available to all. Employees. Their families. Candidates. “It’s a good one-stop shop for people to find the information they need,” Miller said. “Because it doesn’t show any personal or confidential information, we feel good about having it open to the public. Now when people have questions, we can direct them to the website.”
The new HR brand appeals to all employees—and not just to those who are healthcare providers. “We’ve moved from materials that were boring and drab to something that looks more fun,” she said. “We feel cool and cutting edge.”
What does it take to launch a wellness campaign, an open enrollment campaign, and a branded website with integrated print communications all at the same time? It helps to have a responsive team taking care of all the details. Thanks to Benz Communications, Ardent was able to roll out these aggressively timed campaigns without a hitch.
The strategy was sound. Communications were well written and beautifully designed. Revisions were minimal. “Our pre-open enrollment period was a lot calmer than it had been in previous years,” Miller said. “Whenever we got content, we didn’t have to make many changes. And if we did need to make a change, their team was quick to respond, and it was made in all the places it needed to be.”
Miller said she and her team appreciated the Benz team’s guidance on using the right tactics in the right ways—always with an eye toward helping employees make great decisions. “A lot of time, people throw ideas around, and you don’t know what to do if you like their ideas,” she said. “It’s great to have someone come to the table with ideas we can actually use—someone who can then help us implement those ideas.”
By any measure, the campaign was a success. The campaign presented what might have been perceived as negative news in a way employees perceived as positive. Ardent received more employee responses—and more positive responses—than they ever had before. More than 91% of employees signed up for the program, and more than half of employees visited the benefits website in the first three months.
To what does Ardent attribute the widespread enthusiasm? “It’s not because we made these great benefits changes,” Miller said. “It’s because our materials and our website were presented in a way that’s interesting and fun to look at. We’ve heard it’s a lot easier to find the information, too. We hope our people will continue to visit the website throughout the year.”
Not only are the new communications keeping existing employees happy, but they’re also helping Ardent recruit new employees. “Our HR directors in the field are telling us they’re proud to show the benefits website to new employees and candidates,” Miller said. “I think it’s really made a difference.”
When asked if she would recommend Benz Communications to a colleague, Miller doesn’t hesitate. “I would absolutely recommend Benz Communications. They’ve been awesome to work with, going above and beyond the call of duty all year long. They’ve given us great ideas and helped us implement this fantastic website we love. They’re creative, responsive, fun, and smart. They really know what they’re doing.”