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Bosch is a global supplier of technology and services and partners with HealthFitness to provide corporate wellness programs to its 24,600 U.S. employees in 70 sites. HealthFitness conducted focus groups to help Bosch engage its manufacturing workers in corporate wellness programs and, by extension, in their own health and well-being.
How Bosch uses focus groups to boost workplace wellness
Bosch is a global supplier of technology and services.
In 2013, its roughly 281,000 associates generated sales
of $61.2 billion. In the U.S., it has 24,600 employees
in more than 70 locations. Domestic sales top $10.6
billion. Its operations are divided into four business
sectors: automotive technology, industrial technology,
consumer goods, and energy and building technology.
Focus groups pinpoint what Bosch employees need
to engage in their health
employee base is diverse, and the company’s 70 sites
are spread throughout the country, leading to a wide
range of socioeconomic, education and literacy levels.
HealthFitness sought to bridge that gap by
identifying what the manufacturing workers wanted
and needed in order to engage in their own health
HealthFitness first looked at the data collected during
the programs’ first two years. It soon became clear
that, although the programs were successful for those
who took part, they needed to reach many more.
HealthFitness proposed conducting focus groups
at selected plant sites. Bosch had previously sent
out surveys, but HealthFitness explained that this
population needed face-to-face contact. Bosch agreed
with this “meet them where they live” approach.
HealthFitness selected nine sites across the U.S.
The sample provided a mix of plant sizes, geographic
and union vs. nonunion employee bases. The focus
groups were structured as informal conversations;
they included up to 12 individuals from each site.
HealthFitness, entering the third year of its corporate
wellness program with Bosch, faced two related issues.
First, find out why roughly 40 percent of the employees
were not participating in health management
activities. The second—necessary to create a resolution
to the first—was to determine what these workers
wanted from a health management program.
Communications about incentives and wellness
program offerings were not completely reaching
a primary target of the population, the plant/
manufacturing group. Health screening communication
was quite effective, and workers—whether they were
on the manufacturing floor or in the front office—took
part. However, participation in nutrition and activity
programs was lower among plant employees in
particular and—as the focus groups revealed—these
employees were less informed about the offerings.
Effective communication proved particularly
challenging with the plant workers. Flyers sent to
employees’ homes were less effective than anticipated,
but e-communications were not consistently effective,
either. Most plant employees lacked Internet access
at work, and many didn’t own smart phones.
Manufacturing employees in general tend to have
limited access and comfort with technology. Bosch’s
Boosting workplace wellness
Workplace wellness is about relationships. […] That
means meeting them where they are physically,
emotionally and psychologically and understanding
competing priorities in their lives.
The focus groups yielded a gold mine of information
for both Bosch and HealthFitness. After seeing the
results, Bosch worked with its communications firm
to discuss and consider adapting and modifying
messaging around employee health, workplace
wellness and corporate fitness at all its sites.
Among the findings driving these changes:
Names matter. Some of health management programs
sounded too feminine to attract the rural, blue-collar,
largely male workforce, especially the walking and
Money influences behavior. Plant workers indicated they would be more likely
to respond and participate if it were clear that, by participating, there may be
a financial reward. In short, money was more appealing than improved health
for initial engagement. Promotional material emphasized the healthy change;
the incentive followed, but often in smaller print.
Peer pressure works. The focus groups indicated that offering
an extra $50 if the entire plant reached a certain percentage
of participation would make a difference.
Wellness champions get respect. One of the most highly praised aspects of the
program was the use of wellness champions—Bosch employees who are the
“point persons” for wellness. But these individuals are often overburdened.
Employees are often overburdened. Many of the focus
group participants talked about having no time for
anything beyond work. Family issues, financial stress and
other factors left many overwhelmed.
Action: Bosch, HealthFitness and the
communications firm revised some of the names
and how the programs were promoted.
Action: Consideration for poster
messaging to more heavily
reflect the financial impact
so copy read, “Want to find out
how to get $100?,” followed
by program information.
Action: Incentives—and how they are communicated—
are being revisited to include this aspect.
Action: Consideration to include
a “champion recruitment day”
to add more champions at select
sites to help communicate and
reinforce the overall wellness
initiative and program.
Action: Bosch and HealthFitness are exploring ways
to make participation simpler and more convenient.
One approach under consideration is to offer credit
for wellness activities employees already do (e.g.,
playing softball or horseshoes).