Monday, November 30, 2020
Friday, 17 November 2017 15:01

Answer #4: How can a Florida Company do Wellness Well?

Written by Elisabeth A. Doehring, PHR, GPHR, SHRM-SCP, CWWPM, RYT-200

girl on bike

FLORIDA COMPANIES ARE “TAKIN’ CARE OF business” and their employees. Healthcare costs spin out of control, yet more and more Floridabased national employers are riding the wellness and well-being waves. Many of these Florida companies are Fortune 500 elites. They are leading the way with culture and employee engagement.

Trends in Florida reflect national trends. According to SHRM’s 2017 Employee Benefits Report, “compared with all other benefits, organizations were most likely to make improvements to wellness benefits. Nearly one-quarter of organizations (24 percent) had increased wellness benefits offerings in the past 12 months.”

Office Depot

Twenty-five years ago, “Taking Care of Business” by Bachman Turner Overdrive broke the mold and helped launch a Florida office products giant. This same classic was rolled out again by Boca Raton-based Office Depot in June 2017 with the updated addition of “You take care of business. We take care of you.”

As a Fortune 203 ranked business, Office Depot focuses on wellbeing as key to its culture. Healthier employees tend to work harder, are more productive and are more willing to help others and customers. “At Office Depot, we take pride in taking care of our associates by offering a range of health and wellness opportunities,” said Gerry Smith, CEO.

Office Depot’s Vitality wellness platform debuted in 2012, and has reduced overall healthcare costs for its 38,000 employees by potentially identifying a health or wellbeing issue before it becomes a high-cost claim, while fostering employee engagement and improving morale and recruitment efforts. Wellness is a primary topic in all communications, including annual enrollment letters and memos, quarterly wellness newsletters and health and wellness wall calendars.

It is also the foundation for leadership discussions as they relate to wellness and company business strategies. Initiatives impact team members not only while at work, but also carry over into their homes and personal lives.


When maverick grocer George Jenkins opened the first Publix in 1930 in Winter Haven, it was customer-focused. Jenkins offered piped-in music, air conditioning and even a flower shop. This vision is now a national chain expanding across seven southeastern states.

Employee and customer growth have placed Lakelandbased Publix at number 85 on the Fortune 500. Publix’s wellness program, Life. Inspired., is embraced by 30,520 associates who have already walked 5.1 billion steps. Implemented in 2014, this employee benefit is available to associates and eligible family members. Publix’s wellness program includes healthy food options, free flu shots, health screens, company-sponsored walks and runs and tobacco cessation. Nicole Krauss, media and community relations manager for Publix, said, “Each year we want to offer more health and wellness options to help support and inspire our associates and their families to become actively involved in achieving their own personal and wellness goals. This helps enhance the customer service experience in our stores.”

Ultimate Software

“People First” brand lives up to its name for one Weston-based company. Over 4,000 employees call Ultimate Software home. Vivian Maza, chief people officer, said, “Employee well-being is core to our culture. We’re focused everyday on caring for our people and providing all the resources they need to achieve success. A comprehensive wellness program is an essential way to ‘walk the talk’ in showing that support.”

Ultimate Software has had a wellness program since its inception in 1990. “There was never a question of ‘if,’ but always ‘how,’” explains Maza. “How else can we put our people first? What more can we do to care for them at work and support them and their families? Being in HR, you’re focused 100 percent on people and making their lives better. As an HR software company, we make solutions that help businesses care for their people and simplify their lives, but that starts at home for us.”

Highlights of this program include 100 percent employer-paid healthcare premiums for all employees and their families, Virgin Pulse daily steps program, onsite wellness classes and offerings like massages, acupuncture, cupping, mindfulness meditation, yoga, Pilates, an atrium basketball court and boot camps.

Ultimate is relentless is seeking out new ways to improve employee wellbeing. This includes adding new coverage for IVF treatments earlier this year, which gives team members the opportunity to start a family with greater support. In July, the company launched an unlimited PTO program for exempt employees. Team members even receive a 40 percent dollar-for-dollar company match on employee 401(k) contributions, with no cap, up to the annual federal limits.

Accolades pour in each year for Ultimate Software. Fortune rankings include #7 on 100 Best Companies to Work For (having been ranked in the top 25 since 2012), Fortune’s #1 Best Large Workplace in Technology two years in a row (2016, 2017), #1 Best Large Workplaces in Technology, #2 100 Best Workplaces for Women and #1 Best Workplaces for Millennials.

“Our employees are happier and healthier because of these programs. Employee surveys and feedback are major parts of landing so highly on these industry lists. We also have been able to attract and retain more and more of our industry’s best and brightest people,” adds Maza.

Ultimate Software has a 94 percent employee retention rate. “Our wellness and work-life balance programs directly impact that number,” says Maza. “Different wellness offerings show our employees that we truly do care about them. When they know we’ve ‘got their backs,’ they can focus on providing the best products and services to our customers every day. And they do, as we’ve maintained a customer retention rate of 96 percent or higher.”

President and CEO Scott Scherr founded Ultimate Software. Always approachable, comfort and human interaction are Scherr’s trademarks. Instead of the prime office, which is reserved for Chief Technology Officer Adam Rogers, Scherr’s office overlooks the parking lot. Sports memorabilia, including a seat from the original Yankees Stadium along with framed notes from employees, adorn his office and walls. With his door always open, Scherr makes it a point to visit with each of his employees once a year. Often walking the building with Maza, Scherr has his hands on the pulse of Ultimate.

Employees are eager to share Ultimate’s “people first” focus. Reggie McIntyre, business development manager, said, “when you see your W-2 and the amount that is taken out and covered by our company for you and your family—it’s staggering. They [people in leadership positions] treat you and take care of you like family.”

World Fuel Services Corporation

World Fuel Services (WFS) takes seriously its employees and valued aviation marine and ground transportation customers in over 3,500 locations worldwide. Ranked 92 on the Fortune 500 list, WFS recruited one of Florida’s most admired and respected wellbeing industry leaders: Georgette Kores. Serving as manager, global wellness and engagement, Kores is on the ground working where the rubber meets the road. Of the 4,500 global employees Kores teams with at various sites, 780 are based in Doral.

“Continued growth and wide-embracing acceptance of our well-being culture is a credit to our employees who are truly entrepreneurial in spirit. Part of being on your A-game in the marketplace is making sure that you are well in all areas of life. CEO Michael Kasbar initiated our program,” Kores said.

Wellness for Life is WFS’s branded wellbeing program. Team challenges like Walk the World and WorldSTRONG are in-demand events. Kores partners closely with safety initiatives to promote employee awareness, resulting in reduced safety incidents. Retention rates have increased. In addition, new surveys indicate team members continue to generate consistently high customer service ratings.

The Breakers

One County Road, Palm Beach, is a destination for travelers worldwide. Henry Flagler knew railroads, oil and real estate. He also understood and became immersed in hospitality and hotels. Dating back to 1896, The Breakers is the iconic old-world-meetsmodern- day Florida gem. Spellbinding in architectural scope and service, it rivals hotels worldwide.

As Palm Beach’s largest employer of 2,000 employees, the Breakers is renowned for service and grace. Guests return for the hospitality and loyal staff. Each employee is uniquely valued at this privately-owned corporation.

Wellbeing is the heart and soul of The Breakers. In 2002, one of the private owners recommended employee wellness. A strategic business decision was made by Paul N. Leone, CEO of Flagler Systems Inc. and The Breakers Palm Beach, Inc., along with his leadership team, to implement an employee wellness program.

Denise Bober, vice president of human resources, said, “Every day we seek to fulfill our social responsibility as an employer and workplace. The ultimate calling is not just to aid and serve our team members, but to empower them.” With a robust wellbeing program, individual employee favorites include Corporate Athlete, full-time onsite health and wellness coaches, a fitness center, health screenings, an annual full day Health & Wellness Expo, discount spa service, Weekly Green Market and Mount Everest Tower Trek stairclimbing team challenge.

Quantitative metrics are strong. The national medical and pharmacy cost trend for the five-year period ending December 31, 2014, was 9.4 percent. In comparison, during this same period, the medical and pharmacy cost trend for the 2,000-member population covered under The Breakers health plan was only 3.2 percent. More impressively, the average claims cost per member only increased 0.9 percent during the same period.

“Retention is a key benchmark of our success in not only hiring right, but taking care of our team members. Even as Palm Beach County’s largest employer, last fiscal year, The Breakers achieved an 82 percent retention rate which equates to only 18 percent turnover — well below the U.S. industry average of 31 percent (Deloitte Hospitality report),” said Bober.

Paul N. Leone said, “Our culture of wellbeing inspires people to live better, healthier lives and to strive for work/life balance, and this has certainly fortified our staff. They are the foundation for an engaging and appreciative workplace that drives excellence in service.”

Culture is key and Florida companies are raising the bar. According to Harvard Business Review, “Proof That Positive Work Cultures Are More Productive”, December 1, 2015, by Emma Seppala and Kim Cameron, “Wellbeing comes from one place, and one place only -- a positive culture.” More and more employers in the state are looking to wellbeing and wellness to grow employee engagement, retention and recruitment. Florida is well on its way.

Elisabeth Doehring
Elisabeth A. Doehring, PHR, GPHR, SHRM-SCP, CWWPM, RYT-200 is president/founder of HR Write Designs™. She is a leader in worksite wellness and human resources, and presented on the ROI of Wellbeing, Resilience and Trust at HRFL 2017. An award-winning business writer, her works have appeared in books, industry journals, magazines and newspapers in the United States and Europe. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.