HR Administration

Protective Life Corp. Optimas Award Winner for Partnership

By Janet Wiscombe

Dec. 3, 2010

At Protective Life Corp., every step counts. Since beginning a walking program at work, one company director lost 69 pounds. A technical analyst lost 9 pounds and reduced his body fat. A senior vice president reports that he’s less stressed out and more productive, and his clothes fit better, too.

All are participants in a program that was developed two years ago in partnership with Virgin HealthMiles, a company that specializes in getting employees up from their desks and out for a walk. For the past 25 years, Protective Life has focused on wellness and has kept health care cost increases at 3 percent per employee per year, well below the national average, says Michele Pawlik, director of health and employee assistance program services.

Still, with 2,300 employees in mostly sedentary jobs, the Birmingham, Alabama-based insurance and investment products firm knew it could cut health care costs by helping employees increase their physical activity.

The Virgin HealthMiles program provides employees with pedometers to track the number of steps they walk each day and allows them to monitor their progress through an online portal. Pawlik says it’s the first time that Protective Life has had an effective tool for tracking participation. With that ability, it instituted a pay-for-performance program to reinforce positive behavior and ensure that rewards are earned.


Participants receive cash rewards in increments of $50 to $150, with the opportunity to earn up to $400 a year based on the number of steps they walk.

“This has been a huge incentive to get moving and watch my progress over time,” says Amy Gunter, director of direct investment at Protective Life. “It brought out the competitive side of me that hasn’t been there since high school.”

Pawlik says the level of employee engagement is unprecedented. Sixty-one percent of the company’s employees participate, and the number of “active” members has increased from 27 percent to 43 percent. Additionally, this year the number of participants at the company’s annual spring fitness event jumped from 500 to 800 .

“It’s absolutely true that participation has increased my productivity,” says Jack Simon, the company’s senior vice president and chief product actuary. “When I exercise, I not only feel like I’m reducing stress, but I have uninterrupted time to think things through. I’ll concentrate on a presentation or think through options to solve a problem. Bottom line for me is that exercise is the fountain of youth.”

For working with Virgin HealthMiles to develop a wellness strategy that effectively engages employees in their health and well-being, Protective Life is the winner of the 2010 Optimas Award for Partnership.

Workforce Management, December 2010, p. 26Subscribe Now!

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