Johnson Health Tech takes its employees’ health to heart, and it pays off

Okay, I say “sustainability” and you say … “recycling?” “fluorescent light bulbs?” Andrea Stankard, senior human resources generalist at Johnson Health Tech, says “employee wellness.”

Over the past five years, the company has had an incredibly small 3.2% increase in employer health insurance costs, compared to an average 41% increase for south central Wisconsin businesses. It’s staggering.

Andrea Stankard is happy, for good reason. She says, “When you work in HR, hearing numbers like those makes your heart jump,” and she recounts recent years of 0% and even negative increases in employer health insurance costs.

Stankard has a lot to smile about; she coordinates the highly successful employee health and wellness programs at JHT’s North America (JHTNA) office in Cottage Grove. Starting off as a directive from the company’s president as “the right thing to do,” JHTNA’s effort to incorporate employee health and wellness into its overall sustainability plan has produced tangible results that are contributing significantly to the company’s bottom line.

Leading Wisconsin businesses like Johnson Health Tech are beginning to connect the dots between employee wellness and corporate success. By taking a proactive approach and encouraging their employees to be healthy and active, employers can mitigate rising health care costs, heighten employee productivity, and attract and retain top talent.

At JHTNA, Andrea Stankard is doing this – and it accounts for a mere 5% of her job description.

“When I started at JHTNA, no one was doing wellness,” says Stankard. However, that small investment has paid off. Today, JHTNA employees rank the company’s health and wellness programs as the number one employee benefit, and in exit surveys, they say they’re what they’ll miss the most. Stankard connects this information to the company’s below-average turnover rate and high employee engagement.

“Healthy employees are productive employees,” she says.

For companies looking to replicate JHTNA’s success in employee health and wellness, Stankard points to resources like the Wellness Council of Wisconsin. She also shares her own advice and lessons learned at JHTNA.

“First, find out what resonates with your employees, what type of programs they want to see,” she says. Employees are more likely to engage in activities that interest them, rather than ones that feel like mandates or extra work. At JHTNA, Stankard dialogues regularly with colleagues and circulates surveys to collect feedback – a process that has helped to achieve an 85% employee participation rate.


Another way that Stankard is able to gauge the success of JHTNA’s wellness programs is by taking part in them. She notes that anyone who initiates an employee wellness program, whether in human resources or an executive office, should be prepared to participate in it.

“You have to find (or be) a champion, someone who can drive forward the programs and lead by example,” she says. Stankard regularly attends a number of fitness classes and workshops at JHTNA, contributing to her own personal health as well as the program.

Stankard says that, like any employee sustainability initiative, such as carpooling or recycling, health and wellness have to be personal for your employees. In 2012, JHTNA employees made it personal when they lost a combined 450 pounds in the company’s Biggest Loser Challenge.

Chances are, your employees still have their own New Year’s resolutions in mind – some of the most popular are healthy eating, weight loss, smoking cessation, and volunteerism. Encourage them. As Stankard says, January is a great time to “open up the conversation with your employees” and resolve to make 2013 a healthier, happier, and more profitable year.

Johnson Health Tech North America is a 2012 MPower Business Champion. The company has made employee health and wellness a cornerstone of its overall sustainability plan. More so, the company has leveraged its success in health and wellness programs to drive other sustainability initiatives, from bike commuting to recycling to assessing the energy efficiency of its manufacturing processes. To learn more about Sustain Dane’s MPower Business Champion program, please visit