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Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota
and TrueNorth Steel: A Holistic
Approach To Well-Being

At WebMD Health Services, we focus on multiple dimensions of well-being to help people become healthier in all aspects of their lives. In this week’s blog, learn how Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota and their employer group, TrueNorth Steel, use this approach and the WebMD ONE platform to offer a well-being program that rewards employees for healthy behaviors and gives them the tools they need to “thrive.”

Well-being programs have evolved a great deal in the last decade, building on exercise and nutrition to incorporate mental health, financial wellness, social connectivity, and clinical management. Our recent experience with a global pandemic underscored the need to care for all aspects of our well-being, and also lent clarity to the role employers play in supporting the holistic health of their workforce.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota (BCBSND) partnered with us to create a holistic well-being program anchored by the WebMD ONE platform. Here’s how they did it.

BlueElements provides the foundation.

BCBSND created the BlueElements program in 2015 to help members become more physically, emotionally, socially, financially, environmentally, and professionally fulfilled. The program is based on the premise that a life well-lived is about more than just getting enough exercise and eating right. According to BCBSND, “Well-being is not just a reflection of your latest lab results or the number you see on the scale. It’s about taking a more holistic approach to life and enabling each individual to become the best version of themselves.”

The Thrive Program is born.

TrueNorth Steel (TNS) is a provider of steel products and capabilities for a number of industries, including agriculture, construction, mining, road and bridge construction, stormwater management, and energy. The company came to BCBSND looking for an all-encompassing rewards program that provided guided well-being education, fun challenges, and easy-to-use tools and trackers across all elements of well-being. They also wanted to include their own internal programs and values in the platform.

With those priorities in mind, BCBSND helped create the TrueNorth Steel Thrive Program. As TNS likes to say, “We want our employees to be healthy and well, but more than that, we want our employees to Thrive!”

A well-being program built around five intersecting elements.

Employees earn up to $500 for participating in a variety of activities in each of the elements over the course of the year.

Physical.

Points are awarded for things like getting a physical or preventive screening; taking a health assessment; logging daily exercise minutes; or completing a Daily Habits Plan such as Balance Your Diet, Sleep Well or Enjoy Exercise.

Emotional.

Employees are urged to record their mood with the HealthyBlue Mood Tracker; engage with a Daily Habits Plan like Keep Stress in Check or Cope with the Blues; or make a charitable donation.

Social.

To maintain positive relationships and stay connected, employees can participate in a HealthyBlue team challenge; participate or work on a community committee; volunteer in the community; or complete the Stay Connected Daily Habits Plan. They can even get points for catching a team member in the Act of Being a Game Changer or nominating a fellow employee for a “Game Changer of the Quarter” award—an example of how TNS worked to incorporate their internal values in the well-being program. Both the giver and receiver of Game Changer activities earn the points.

Financial.

TNS is focused on helping employees understand and manage finances to prepare for unforeseen challenges. Employees earn points for completing a financial workshop; having a one-on-one advising session with their financial education provider; increasing their 401(k) contribution; or reading financial wellness articles.

Professional.

This element focuses on helping employees be professionally fulfilled while maintaining work-life balance. To earn points, they can complete a continuing education course or workshop; attend a conference; join a professional organization; or watch safety classes.

Keeping the Thrive Program fresh.

To keep employees excited and engaged, the Thrive Program sponsors monthly “wild card” activities. In addition to corporate-wide wild card activities, onsite wellness champions have the autonomy to come up with special activities for their locations. Some of the more popular wild card activities have included: Go Red for Heart photo contest; 3 Random Acts of Kindness; Walk with a Buddy on National Walk @ Lunch Day; and Seize the ZZZ challenge during Better Sleep Month. TNS has plans to include activities that promote their values of inclusion and diversity in the future.

How segmentation helps.

Like many companies, the TNS employee population is complex. Employees work in different locations and comprise a wide range of occupations—like truck drivers, welders, maintenance technicians, engineers, and administrative personnel, to name a few. BCBSND and TNS work with WebMD to segment the population so they can offer a well-being program that meets the varying needs of employees—no matter where they work, what they do, or where they might be in their well-being journey.

The future looks bright.

The Thrive Program is still in its initial stages, but anecdotal feedback indicates that employees see lots of value in the program. One wellness champion related, “I enjoy that it focuses on not only physical health but also mental, financial, emotional, and professional. The challenges are creative, fun, and easy to access. At our worksite, we do a lot of the challenges as a group. This generates discussions and helps to keep us all accountable.” After the first year of the program, TNS plans to more formally survey employees to see how to improve upon their early successes.

The partnership between BCBSND, TrueNorth Steel, and WebMD Health Services works because we’re all on the same page. As TNS says, “Good health means more than a single blood pressure reading or the number of miles on a Fitbit, or a plate filled with fruits and veggies. It is a complex connection of elements, with each one affecting the next.” And that’s what makes their well-being program truly thrive!

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