Ann Arbor Area BUSINESS MONTHLY magazine brings the reader the latest business news and information important to the businesspeople in Washtenaw County. Each month articles cover real estate, legal, Internet, employee concerns and the climate of business in the greater Ann Arbor area. There is news about company employees and feature articles on local businesses. We cover business news from Ann Arbor, Chelsea, Dexter, Manchester, Milan, Saline, Whitmore Lake, and Ypsilanti.
Building A Culture Of Health at U-M
University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman, left, leads by example as she sets a brisk pace for more than 25 Fleming Building administrators and staff members in the first of a series of summer Fleming Fitness Walks. (Photo by Alicia Boltach).
By Julie NelsonOne of the most important first steps a business leader can take when attempting to build a healthy work culture is to establish a clear vision.
When University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman announced her vision for making the University of Michigan a model community of health in a 2004 presentation to the Board of Regents, she had three goals in mind:
- Promote the health and well- being of the University of Michigan community;
- Develop more cost-effective delivery of health care as a model for other institutions;
- Advance public discussion and social commitment to change by harnessing the intellectual capacity of the university to develop, test and study efforts to improve the wellness of U-M employees, dependents, and retirees.
Since then, much progress has been made towards creating a culture of health at the University of Michigan. This article provides an inside view of the steps that are being taken to create a sustainable culture that strives to promote and support health and well-being, reduce health risks and generate cost savings through reduced health costs and improved productivity.
In 2004, the health care cost trend for the University of Michigan was increasing at an unsustainable rate of 10-12% annually. After her presentation to the board of regents, President Coleman announced the Michigan Healthy Community Initiative, bringing together experts from across the university to develop near-term programs and long-term plans to improve employee health and contain health care costs. (The Michigan Healthy Community name was later shortened to MHealthy when the initiative became a fully funded program of the University in 2008.)
To immediately raise awareness and encourage healthier behaviors among faculty and staff, MHealthy created several new wellness programs with the help the Health System's MFit Health Promotion which has provided employee wellness services for Health System employees since 1992. The new programs included: Active U, a physical activity challenge; Good Choice, healthier vending snacks and dining options; Ergonomics Awareness, on-line tutorials, grants and awards that teach ergonomic principles; and Understanding U, an on-line mental and emotional health resource. All of these programs continue today, and MFit has now become a part of MHealthy.
Longer-Term Planning Process
As most business leaders know, it is the quality of the research and discussion that takes place during the long-term planning process that is vital to the success of the strategic plan. Before developing a five-year strategic plan, the university invested a significant amount of time reviewing the results of an employee demographic and health profile and a faculty and staff interest survey, in order to better understand the U-M employee population's health issues and health care utilization.
Next MHealthy planners conducted a literature review and a comprehensive phone survey with 13 organizations considered to be best in class in the application and evaluation of health promotion, disease management and disability management programs. The literature review and best practice phone interviews indicated that successful programs achieve a return of three to five dollars for every dollar invested, and the most effective health and well-being services:
- Address the range of health issues from high level wellness to chronic and complex conditions, keeping the low risk healthy, moving the high risk to a lower risk category and improving the health and disability management of those with chronic and complex conditions. (see Figure 1)
- Focus on prevention and risk reduction, effective use of health care services, and assisting people with chronic illness to maintain health and return to productivity.
- Use both broad, population-based activities and more intensive and tailored interventions.
- Operate at multiple levels, simultaneously addressing individual, environmental, policy and cultural issues.
- Consider total cost impact - not just medical cost.
- Achieve high participation through incentives and cultural supports.
- Integrate health and well-being into business objectives.
- Offer health risk assessments to all employees in a systematic way, followed by coaching/counseling and triage to appropriate interventions.
- Are data driven, with a data warehouse for improved planning and evaluation of health improvement and cost containment efforts.
- Integrate related programs and services within the organizational structure to enhance coordination and efficiency in addressing the continuum of health management activities.
All of this information was synthesized into a strategic planning framework which included the following core foundational elements identified as critical to successful employee health management programs:
- Leadership commitment and support
- Supportive environment, culture and infrastructure
- Strategic planning
- Data management and evaluation
- Evaluation standards and key measures
- Program design and coordination
- Benefit design and incentives
Based on the core foundational elements, the MHealthy planners conducted a gap analysis to see how the university's current programs compared programs in best practice companies. The gap analysis enabled the university's planners to identify areas where the U-M was doing well with existing resources, as well as identify significant gaps and areas for improvement. This information, used in conjunction with the Partnership for Prevention and HERO scorecards, guided the development of an 'Effort Prioritization Matrix' which identified specific strategies supporting each of the core foundational elements. Using color coding to identify the level of effort to be expended each year on each strategy, the matrix became the framework for the strategic plan. (See Figure 2)
Implementing the Strategic Plan
The university is now in the first year of the five-year strategic plan which runs from 2009- 2013. In 2009, the plan focuses only on U-M employees. In future years, the plan, expands to include dependents and retirees. Significant accomplishments have already been made or are underway in many areas of the strategic plan:
Leadership commitment and support
- A video, featuring President Coleman; Chief Health Officer, Robert Winfield, M.D.; and others talking about the importance of building a culture of health is regularly shown to all levels of leadership at the university. (A link to the video can be found at www.mhealthy.umich.edu.)
- Managers participate in health and well-being retreats designed to provide practical tools and resources for leaders interested in building and sustaining a culture of health at the department or unit level.
- A network of staff volunteers, called wellness champions, spreads the wellness message in almost every department of the university.
Supportive environment, culture and infrastructure
- Fresh 'n' Healthy Cafe has replaced Wendy's at the University Hospital, and trans-fats are being eliminated from all food served at the university's hospitals.
- Healthier food choices, indentified with the MHealthy logo, are now available in vending machines, dining locations and on catering menus throughout the university.
- Work has begun toward creating a "Smoke-Free University" by July, 2011. More information about this initiative, including President Coleman's announcement, can be found at www.hr.umich.edu/smokefree/.
Data management and evaluation
- A third-party data warehouse attaches claims data to data from health and productivity management efforts to identify leading risk factors, health conditions and associated costs while protecting the confidentiality of personal health information in accordance with federal medical privacy requirements.
Program design and coordination
- Aggregate data from health risk assessments administered by a third party vendor is used to identify the most prevalent health risks among the employee population to develop targeted risk reduction programs.
Benefit design and incentives
- Benefit-eligible employees received an incentive for participating in a confidential wellness assessment that included a health questionnaire, biometric screening and free personal health coaching for those with identified health risks. Over 17,000 employees participated.
- MHealthy programs are embedded into the benefit design through budget integration and strong connections with health plans.
- Innovative new programs like Focus on Diabetes and Focus on Medicines are testing new approaches to improving health while controlling costs.
- General wellness programs and targeted risk reduction programs are available to all employees at low or no cost.
It is important to recognize that what the U-M is attempting to accomplish - changing behavior at the individual, organizational and community levels - is complex and will take years to achieve optimal results. While it is too early to see the full impact of the MHealthy program an increasing number of departments are starting to report evidence of cultural change.
For example, Laura Patterson, associate vice president for Administration Information Systems and leadership and administrative-lead for Michigan Administrative Information Services (MAIS), says, "We had a really high level of participation in the University's Active U program that has let to almost a culture of fitness in the department that I think just makes MAIS a more fun place to work. During Healthy Eating Month, our Wellness Coordinator proposed that once a week we deliver a healthy snack to the desk of every employee. And so you would walk into work and on your desk would be this little snack, sometimes with a note. Those types of things contribute to higher employee satisfaction."
Grace Brand, manager, clinical nursing for floor 5 West in Mott Children's Hospital says, "Staff health and well being has become integrated into our culture on 5 West... We have incorporated a small space in the midst of our unit where staff can relax with soothing music... do stretches with the bands or sit on the yoga mat and meditate or do a little yoga. Our focus when we have potlucks or ordering out is much more about healthy choices than prior to the interventions. Our champions put up motivational quotes and signs around the unit and do educational boards about nutrition and fitness. People and shifts challenge each other to do things like running the stairs, joining the Active U teams or outside teams. Conversations focus around health and wellness regularly now."
While many local companies are no larger than a single university department, businesses can learn from the university's research into best practices and follow a similar planning process to build a culture of health in their own organizations. MHealthy has a Corporate wellness team available to assist local businesses.
For more information about the University of Michigan's MHealthy health and well-being services, visit www.mhealthy.umich.edu.
U-M Resources Available To Businesses
By David A. Baker and Margaret J. Baker
The University of Michigan has an enormous impact on the Ann Arbor business community. U-M employs roughly 37,000 people, draws in over 40,000 students annually from more than 120 countries, and is championed by over 400,000 living alumni around the world.
The University's renowned status engages people, issues, and ideas around the world and brings a global perspective to the city. Indeed, as the city of Ann Arbor's population is just under 120,000, it is hard to overstate the UM's role in bolstering businesses around Ann Arbor.
The University's renowned status engages people, issues, and ideas around the world and brings a global perspective to the city. Indeed, as the city of Ann Arbor's population is just under 120,000, it is hard to overstate the U-M's role in bolstering businesses around Ann Arbor.
The University also provides key cultural events and programs, like the award-winning University Musical Society and the newly-renovated Museum of Art that help foster the healthy, vibrant community that has earned for Ann Arbor its reputation as one of the country's "best cities" in which to live.
Contributions such as these that U-M offers Ann Arbor are remarkable assets increasingly recognized and utilized by area businesses. Not only does UM provide a terrific pool of talent from which to draw employees, but also, the sheer appeal of living here gives area businesses tremendous competitive hiring advantages. And of course, it is largely the University that draws the hundreds of thousands of people who live in or visit Ann Arbor each year to dine, play, shop, and work.
Ann Arbor area businesses also have access to programs designed specifically to benefit them. Three examples of such entities are U-M Tech Transfer, the Business Engagement Center, and the Ross School of Business Part-time MBA program.
U-M Tech Transfer: From Lab to Marketplace
U-M Tech Transfer was founded in 2001 to promote the transfer of University technology to the marketplace. Since its inception, U-M Tech Transfer has filed 932 patent applications, spawned 63 start-up companies, and earned $101.4 million in royalties and equity sales, $25 million of which was generated in FY 2008 alone.
U-M Tech Transfer has worked diligently to develop methods and processes to intentionally transfer University technology to the marketplace. Kenneth Nisbet, Executive Director, is enthused about U-M Tech Transfer's success to date. "We help the regional economy by providing technology to improve the competitiveness of existing companies, and launching new businesses with technology and talent from the University. More than 45 new business startups have been spun-out over the last 5 years, many of them in Ann Arbor."
Technology transfer has a multiplier effect on the Ann Arbor area. According to Nisbet, "These new startups create jobs for experienced workers and new graduates, and stimulate business development with suppliers and customers alike."
The experience of S2 Yachts is a great example. Like many manufacturing companies, S2 Yachts was struggling just a few years ago as it faced a down economy. But with new technology developed in U-M's Marine Hydrodynamics Labs and acquired through U-M Tech Transfer, S2 Yachts has now found a niche in manufacturing "smart buoys" for the Upper Great Lakes Observing System (U-GLOS). These buoys are part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's integrated ocean-observing system.
The S2 Yachts success story is one Nisbet would like to see repeated with other firms. "Given the economic challenges within our communities," says Nisbet, "we intend to leverage our past successes to expand our capabilities to supply technology, talent and resources to further the contributions of the University for the public good."
The Business Engagement Center: Strengthening Business/University Ties One key way the U-M makes its resources, including technologies, easily accessible is through the actions of the recently formed Business Engagement Center (BEC). The BEC, which shares an office location with U-M Tech Transfer, helps companies navigate, understand, and connect to the dizzying set of resources available.
Examples of such resources include the Zell Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies, the William Davidson Institute, the Tauber Institute for Global Operations, the Nonprofit and Public Management Center, the Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise, and the Center for International Business Education.
As you can imagine, the staff at BEC are busy. According to Daryl Weinert, Executive Director, "I've been pleasantly surprised at just how successful things have been. We've had over 300 new inquiries. These inquiries ranged from the entrepreneur in his garage all the way up to a Fortune 100 company that had just never interacted with the University in the past."
These 300 inquiries are companies that have contacted Weinert's office to seek assistance in finding resources available at the University. "The BEC is the conduit for connecting companies to University programs and resources," explains Weinert. "So when we get an inquiry, the question we ask is 'Is there a good fit somewhere at the university that can help that company with the particular challenge that they have?'"
Weinert continues, "That challenge can be access to talent, a problem that requires further research, or the need for an educational program for their employees; whatever it might be, our job is to see if there's a fit. We try to get them connected to the right people at the university."
Roughly 75% of the companies that contact the BEC are Michigan-based companies, many in the Ann Arbor area. Weinert elaborates on the importance of this geography for the BEC: "While the business engagement center deals with companies globally, there's no doubt that geography plays a huge role, particularly when you talk about the small business community. Clearly our ability to have meaningful partnerships with companies is much easier and there are less barriers when companies are close by."
"So, no matter what happens," Weinert notes, "there's no doubt that Ann Arbor area companies are vital and critical to our mix of industrial partnerships. And I have to say it's been fantastic, and our reception from the Ann Arbor business community has been fantastic."
The BEC has also developed relationships with vital community organizations. "We've made great strides in connecting with what we call Community Organizations, such as Ann Arbor SPARK." Ties have also been forged with Chambers of Commerce (e.g. Ann Arbor and Grand Rapids), other universities and colleges (e.g. Wayne State University, MSU, EMU, and WCC), and state programs (e.g. Michigan Small Business & Technology Development Center). Weinert explains, "It's all with the intent that as we get inquiries, we really need fluid lines of communication to other resources in the area and be able to direct the inquiries to the proper resources."
The BEC is clear about their supporting role, though. "It's the faculty, the student groups, the education program that provide valuable resources for companies." And it is precisely BEC's role as a conduit connecting businesses and resources that makes it so appealing to Ann Arbor area business that want to grow and develop.
Quite simply, "The University is playing a more and more active role in business attraction opportunities," says Weinert. "Continuing the BEC's role in attracting businesses is a priority for this next fiscal year."
Ross School of Business: Leading in Thought and Action As companies seek to foster growth, one critical U-M resource is the renowned Ross School of Business. With its recently-completed $100 million new building, its brand new Weekend MBA program, and its ongoing Evening MBA and Executive MBA programs, Ross provides an invaluable source of expertise and development to Ann Arbor area firms.
That Ross is a premier business education institution is undisputed. In 2005 Executive Excellence ranked the Executive Education as #1 in the U.S. And in 2007, U.S. News and World Report ranked the Evening MBA program at #7 in the country. In fact, all programs have been ranked in the top ten within the last five years.
In 2008, almost 3,000 undergraduate and graduate students were enrolled at the Ross. Of these students, 830 were Evening MBA or Executive MBA students, many of whom are employees of Ann Arbor area businesses.
Ross is a critical institution for providing leadership needed in these difficult times. The Evening and Weekend MBA programs offer companies the managerial and leadership training required to propel their firms to the next level.
The newest program at Ross is the Weekend MBA. For the Weekend MBA, students attend classes every other weekend throughout the year over the course of two years. Roughly 25% of the coursework will be conducted online and the students will progress through the program along with the same cohort.
Professor Paul Clyde is the Academic Director for the Weekend MBA and Evening MBA programs. Clyde describes the targeted Weekend MBA students as "people not only in the local area but even as far as four hours out." This exciting program will expand UM's ability to impact Michigan firms by developing employee managerial and leadership capabilities.
A critical component of a Ross MBA is participation in a Multidisciplinary Action Program, known as MAP. A MAP team is comprised of a faculty-led team of 4-6 students who take the knowledge gained in coursework and apply it to an actual business situation faced by a sponsoring company.
For a company that has an employee in the Ross Part-time MBA program, MAP provides the employee an opportunity to integrate and apply new business knowledge to an actual business situation. A company that sponsors a MAP project enjoys a faculty-led team of bright MBA students who study a problem and make recommendations for a solution.
According to Clyde, "A MAP project can be anything from merger and acquisition to market analysis to operations management issues; it can be a variety of things." Businesses can use a MAP team as a cost effective approach to accomplishing its goals. "A sponsoring business," says Clyde, "can outsource a specific project to us and the cost to the business is minimal; they just have to pay for the students' travel and expenses."
There are currently eight MAP projects being conducted by Ross Part-time MBA students, two of which involve sponsors who are local Ann Arbor companies. NuStep, for example, is an Ann Arbor firm that provides recumbent exercise equipment and professional health services. NuStep was founded back in 1987 by Dick Sarns and recently sponsored a MAP team to assist with some business issues.
Many MAP projects take students overseas, even to developing countries. This opportunity provides the Weekend MBA and Evening MBA students with a global learning experience that sharpens their managerial capabilities and, therefore, strengthens the contributions they can make at the place of employment.
The Thalir Thiran Thittam (TTT) MAP is a great example. TTT is an education program that supplements the current India education system by teaching life skills to students. In 2008, TTT began with a pilot of 5 schools, had sponsorships for 102 schools in June, and expects commitment from 300 schools by the end of the summer. And the India government is expected to mandate TTT in 5,000 government schools, presenting a wonderful opportunity for growth.
The Ross MAP team, then, will focus on developing a strategic business plan for TTT. This plan will include creating a growth path, a branding model, an organizational map, funding models, stakeholder engagement, technology use plan, and documentation of process flows. According to Clyde, "The team will go over to develop a business plan to expand it significantly over a short period of time." Virtually all of these skills developed on this project can be transferred back to the students' current employers.
Virika Hospital, located in Fort Portal, Uganda, is the sponsor of another MAP project. Virika is a 150-bed hospital that serves the poor in Uganda. The hospital currently relies heavily on outside funding for its operations. A Ross MAP team will be engaging the hospital to reconsider its funding approach and to determine how Virika can become self-funding.
"We are exposing medical staff and medical students and business students and business faculty with the issues of some of the emerging markets," says Clyde. "We're also bringing in African doctors and nurses to the Ann Arbor area on occasion to interact with the staff at hospitals here. We're trying to understand the challenges they face and help them develop a self-funding model."
Going Forward Clearly, the economic challenges facing Michigan and the Ann Arbor area are not going to dissipate overnight. In June, Michigan's unemployment was 15.1%, the highest it's been since 1983, and Michigan has led the nation's jobless rate for 26 of the last 27 months. Ann Arbor is not immune from this weight and we cannot expect this to change quickly.
But what we can expect, though, is the continued importance of the University of Michigan for the Ann Arbor area economy. U-M offers a plethora of resources to businesses in the city and surrounding area, and tremendous opportunities exist for innovation and collaboration when the right connections are made.