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Connecting with your 2019 Leaderboard Champions

In times of crisis and uncertainty, it's important to listen. WCWI connected with last year's WCWI Leaderboard Champions to gain insight on their priorities, successes, advice, and overall current focuses in support of employee wellbeing. These Leaderboard Champions are wellness practitioners from throughout the state who are dedicated to actively enhancing employee wellbeing and taking the lead to transform Wisconsin’s workforce. 

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Your Interviewees:  
WCWI's 2019 Leaderboard Champions

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Hearing from Wisconsin Wellness Practitioners...


How has your focus as a wellness practitioner shifted in the last few weeks? 
DEBRA LAFLER (WI Dept of Health Services) It has not shifted really, but it has confirmed my interests in the emotional and spiritual aspects of wellness. While taking care of our body is vital, it is our current fears, anxieties and coping tendencies that are coming to the forefront. For worksite wellness as a field, I think employers are also recognizing the need for our work (and beyond the traditional physical focus), and may seek more that we can do to support employees. 
JULIE LYONS (Kohler Co.) We are in a unique situation where we are finding that departments and businesses, more than ever, are looking for opportunities to collaborate. We all have a common goal of supporting associates, and there is a great need across the board to support associate wellbeing. Associates are struggling to maintain balance between their personal and professional lives and Managers are being faced with new challenges as they continue to support their teams. Our focus has shifted to supporting our leaders and businesses in addressing their unique needs.
JULIE ORTMAN (Verve, a credit union) Although my focus has always been on connectedness and relationship building with the team those terms have become much more important.  With almost half of our team working from home I have tried to spend much of my time connecting, checking in and setting up Teams video calls with team members.  The second thing has been continuously pushing out useful information. Setting up wellness opportunities that are easy and all team friendly.
What’s been your biggest priority and why?
CARRI LAPLANT (Advocate Aurora Health Care) Providing resources on resilience, gratitude, connectedness and staying healthy at home has become my priority.  These resources come in the form of newsletters, webinars and email blasts that employers can then share with their employees.  
SHERRI SAMUELS-FUERST (Sargento Foods, Inc.) Our biggest priority has been clear communications and providing the tools and resources individuals need to support their holistic health and wellbeing, both at work and at home.   
HALEIGH KAISER  (Moraine Park Technical College) The most important priority for me has been to make sure that employees know that they are still being supported during these times. There is enough uncertainty in their lives right now. I don’t want to cause any more stress and anxiety with a lack of support and resources for employees and their families. 
What’s working for you that we should share with wellness practitioners throughout Wisconsin?
CARRI LAPLANT (Advocate Aurora Health Care) Reach out to each other for support.  Wellness practitioners are an amazing group of humans!  Not only do we provide support to our own organizations, we are here to share and support each other.  
SHERRI SAMUELS-FUERST (Sargento Foods, Inc.) Our Wellness Committee has created a Gratitude project, in which families can write Thank You’s to the local EMT’s, Police, Fire Departments, Nursing Home staff and/or residents – including art drawn by employee’s children.  This is a great way for our Sargento Family to come together and give back to those working during this pandemic, and is also a way to build at-home-learning for children to understand the broader social and economic impact of this historic event. 
JULIE LYONS (Kohler Co.) One of the biggest needs of our population is social connection during this isolating time. At Kohler, we set up virtual coffee talks, which are informal, themed discussions around a common topic with similar-minded individuals.  Some topics may include a "subject matter expert" to facilitate discussion and offer suggestions as needed. This concept is currently being expanded upon; virtual coffee talk topics will include nutrition, fitness, mental/emotional health, finances, parenting, and finding purpose.
How is your organization supporting employee mental health and stress during these times?
DEBRA LAFLER (WI Dept of Health Services) I am in a unique situation because I work for the State Government, and for the Department of Health Services, who are leading the state response efforts. For mental health and stress, they have created a Resilient Wisconsin website with resources for everyone in the state, including our employees. The Secretary and her Office have continued to communicate to us regularly on updates and resources, and reminds everyone to reach out if they need help through our employee assistance program or other benefits. 
HALEIGH KAISER  (Moraine Park Technical College) Both the Talent Management and Wellbeing COVID-19 employee portal pages have numerous links for mental wellbeing resources. Specifically, we are really encouraging employees to use our EAP services. We provide weekly tips, articles, and their contact information. Although these resources are posted on the employee portal, we have emailed each employee as well. In addition, the Counselors for MPTC have emailed each employee offering resources and their support as well. 
JULIE ORTMAN (Verve, a credit union) I believe the way the team was sent to work from home when this all started last month helped everyone feel safe and calm.  Our leadership team met daily for weeks and has been very proactive in having a plan for whatever comes next.  Daily communication on our intranet has been key.  Full transparency regarding the COVID situation and how we will be handling things if A, B or C happens has helped keep us feel safe and cared for. We continue to promote our EAP and actually had a virtual lunch and learn last week that was very well attended. We know that Verves priority was taking care of us first then it was care of our members.
How is your organization supporting connectedness during these times?
CARRI LAPLANT (Advocate Aurora Health Care) Within my own department we now hold our weekly update meetings via Zoom.  Each Zoom meeting begins with a check-in of each member’s physical and mental wellbeing and ends with one team member providing a reflection or gratitude tip.  We each take turns bringing forward the reflection/gratitude tip for that week.  
JULIE LYONS (Kohler Co.) In addition to the virtual coffee talks, the Kohler Stewardship team is coordinating opportunities for associates to come together and give back, from food and supply drives to assembling face masks. Our engagement team is working hard to keep associates connected and engaged by encouraging associates to complete weekly “challenges” and share photos on our internal social media site. Examples include encouraging associates to plan a virtual lunch with coworkers, dress up themes for team meetings, and sharing photos of at home work stations, all with a goal of helping our associates to feel more connected.
HALEIGH KAISER  (Moraine Park Technical College) MPTC is heavily relying on their social media pages such as Facebook and Twitter. In particular, the employee engagement groups such as MPTC Max Pack and Employee Wellbeing, are actively trying to keep employees connected. Employees are sharing pictures of their “at home work stations”, their new “co-workers” such as their children and furry friends, and ways they are trying to stay active. Those who do not have social media, are able to stay connected with news and announcement posts on the employee portal. 
What are a few strategies your organization has in place to uphold your employee experience and culture while Safe At Home Act continues?
CARRI LAPLANT (Advocate Aurora Health Care) As a healthcare system, the majority of our Team Members are not working from home.  They are on the front lines.  To show our support of these heroes, Advocate Aurora Health provides signs that can be printed and hung in windows, frames that can be added to social media profiles, and articles that can be posted on social media.  Our Team Members are very appreciative of all the support that each community is sharing.   
DEBRA LAFLER (WI Dept of Health Services) Communication is the key right now – ongoing communication through e-mails, the intranet, and virtual meetings. And, special thank you messages (both written and video) to essential staff who are running our facilities. Also, I think the creation of the website, Resilient Wisconsin, is helping to encourage and support the theme of resilience. And while we are all still “in the trenches,” with the aim of resilience, we feel like we are in this together and forging ahead with hope. 
SHERRI SAMUELS-FUERST (Sargento Foods, Inc.) Besides the initiatives that have already been mentioned, Sargento has many additional initiatives we’ve put in place to uphold our employee experience. For those coming to work, we’ve followed national and local recommendations, enhanced disinfectant cleaning of surfaces, and provided voluntary face shields. Our HR Support staff schedules have been staggered, enabling expanded hours and availability for employees who work in our manufacturing areas and who need assistance. Of course, we are reinforcing all hygiene practices and providing extra hand sanitizer and cleaning supplies in shared spaces. We have procedures in place to enable those who are sick to stay home without financial impact. We also transitioned the majority of our on-site H&W Center visits for PT, NP, Dietician, and Health Coaching, to Telephonic (or virtually, where possible), to help take pressure off of the local healthcare system.  We added Mental Health – Stress Management & Anxiety visit types and are promoting availability of those services to our staff. Our CEO has put out a number of videos on our intranet to the staff over the past month to keep employees informed, express his gratitude for everyone’s efforts, and announced the early 2020 bonus payout for essential operations employees.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
JULIE LYONS (Kohler Co.) I have been so impressed with how our associates are coming together to help support one another during this time. Through this crisis, associates around the globe are overcoming challenges and uniting under a common purpose to help each other and the communities we serve. 
HALEIGH KAISER  (Moraine Park Technical College) Being creative during these times has been fun! One activity our wellbeing team is doing is creating a “photo message” from all of the team members, which states, “The wellbeing team wishes you all health and happiness during these times!” Each team member is taking a photo with their word and submitting it to me. The photos will then be pieced together to form the message and shared on the employee portal and social media pages. Not only is this a great team activity, we believe this a great way to show support and connectedness for our employees. 
JULIE ORTMAN (Verve, a credit union) I feel very fortunate that I work for Verve.  I have talked with many friends who are so nervous about not only the pandemic but their job. Verve’s priority has been to keep every team member working.  No one has been let go and I don’t anticipate that would happen.  I didn’t realize how fortunate we are to work here until I talk with those nervous friends who have no idea what their company is doing moving forward.  They don’t know even know if there is a plan in place and if there is it has not been communicated to them.  We as an organization are healthier and as well as we can be because of the way leadership has navigated this situation.
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WCWI's 2019 Leaderboard Champions

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