85.7 F
San Fernando
Wednesday, Jun 7, 2023

Dole Offers HR Success to Others

After years of preaching about the benefits of fruits and vegetables, produce giant Dole Food Co., decided to get company employees on the same page. About four years ago, the Westlake Village company created “an employee wellness program” that sought to encourage about 1,000 workers at Dole headquarters to eat healthy foods and stay active by offering free healthy snacks, on-site fitness classes, a modern gym and subsidized personal trainers. The grassroots program, created through the nonprofit Dole Nutrition Institute, was a quick success, cutting down on sick days, reducing waistlines and lowering insurance costs for the company. Two years ago, it won the California Fit Business Award. Now Dole, instead of keeping what could have been a clever human resources tool to themselves, is pitching the wellness program to a curious group: competing businesses. Dole compiled parts of its own employee program into a “Corporate Wellness Toolkit” that businesses can use to promote healthy eating and exercise. “We made a difference at our company, so it was a good idea to share it with other companies,” said Dole Vice President Marty Ordman. The free kit includes information on how businesses can start their own programs to promote healthy lifestyles and includes recipes, signage, newsletters and videos. The package also shows how businesses can add weight-loss seminars and trainers and even tells how to retool vending machines to include fruits and veggies. So far, several companies including WellPoint Health Networks Inc. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. which recently applied it to the company cafeteria at its Bentonville, Ark., headquarters have already snapped up the program or portions of it, Ordman said. He said Dole hopes the product would ultimately let businesses know that they can help their employees become healthy and happy workers. “We spend a lot of time at our respective (jobs), and it’s a good place to reinforce healthy eating,” he said. “If nothing else, it gets people thinking about what’s in their diet.” Marketing healthy living The wellness program is the brainchild of Dole CEO David Murdock, who envisioned a system that would encourage workers to stay healthy, describing it as part of the company’s corporate social responsibility. While altruistic, the program also generated money for Dole: workers not only consumed more fruit and vegetables, which boosted their energy and cut down on sick days, but also helped reduce healthcare costs footed by Dole. The program is essentially a health care cost-containment strategy, which many companies prefer to keep close to the vest. But by marketing it to other companies, Dole is taking the opposite approach: publicizing successful human resources techniques to competitors that can use it for their own good while not charging a dime for it, although the company will clearly benefit from the higher visibility and increased produce sales. Ordman reasoned that once Dole found out the wellness program worked for its own employees, the company was obligated to share the secret. “It’s who we are. We want to educate people about nutrition,” he said. But the tactic is still highly unusual, said Helen Darling, president of the National Business Group on Health, a Washington, D.C., health policy think tank. While companies such as Merrill Lynch, DaimlerChrysler and Quaker Oats publicize their own successful programs, this is one of the first times a company as prominent as Dole is marketing it to the public. She said pitching a product like the wellness kit is usually far out of the realm of most HR departments. “Most HR people are good at what they do,” she said, “but running and selling a consulting business is a totally different skill set. Even if you do something well inside, it’s such a leap” to market it outside the company. She said that Dole is tackling the challenge because it can improve its image and sell a product. “It’s to push their brand,” she said. “It’s a good brand-enhancement move.” Still, Ordman said, any program that helps people stay fit is a good start. “In the long run, it helps everyone,” he said.

Featured Articles

Related Articles