November 9, 2015
WBJ Top Workplaces 2015

Venture Community Services offers wellness bonuses

PHOTO/COURTESY

People who work in the human services industry usually aren't in it for the big salaries. But feeling valued by your employer makes up for some of that shortfall, or so goes the philosophy at Venture Community Services, based in Sturbridge.

About a year after launching a new suite of benefits that includes perks from flexible work arrangements to popular employee wellness programs, the nonprofit organization that serves people with disabilities in Central and Eastern Massachusetts is well on its way to becoming an employer of choice in the industry, said CEO Michael Hyland.

That was one of the goals of the strategic plan Hyland inherited when he joined Venture Community Services in January 2014. "If we can't do things to attract people with a nice rosy paycheck, we can attract people with the benefits programs we offer," he said.

Venture Community Services, which rebranded from the former name Rehabilitative Resources Inc. in January, has a large workforce of about 700. To become an employer of choice, administrators were challenged to come up with a benefits package that served a diverse population, scattered across Venture's 46 work sites, which are mostly group homes for the agency's clients.

One benefit that works virtually anywhere is wellness. Venture started offering wellness challenges and events that have proved popular. Monthly prizes for employees who make positive changes, biometric screenings, healthy snacks and educational programs have helped foster a wellness culture at work.

At the start, some people are wary of sharing personal health information at work, especially for the biometric screening program, said Bruce Leger, vice president of human resources and professional development at Venture. Working with an outside wellness analytics company, Pennsylvania-based WellNow, keeps Venture out of the loop on employee health information entirely. One way to encourage employees to become involved with wellness at work is to tie participation to bonuses. That tactic has been effective at Venture, said Leger. Full-time employees have the opportunity to earn an additional $300 for wellness participation on top of their regular, performance-based bonuses.

Another area that receives major emphasis at Venture is coverage of mental health benefits. That's important, because the human services industry has a high burnout rate, said Hyland.

The company has also evolved its practices around work arrangements. Prior to 2014, Venture operated typical workday hours. Now, people are encouraged to adapt their work hours as needed to fit their needs outside the office, and to telecommute when it's warranted.

In addition, the company has created a family medical leave program for new employees who don't qualify for leave under federal law, and is looking into increasing vacation time for employees at all levels.

Top Workplaces of 2015

Employee Health & Well Being

Employee Rewards & Recognition

Education, Training & Career Development

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