After a one-year absence, The Resource Center again sits atop the list of the region’s healthiest employers.
The Resource Center recently was named the healthiest employer in Western New York among large businesses (those employing more than 500 people) in Buffalo Business First magazine’s annual competition. This marked the fourth time in five years The Resource Center has claimed the title in its division. TRC also won in 2016, 2017 and 2018, and the agency has been a finalist in the two years (2015 and 2019) it didn’t come in first place.
The honor was announced during a virtual celebration sponsored by Independent Health, Wegmans, Springbuk, and Walsh Duffield. A total of 19 finalists vied for the top spots in three categories: small (businesses with two to 175 employees); medium (176-499 employees); and large.
“Company leadership decided years ago that creating energy and excitement about health starts with a very visible wellness program,” Michelle Cioci Adams, Business First’s Associate Editor, said in announcing TRC’s victory. “Onsite certified coaches help employees work through stress and reach their healthy goals, and weight-watch programs are a part of the education component.”
Adams was referring to The Resource Center’s STARS employee wellness program. In place since 2013, the program provides a variety of wellness options for TRC employees.
Donna Trusso, STARS Project Manager, said that despite TRC’s past success in the Healthiest Employers competition, she did not think The Resource Center would win this year.
“I was surprised. I really wasn’t getting my hopes up,” she said of her reaction upon hearing TRC announced as the winner. “The competition was pretty great.” All companies operating in the eight-county region were eligible to enter the Healthiest Employers competition. The other finalists among large businesses were AAA Western & Central New York; Beechwood Homes; BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York; Community Services for Every1; Fresenius Kabi USA; and Reid Petroleum.
Donna believes the key to TRC’s success in the Healthiest Employers competition is the fact The Resource Center operates its own program dedicated to employee wellness, whereas most other companies use an external vendor to operate their corporate wellness programs.
“That speaks volumes, I think, for The Resource Center and the importance they place on health and wellness by investing in a full-time program,” she said.
Donna said another factor that likely played well in the judges’ minds is that she and her team have established collaborations with other organizations locally and regionally. These include Chautauqua Health Network, Hope Chautauqua Bright Spots, Live Well Western New York, Population Health Collaborative, Prevention Works, Roswell Park, Tobacco-Free Chautauqua Cattaraugus Allegany. In addition, TRC hosts several American Red Cross blood drives each year.
She noted that employees enrolled in the STARS program do well in terms of undergoing preventive screenings and managing their medical conditions. Last year TRC employees realized improvement regarding blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Tobacco use declined, physical activity increased and there was a decrease in the number of emergency room claims, Donna said. Weight risk decreased, but the number of overweight employees remains higher than average, she said.
While Donna was surprised TRC won the competition, the other members of the STARS wellness team were not
“This win was exciting for me,” said Jon DeSantis. “It’s exciting we’re able to say we were selected the healthiest employer in the region.”
“I expected us to win,” said Heather Courtney, who like Jon is a certified wellness coach. She said TRC employees are becoming more engaged in the agency’s wellness program, and as people’s health improves, the STARS program also gets better.
“People are taking more control of what they can control,” Heather said of TRC employees’ commitment to personal wellness. She said more employees are realizing that achieving their wellness goals takes time, and they appreciate the small accomplishments along the way. “It takes away that overwhelming feeling they have to tackle it all at once.”
TRC’s STARS wellness program features a personalized wellness plan based on a person’s self-reported satisfaction level along five life domains. STARS offers lunch-and-learn education and exercise get-togethers, discounts on health insurance premiums and weight-loss programs, and employees can participate in several group and individual challenges throughout the year. Through participation in those challenges and other activities, STARS enrollees earn incentive points that can be redeemed for prizes. Though only employees who participate in TRC’s health plan are eligible to enroll in STARS, The Resource Center allows all employees to undergo health coaching with Heather and Jon.
STARS participants annually undergo a biometric blood analysis. While individual results are confidential and shared only with the employee, the STARS team receives a report summarizing the combined results of everyone who undergoes the testing. Those data enable the STARS team to assess how well STARS enrollees are performing as a group, and the results help form the program’s goals for the coming year.
Having again been named one of Western New York’s Healthiest Employers, The Resource Center is automatically entered into the national Healthiest Employers competition. Last year TRC was ranked the 41st healthiest workplace in America. Donna noted TRC’s scores in several categories of the WNY Healthiest Employers competition were higher than in the previous year, and she expressed hope this will result in TRC improving its ranking on the national stage.
Wherever TRC ends up being ranked in the national competition, Donna is optimistic about the future of the STARS program. Goals for the coming year include bringing wellness initiatives into TRC’s group homes in order to improve the health of people with disabilities who live in the homes. She credits Heather, Jon and the other members of TRC’s staff assistance program for the success of TRC’s wellness program.
“This is a phenomenal team, and that’s what’s moving it forward,” said Trusso. It was a sentiment shared by The Resource Center’s management.
“We are so proud of our wellness team and all TRC team members overall as we continue on this journey to wellness,” said Heather C. Brown, Assistant Executive Director, who oversees all of TRC’s health services.
Donna also noted the accomplishment of the Jamestown Board of Public Utilities, which was named the Healthiest Employer among small businesses. The BPU has earned first place three years in a row.