Benjamin Villaseñor
Uhma Salud
Roberto González
Roberto González
Uhma Salud
View from the Top

Creating Incentives to Improve Wellbeing

Wed, 09/06/2017 - 17:13

Q: Uhma Salud’s goal is to change life habits, a major challenge. How do you achieve this target?

BV: We look to hack habits, for which there are three steps. The first is imitation. We think that every decision we make is based on an analysis of all the data we have available, but many decisions are imitations of what is happening around us. What we do at Uhma is institute policies such as not allowing sugary drinks. We also promote the use of stairs instead of elevators and we replace biscuits in meeting rooms with vegetable snacks. Although Mexicans drink many sugary drinks, by putting water coolers in the office and handing out bottles of water we generate behaviors that workers start imitating. Second is the theme of coresponsibility. We build dynamics in which we ask people to generate changes with the help of their co-workers. When planning to run a marathon, the first step is not to buy running shoes but to sign up and tell all your friends so that you cannot back out. This engagement is known to be effective in acquiring healthy habits. The third part is gamification. During the first biometric assessment, we give individuals an objective. People who achieve these goals receive a prize, such as an extra paid day off work or they get to leave work early or arrive later. Of all the methods, that linked to punishment saw the greatest results and, although at first participants were the least happy, after three months they were the most satisfied with their wellbeing program.

RG: On average, they lost 1.5kgs per person in three months, which multiplied by the number of participants is a huge amount of burned fat. The theme of work culture is clear and this will generate much value in the future. The demographic bonus in Mexico is about to explode. This will impact companies as talent will become scarce and more expensive. Not everyone will choose jobs based solely on salary. These intangible benefits will attract talent to companies and will help with retention rates. A company with happy, healthy employees is a better place to work and will attract the very best talent, which will directly impact its results. We have seen people’s perspective changing greatly. Previously, certain directors saw our services as a cost. Not anymore. They see them as an investment because they can check certain metrics that generate a return. Once this is measured, they notice the savings, including in recruitment costs. Retaining talent will become a key and these programs will be a must-have for companies.

Q: There are several startups that offer a similar service to Uhma. What puts Uhma above the rest?

BV: We have invested greatly in technological development. Our online platform, which enables us to perform a thorough biometric assessment in five to 10 minutes, is the result of eight years of work. There are other companies that offer similar services but having invested in technology allows us to operate more inexpensively and swiftly. Our competitors operate manually, rather than having an automated process like ours and their nurses take blood pressure, for example and hand out the results written on a paper, which participants then enter into a health-risk assessment manually. Their participation rates are lower and the costs are higher. Fortunately, our market is growing greatly. There are lists showing that all the Fortune 500 companies have a wellness program. Especially those in the top 10 or 20 take great care of employee wellness and they attribute the success they see to these types of programs.

Q: Of your three solutions, which has witnessed the most effective results in improving employee healthcare?

BV: The portal enables us to follow an employee’s progress remotely. It enables us to reach a large, geographically dispersed population. Each person that enters the portal has access to two telephone sessions per month with the professional of their choice. Annual access to this service costs MX$95 (US$5.20) per employee. The biometric evaluations are what reveal the most information about the individual. In 2016, we performed 30,000 evaluations, all standardized. By automating the process, we eliminate the risk of human error. As a company we have performed more evaluations than even the government through its ENSANUT survey.