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Land O'Lakes' Just-in-Time Emotional Well-being Programs for the Modern Workforce

Land O'Lakes, Inc., one of America's premier agribusiness and food companies, is a member-owned cooperative with industry-leading operations that span the spectrum from agricultural production to consumer foods. With 2020 annual sales of $14 billion, Land O'Lakes is one of the nation's largest cooperatives, ranking 232 on the Fortune 500. Building on a legacy of more than 100 years of operation, Land O'Lakes today operates some of the most respected brands and businesses in agriculture and food production including Land O’Lakes Dairy Foods, Purina Animal Nutrition, WinField United and Truterra, LLC. The company does business in all 50 states and more than 60 countries.

Land O'Lakes, Inc. headquartered in Arden Hills, Minnesota, has more than 150 locations with employees, many of whom live in rural communities and do not have access to a computer during the workday. This disbursed workforce can make it a challenge to communicate and educate employees on the wellness offerings provided by the Company. Land O’Lakes views employee health and wellbeing as core to the value proposition and ensuring education and engagement with these offerings is a priority for the organization and business success.

This case study represents one of the four finalist submissions for phase two of i4cp's 2021 Next Practice Awards. View other Next Practice Award case studies.

Business challenge

Land O’Lakes Wellness Program, LifeEvenBetter, has three pillars: Physical, Financial and Emotional Health. Since its launch in 2015, LifeEvenBetter has offered innovative resources and programs to support the wellness of employees and their families. After identifying stagnated and declining engagement, particularly outside of headquarters, and seeing certain health conditions continuing to surface in medical and disability claims, the team identified opportunities for more targeted support. A decision was made in 2019 to implement expanded support of the pillars within LifeEvenBetter, with solutions targeted at specific conditions and populations.

One area of need was the emotional wellbeing of employees and families. The traditional Employee Assistance Program (EAP) was not delivering engagement desired and not meeting specific and growing needs. Internal research indicated employees and families desired more mental health support easily accessed from anywhere. As a result of grass-roots efforts, benchmarking, and research within the industry, the support and offerings under the Emotional Pillar of LifeEvenBetter grew exponentially. Unbeknownst in 2019, was that not only a global pandemic was on the horizon, but nearly every corner of life was affected by the renewed social justice movement spurred by George Floyd’s murder and the rise in bias targeting Asian Americans. This led to additional strain on the emotional health of employees and families, making the timing of the wellness program additions unintentionally perfect. 

Solution – Scope & Innovation

Land O’Lakes set out to provide more robust support for the emotional health of employees and families. Not only was it time to find something much better than a traditional EAP, but to branch out into other offerings and ensure access was available across the enterprise, in even the most rural areas, including, and especially during the workday and at the moments when an employee or family member needed it.

The Company set out to find innovative mental health resources that employees could access anytime from anywhere leading to the introduction of new tools purposefully marketed via a variety of media:

  • Onsite behavioral therapist:  A timely addition to the onsite wellness center, the behavioral therapist not only provides counseling to employees and dependents, but has created virtual support groups, allowing employees from across the country to attend. Specific virtual support group examples include the HR Call center, COVID Hotline, Veterans, Asian Americans, Parenting and Caregivers and workgroup specific support within the Company, such as member relations and navigating distance learning for kids.
  • Meditation and Mindfulness: Employees and dependents have access to on-demand classes in meditation and mindfulness through the Company’s virtual fitness app vendor. Live, virtual meditation sessions are also offered intentionally during the workday and facilitated by an on-staff certified Mindfulness and Meditation Teacher.
  • Treatment Decision Support: One new benefit partner can work with employees and dependents to answer questions and support medical treatment, including anxiety and depression.
  • Mental Health First Aid: Recognizing that emotional wellbeing needs to be supported in the workplace, HR, First Responders, Security staff, Facilities, and member relations became certified “Mental Health First Aiders” who can help identify and support the emotional and mental health needs of employees and members. This offering began as a pilot with the member relations team who interface directly with farmers, many of whom suffer from high levels of stress, anxiety and depression.
  • Underserved population support: The new “EAP” has therapists on staff that specialize in underserved populations such as LBGTQ+ and communities of color and offers specific support tools for employees and family members within these groups.
  • Therapy and mental health coaching: Available via video, phone, text or in-person through the new “EAP”, counseling and coaching became more accessible. This flexibility allows for engagement even while at work. For example, an employee can “talk via text” or schedule a phone visit with a therapist before a shift or while on a break.  
  • Self-paced online therapy: Self-paced online Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is available to help with stress, depression, anxiety, insomnia, and substance abuse.
  • Telehealth provider: Behavioral health support that employees can access from a mobile device or computer.
  • Referrals: Employees and dependents can work with the new “EAP” as well as the Company’s third-party referral service to identify providers with high quality scores and proven outcomes in the areas of mental health.
  • Workplace flexibility: Recognizing the impact on mental health & work life balance, flexible work arrangements were a part of the culture before COVID. This groundwork was reinforced and reimagined over the past 15+ months. A hybrid work model is commonplace with approximately 50% of time working in an office. Supervisors and employees have been empowered to align on effective hybrid work arrangements, supported by HR tools to explore position suitability, employee readiness, and guide managers new to virtual leadership.

Results & Impact

The outcomes for the programs demonstrate that we are meeting the needs of our employee base:

  • Online Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Program: 6% utilization (2% higher than Book of Business); More than 530 unique users in Q1 of 2021 alone; 73% of users enrolled in stress, anxiety, worry and depression programs
  • New “EAP”: Double digit increase in new registrations quarter over quarter with 28% in Q1 of 2021; 79% sought care for stress, depression/sadness and anxiety; 82% of employees/dependents recovered or saw reliable clinical improvement; 95% satisfaction with care provided
  • Virtual meditation: grown ten-fold since inception; and nearly ten separate work groups having offered meditation during the workday
  • Onsite wellness center: 57% of visits in Q1 2021 were for behavioral health reasons
  • Virtual support groups and 15 live mental health lunch & learns and ten recorded videos: total attendance in 2021: 350 employees & 1,000 views
  • Mental & Behavioral Disorders in the top five reasons for Treatment Decision Support utilization

Statistics are one component of measuring success and engagement; however, employee and dependent feedback demonstrate the true value:

The appointment went well. I have a treatment plan now and a follow-up scheduled. Thanks so much for your help with all of this
- Treatment Decision Support User for anxiety

“I thought it was a great session and very helpful to our team.  We plan to have sessions like this more frequently as they help our team deal with the stresses of work and work from home
- Leader of workgroup with a focused support session with behavioral therapist

I want to say a big, big thank you for that incredible mediation experience. It was just amazing! I think I speak for the entire group when I say that it was such a needed and impactful 30 minutes. I can’t wait to start joining the meditation practices on Wednesday and Friday mornings. Thank you again. Your time with us was such a precious gift!
- Participant virtual meditation session

Conclusion

The increased investment in emotional health resources has paid off more than anticipated. Interest and engagement continue to grow, employees and their families are now better served, and results surpass original goals set when decisions were made to increase mental health resources. Land O’Lakes continues to drive engagement for these resources through promotion, education, testimonials, integration & cross-referrals within the wellness ecosystem and connections into Employee Resource Groups.

Already in the works are support tools to aid with transitioning back to the workplace for those who have been remote during the pandemic: specific lunch & learns as well as support groups about anxiety and/or stress of returning to the workplace and a toolkit with resources for managers and employees. Additional workgroup specific mental health sessions and support groups are on the books with the behavioral therapist.

The success of these efforts has furthered engagement measured through formal employee surveys. Historically, engagement has hovered close to Best in Class; however, throughout the past 18 months, employee engagement scores trended even higher and exceeded Best in Class. These results were driven by senior leadership communication as well as support, flexibility and the company's prioritization of employee health and safety, including these mental health programs.