Home » OPINION » Columns » MURRAY HARBER — Mississippi’s Healthiest Workplaces

MURRAY HARBER — Mississippi’s Healthiest Workplaces

Murray Harber

Murray Harber

E mployers are concerned about their health and productivity costs more than ever before due to escalating cost and increasing pressures to attract and retain top talent. As employers seek answers and practical solutions, they are often researching the best ways to promote and support healthy behaviors for their employees and families. The research is clear – healthy employees are happy employees, are lower risk employees, are lower cost employees and are employees who are absent less and more productive.  The research also shows that employers who follow a comprehensive employee health management program can obtain a return on investment of $3 for every $1 for health claims and another $2.5 return in less time away from work.

In Mississippi, several employers are leading the way by offering real solutions at the workplace and in the communities where their employees live. For example, Southern Farm Bureau Life Insurance has used a national benchmarking tool to help them build their strategy and associated benefits and programs over the past decade. Their health-related costs have leveled off and they are seeing a positive benefit in attracting and retaining top talent as their workplace has transformed into a healthy culture.

“The focus on building our employer health strategy the right way using the HERO Scorecard and a progressive focus on an internal wellness program has resulted in our improved health cost management along with employees being engaged in healthier behavior at work and at home with their families.”

— Billy Sims 

VP of Human Resources, Southern Farm Bureau Life Insurance

The Mississippi Business Journal in conjunction with the Mississippi Business Group on Health and the Mississippi State Department of Health will be launching a new recognition and award program called “Mississippi’s Healthiest Workplaces Awards” on March 15th. In 2015 employers in the private sector, public sector, and allied business sector can apply to compete for the Mississippi’s Healthiest Workplaces Award.

In the private sector, employers can compete in the small (0-49 employees), medium (50-249 employees), large (250 – 749 employees), and mega-large (800 or more employees). In the public sector, employers can compete in the state agency, county, and city categories. Other employers who are allied businesses such as non-profits and quasi-government agencies have their own category to compete.

An awards committee representing the founding organizations along with several industry partners will review the applications to identify those who meet the minimum qualifications and select Mississippi’s Healthiest Workplaces. The application will include an online survey of best practice strategies for healthy workplaces based on the industry standard — the HERO Scorecard — along with a submitted narrative including an action plan and outcomes. The best practice elements will include sections on leadership support, strategic planning, engagement methods, program level management, program offerings, and evaluation. If necessary, the awards committee will do a follow-up site visit and consultation to verify and clarify the information submitted.

The website for applications will be open on March 15 and the deadline for applications submission will be May 15. The awards committee will review applications the following two weeks and an awards luncheon will be held on July 13 at the Jackson Hilton. Those employers who meet the minimum standards will be given recognition and the finalist will be notified about the July luncheon where the winners of each category will be announced. For more information, please visit www.msbgh.org or www.msbusinessjournal.com.

The awards program is one way to promote best practices and evidence-based strategies for employer health and wellness. There are many great stories in Mississippi of employers doing it the right way including Butler Snow, Trustmark Bank, Bank Plus, and Levi Strauss and Company. We encourage employers of all sizes to apply for the awards not only to win the award but to see how they compare with other employers across the state.


“Mississippian’s spend a third of their day in the workplace which makes it a key venue to promote and support healthy lifestyle behaviors. Employers are in need of knowing what works best and the new awards program will recognize those employers doing it well while at the same time giving other employers a road map to building their program.”

— Victor Sutton

Director, Office of Preventive Health, Mississippi State Department of Health

» Murray L. Harber is the Executive Director at the Mississippi Business Group on Health.


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