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A healthy outlook for AT&T employees

Posted On: Jun. 21, 2015 12:00 AM CST

AT&T Inc. is one of the largest companies in the world, but Marty Webb is giving it a small-company flavor.

Acting on his strongly held belief that he and the company need to do well by AT&T's workers, the vice president of benefits tries to make each worker feel that the telecommunications giant cares about them personally. This philosophy has led to robust 401(k) programs and the transfer of some 200,000 Medicare-eligible retirees and their dependents into Aon P.L.C.'s private health insurance exchange.

A centerpiece of Mr. Webb's efforts, earning him a spot on the 2015 Business Insurance Benefits Management Honor Roll®, is AT&T's health care program.

“We're a hard-working company focused on developing the right products and services and doing so in an environment where lots of changes are occurring because technology is changing dramatically,” he said.

“We're nothing without our people and we need them to be healthy, we need to provide tools for them to be trained” on healthy practices, he said of AT&T's more than 240,000 current employees. “It's a people-based business, and if we don't provide the right structure, the right sense of care for our people and the right benefits for our people, then we just won't be successful.”

As the company has grown, so have the number of workers and retirees receiving benefits.

“Today, we offer health care benefits to over 1 million people; so when you think about it, we offer health care to about to one out of every 300 people within the United States,” Mr. Webb said.

That presents “all types of different opportunities” to offer programs to employees and retirees “and do it in the right fashion, where it's a robust benefit to the people, where it's appropriate for their lifestyles at a cost that makes sense to AT&T,” Mr. Webb said.

The result was the 2012 launch of Your Health Matters, which is “a brand we developed to encompass all of our health care benefits,” including the “tools and resources to lead happier lives,” Mr. Webb said. This program goes beyond traditional medical, pharmacy, dental, vision, disability and life insurance to focus on wellness “and to the extent (employees) have any sort of a chronic problem, a disease management program,” he said.

Your Health Matters is backed by a broad communications program that includes incentives for and video vignettes about employees “who have done something ... to lead healthier or happier lives,” Mr. Webb said.

For example, employees can choose a goal that will help them live healthily, such as exercising four times each week, limiting fast food to once a week or quitting smoking.

“We do a lot of messaging on this,” he said. Four reminders are sent out about the program during the year. Employees also are asked several questions about their progress to help develop their story.

“It even includes changes in our cafeterias, to provide (employees) with healthier options,” he said.

The program has entered its second phase, which again includes the Chairman's Challenge in which AT&T Chairman Randall L. Stephenson “asks people to go on their own journey, to set some goals to lead healthier lives.”

Mr. Stephenson also participates in Your Health Matters.

About 24,000 people are participating in the second phase. When it's complete, employees will select the Chairman's Choice winners, who are given funds to contribute to a charity of their choice, said Mr. Webb.

Three people will get $5,000 apiece and three winning groups will receive $10,000 each to donate to a charity, he said.

As part of the program, AT&T is using an application that allows people to synchronize with personal devices such as Fitbits to track their weight, sleep patterns, medication or stress management, he said.

“It can be whatever they're trying to change in their life to lead a healthier life,” Mr. Webb said.

Participants electronically track their progress throughout the challenge.

Mr. Webb said he also participates in the program with a group of fellow benefit employees. His goal is “to lose the nagging 10 pounds” he has been dragging around. “I'm about halfway there,” he said with a chuckle.