By Ervin Stutzman
I recently had the occasion to visit the Smith Dairy production facility in Orrville, Ohio. Smith Dairy has been in operation since 1909, so they have celebrated their hundredth anniversary a couple of years ago. Their stated mission is “to treat customers, associates, and owners according to Christ’s example.” That’s a sober calling. I am impressed by the way they work at it.
The proprietors of the dairy recently made news when they endowed a faculty chair in Missional Leadership Development at Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminar in Elkhart, Indiana. The primary donors were Walter and Mary Esther Schmid. Walter, who led the organization for 30 years, died in 1998. His sons, Steve and John Schmid, lead the organization today.
The Schmid family intends for the business to reflect the values of quality, service and caring for others as Jesus would. Clearly, they also had the value of generosity. But it is the particular way in which these values are expressed that prompted this blog.
In conversation with John Schmid, I learned that the company has a strong emphasis on wellness for employees and their families. In other words, they have developed a corporate culture that values wellness. Not only have they promoted wellness in their own facilities for many years, they have also helped other companies to improve their wellness index. Their emphasis must pay off, because they have very low employee turnover, generally around 5% per year. They have also found that good health helps to lower absenteeism and excess health claims.
The company uses various means to encourage employees to develop healthy habits. I learned that they have a wide variety of wellness opportunities for employees to participate in throughout the year, including health classes, health coaching and assessments, wellness challenges, self-study, and referral to community health events and programs.
They also use a health tracking system that provides incentives, rewards, and recognition for reaching personal health goals. To this end, they provide a health screening on site each year. This exam, which includes a laboratory blood test, generates a wellness index, a number between 1 and 100. An index of 70 is considered a “passing grade,”. Scores above 70 allow employees to be at the lowest premium charge per employee. If the index is under 70, the employee can use various means, such as an exercise program or an educational class, to gain the same premium discount. If they do not follow through on compensatory activities, they must pay a greater percentage of the health care premium.
Participation in the health screens over several years allows employees and spouses to readily see if their wellness score has improved from a variety of factors. The yearly screens track: weight, BMI, cholesterol, blood pressure and other wellness factors. Most associates who have weight losses normally see significant gains in their score.
I commend the leaders at Smith Dairy for their concern for the wellness of their employees and their community. As a part of the Mennonite Church, the leaders of this company have shown the way to put Christian faith to work in the marketplace.