by Kathy Cash   Kathy's profile on LinkedIn  

Draper’s Deep Community Roots Create Unique Well-Being Opportunities

Since 1902, Draper, Inc. has been the largest employer (manufacturing audiovisual products, window shades, solar control items, gym equipment, and more) in the small rural town of Spiceland, Indiana. These strong roots create a bond linking the company’s employees, their families, and the surrounding community. Linda Brinson (Safety and Wellness Director) confirms: “We employ about 630, most of whom are local residents. With approximately 800 people in the entire town, Draper is the community.”

Throughout the years, Draper ownership has remained among the founder’s descendants. This history strengthens loyalty to the community and is returned by employees. Linda explains, “We experience very little turnover and have never laid off an employee in our entire history. But that does mean the opportunity for advancement is limited. However, when it presents itself, we always try to recruit from within. We just added 100 new employees last year and still have a waiting list of people who want to work here. So Draper’s future looks bright.”

Team-Based Operation

Draper uses a team-based process — Rapid Improvement Events (RIE) — in addressing a wide variety of company issues, where employees receive special training in how to participate. “When something needs to be accomplished quickly, 5 or more members are tasked with analyzing the challenge and making recommendations. For about a week, this becomes their job. It might be connected to the manufacturing side, some process, or deciding where to locate a piece of equipment. Depending on the assignment, the team members’ responsibilities are to make this specific area better, more efficient, or safer. They brainstorm and develop a solution. For instance, a recent chemical safety RIE made sure all documents were up-to-date. The team then conducted refresher training with other employees.”

Draper often uses RIEs in developing green initiatives within the company to promote sustainability in manufacturing processes and materials. They strive to create more value for customers with fewer resources — making the most use of the space they have while keeping down carbon and building footprints. Through an aggressive program, Draper has greatly reduced the amount of scrap produced, recycled, or reused.

As a strong supporter of US Green Building Council efforts, Draper was among the first in their industry to obtain Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design accreditation for employees who work with dealers and customers on sustainable buildings. Draper was also the first window shade manufacturer to be listed on the GREENGUARD Environmental Institute website.

Community Partnering

In addition to Draper’s onsite fitness park, walking track, volleyball court, and gardens, the Spiceland community has made a nearby school gym and a community gym available to employees at no cost.

Draper contributes to the community financially and through volunteering in many ways to support:

  • United Way
  • Relay For Life®
  • Dollars for Scholars®
  • Blood drives
  • Big Brothers/Big Sisters
  • Public library
  • Volunteer fire department
  • Community center
  • School corporations.
Not Just a Flavor of the Month

When Linda first came to work at Draper 10 years ago, she needed to overcome the employee perception that the new wellness program would be just a passing fad. “Since the closest town is 10 miles away, we try to offer a variety of local activities. While raising awareness of their individual numbers helped, our wellness challenges generated the needed buzz and interest to sustain the program… if we see interest waning in a program, we look for something new.” Linda points to examples such as walking and biking challenges (Draper also helps participants buy bikes through payroll deduction). She adds that their website provides opportunities for participants to track progress and communicate with other teams.

Not surprisingly, Linda says without top management she couldn’t get her job done. “They’ve been very gracious and generous in supporting our efforts. Until recently, health savings account contributions were made when employees reached health goals. Now we offer prizes as an incentive. Management reinforces our messages through companywide meetings as well as lunches with our president held throughout the year, rotating through smaller groups of employees.”

Healthy Employees = Healthy Community

Linda emphasizes there is no separating Draper employee/family health and well-being from the community’s. “Because of our unique situation, a healthy community represents our future.”

To get the wellness program going, Linda started off with a 5-year plan:

  • Year 1 was about understanding health risks and raising awareness of what the numbers meant
  • Year 2 involved helping and supporting employee efforts to manage identified risk factors
  • Year 3 focused on building healthy futures by continuing to reinforce successes and making further changes
  • Year 4 turned attention to building healthier families
  • Year 5 looked ahead to achieving healthy retirement.

A 12-person wellness and safety committee is responsible for overseeing projects and developing challenges. Every year, Linda presents objectives to the committee and asks for ideas. Ongoing well-being programs and services include:

  • Onsite medical clinic
  • Healthy touch screen vending machines
  • Cooking and canning classes
  • Diabetes classes and cooking programs
  • Health coaching
  • Health risk assessments
  • Health fairs
  • Free mammograms and PSA testing
  • Flu vaccines
  • CPR/first-aid classes
  • Lunch and learns
  • Onsite Weight Watchers® and stop-smoking resources.

Linda also scours the internet for other tools. “For instance, I found a free financial online course from Indiana’s Ivy Tech. A number of our employees have taken advantage of it and found it very useful. We try to be well rounded in everything we offer.”

Motivating Success

Monthly newsletters tell stories of company Wellness Superheroes for inspiration — from a woman who quit smoking and saved the cigarette money for little luxuries, to employees who have gone off CPAP machines, reduced medication, and lost up to 100 pounds.

When Linda first looked at claim data, the problems identified were no surprise, but she is pleased with the company’s progress.

Linda sees these paybacks as priceless. “To date, we’ve collectively lost 3,083 pounds in our Weight Watchers program. Employees have gotten control over diabetes and cholesterol without resorting to medication, 60 employees quit smoking, and we’ve identified numerous early stage cancers. Our financial program saved employees over $23,000 through helping them pay off debts and better prepare for retirement.”

Draper’s success has not gone unrecognized. In 2014, they were named the nation’s healthiest workplace — beating out 100 companies to be honored by Healthiest Employers LLC.

The accomplishments make it easy for Linda to recommend moving forward. “It means so much to see employees make such positive lifestyle changes. This is their time to take hold of the opportunities we provide. And once they do, they don’t let go. I often hear such comments as, ‘Thank you for giving my life back’ or ‘Guess what I’m able to do now that I couldn’t do before.’”

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