It is Orion Associates’ and our associated companies’ goal is to be an organization that cares about its employees and provides them with the best work environment possible. One effort we’ve made to achieve the goal of being the best employer we can be is to focus on the health of our employees. While we consider all of the steps we have taken so far to be just the beginning of what we will continue to strive to do, we were recognized in October for our efforts by Minneapolis / Saint Paul Business Journal as one of the “Healthiest Employers of the Twin Cities.”

Out of thirty-two companies that entered the competition and fifteen finalists, Orion Associate won in its class of Companies with 2 – 99 employees. Larger companies that won included Salo/Oberon NumberWorks, Great River Energy, North Memorial Hospital and OptumHealth.

Articles about each of the fifteen finalists appeared in Minneapolis / Saint Paul Business Journal October 2010 edition and can be found at:

Healthiest Employers: Orion Associates

The text of the article is as follows:

Healthiest Employers: Orion Associates

By Jonathan Eisenthal, Freelance Writer.

Orion Associates aims to help employees feel like their lives are in balance through a variety of initiatives, including diet and fitness competitions, an open-door policy for children and pets and the decision to make Orion’s headquarters a LEED-certified building.

Located in Golden Valley, Orion’s 35 employees provide management and training, both to associated businesses and outside social service groups.

“Treating our employees well is one of the things we do consciously,” said President and CEO Rebecca Hage Thomley. “Social service work tends not to be well paid. We know our ability to be a quality organization rests on our staff. Even if we aren’t able to pay them as well as we want, we can still create the kind of environment where people enjoy working and feel rewarded in other ways.”

Having a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design-certified building means not only healthy air quality and energy-efficient facilities, but also amenities like showering and changing facilities that encourage bicycle commuting and exercise breaks during the work day.

“The decision to add a childcare facility right in our building fits with the company’s way of helping employees keep that sense of balance,” said Orion Chief Administrative Officer Stephen Hage.

That sense of balance extends to the company’s policy supporting employees’ volunteerism. Orion takes part in the Headwaters Relief Organization, a group that helps communities recover from disasters.

“We give paid time off for volunteering,” Thomley said. “We had a team in the Gulf for the oil spill. We had folks go to Haiti. We had a group go to New Orleans after [Hurricane] Katrina. Volunteering is a great way to get to know your coworkers, and to realize that we have really great people working here.”

The company’s wellness program started two years ago when Orion formed the Sozo Committee (sozo is a Greek word for wellness). Its first program was a fitness-weight loss competition.

“We got step counters, recorded that and tied it in with a weight-loss challenge,” said Cassie Yeats, billing manager at Orion. “Evidently, I am a little competitive. I am much better at losing weight when it gets written on a board. I’ve done subsequent challenges to maintain that progress.”

Yeats appreciates Orion’s atmosphere that encourages wellness. The Sozo Committee sends out e-mails with healthy recipes and tips. Every Wednesday is healthy snack day, and employees find vegetable trays, grapes and other healthful foods set up in the kitchen.

The company realized it had many wellness benefits, but the information might not be on everyone’s radar. So it began the “Be a Star” campaign to send out consistent health communications.

Other programs on the horizon are a community garden on the building grounds. (Yeats can’t wait to learn gardening techniques from coworkers.) Orion also has invited a local yoga school to make use of space, in exchange for free or cut-rate tuition to Orion workers.

Achieving quality through a focus on wellness is a model that is working well for Orion; one sign of the wellness program’s success is the company’s decision to further expand it.

“For me personally it comes from Orion’s core values,” Hage said. “We are a human services organization at heart. … Now we have been able to extend these wellness benefits to 60 management and administrative employees of our associated businesses.”

Orion Associates:

Healthiest employer score: 29
First in 2-99 employee category
Headquarters: Golden Valley
Business: Management and HR consulting
Employees: 35
Web: orionassoc.net

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