Minnesota Twist Drill renews commitment to wellness, sees early gains in employee health

When the economic downturn hit Hibbing-based Minnesota Twist Drill, employee wellness programming was among the first things to see the budget axe.

The previous program was fully coordinated by a consulting company, focused on Know Your Numbers biometric screening. Employees voiced appreciation for the programming and were disappointed to see it get eliminated.

Nearly three years later the cry for a wellness program grew louder. CEO Scott Allison, the company’s owners and HR Manager Jeannie Nobens decided to approach health in the workplace again. “We were looking at our rising health care costs, says Nobens. “And we want our employees to be happy.”

Twist Drill participated in the Alliance for a Healthier Minnesota’s workplace wellness focus group at the Hibbing Area Chamber of Commerce and joined the chamber’s newly invigorated employer wellness committee. “[The effort] had 150 percent support from all of the company’s owners,” says Nobens. “And that really makes my job a lot easier.”

The company used mini-grants from Minnesota’s Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP) to install bike racks and basketball hoops. It also got guidance from Fit City Duluth on how to move forward with a comprehensive plan.

Nobens formed a wellness committee that included representatives from each position, each shift and the front office. She also very intentionally included the company’s engineer, who is in charge of safety on the manufacturing floor. “Wellness and safety go hand in hand,” Nobens says.

The committee used a survey of employees to focus on providing a place for non-smokers at their Chisholm facility to get some fresh air during their paid breaks. For years, a non-smoker’s break time was limited to the indoors or a cigarette smoke-filled table. “One of the biggest needs [among employees] was stress management,” Nobens says. The company built a non-smoking patio, which also supports employees who are trying to quit using tobacco, by giving them an alternative way to take a time-out from work.

Minnesota Twist Drill also offered a $10 reduction in health care premiums on each paycheck – a total of $260 for the year – to employers who participated in a Know Your Numbers (KYN) biometric screening campaign. Approximately 70 percent of employees participated. Beginning in January 2012, KYN participants will meet individually with a health coach to establish individual action plans.

Minnesota Twist Drill has been back to a comprehensive wellness plan for nearly a year. If business takes a hit again in the future, Ms. Nobens thinks they’ll continue investing in employee health. “[The employee health program] shouldn’t be among the first things to go,” says Nobens, “We’ve realized you can do it and it doesn’t have to cost a lot of money.” Minnesota Twist Drill has already seen a small financial gain; this year’s health plan renewal will include a decrease in premiums.


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