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5 Questions with Limeade CEO Henry Albrecht

Forbes predicted 2018 would be the year of employee experience, and the rise of smart platforms like Limeade indicate that companies are ready to invest in the well-being of their employees to drive business growth. Most leaders recognize the value of their human resources teams, but some struggle to put programs in place to attract, retain, and foster talent.

At its core, Limeade is an employee engagement company based on the integration of five solutions (well-being, employee engagement, inclusion, social recognition and HR program aggregation). It builds great places to work by improving well-being and strengthening workplace culture.

As the name indicates, Limeade aims to serve up something positive and refreshing for both employees and companies—while staying grounded in data. Driven by insights from its eponymous institute, Limeade offers concrete metrics for measuring employee engagement, burn out and more. Additionally, the company can track the metrics that matter most to the business’s performance, fully connecting the ROI where it counts.

With partnerships from big players like Microsoft and Fitbit, Limeade is committed in its effort to help people bring their hearts and minds to work and to create companies that care. CEO Henry Albrecht came to the HLTH 2018 Conference in Las Vegas because of the unique pressures and demands on our healthcare workforce. We had a chance to chat more about the Limeade brand experience and why investing in your employees’ well-being is so crucial—especially in healthcare.

I read in an interview you did that “you can’t make every customer happy.” How do you “vet” potential customers and choose your partners?

It’s always tempting to take the big deals that help you hit your numbers in the short term, but in the last two years we have been much stronger at qualifying opportunities. Like in any relationship, if you start out headed in slightly different directions, it’s only pain for everybody. Limeade helps to create the kind of culture where well-being is in every touchpoint, and all the players—your manager, your team, your leadership—all see the connection of well-being.

Ultimately, we ask ourselves, is this company on the same journey we want to create for its employees? Are they on a journey to where everyone feels included, and there are no glass ceilings, even if that means a hit to short-term profitability? Do they believe well-being is the key to more innovation? Even if they are just starting that journey, maybe with physical well-being or financial well-being, as long as they want to get there, then they are a great customer.

Sometimes we sell to companies that don’t have a perfect culture- but perhaps they have had a change in leadership and the new leadership is embracing a different way of being. We want to leave ourselves open to pleasant surprises, but if we just don’t see any path to that in the next few years, we won’t do the deal.

How would you describe the Limeade brand experience for the consumer?

First, we put the employee at the center of attention and call this “whole-person well-being.” We want to treat that person, not as a “health silo” or “financial silo,” but holistically: physical, emotional, financial and work. We ask what they care about and present things in meaningful and relevant ways.

Second, we also have to connect the whole ecosystem around them. We need to know: What type of worker are you? What sort of programs or benefits are going to be most relevant for you? Do you have post-partum depression or are you a worker with low back pain, or are you a new manager who doesn’t have training on how to be a great manager?

Finally, we connect the program to “whole company” initiatives and priorities. How does your manager treat you? How do your teams and peers make employee engagement, well-being, and inclusion everyday topics? How do you get the flywheel of feeling cared for turning faster? At the end of the day, we want to have people feel like they are part of a community, that they are cared for, and that they love going to work every day. That’s what employee engagement is. It’s a deep emotional connection and sense of purpose at work.

From a brand perspective, our job is to create that mutual sense of commitment. We help companies commit to their people because when they do that, they get the commitment back. And at the end of the day whether they know the program comes from Limeade or not, we know our business success is tied to the loyalty that employees have to their employers.

I think of a great culture very similar to the way I think about a great brand—it’s built at every touch point in every communication. It’s what people say about you when you’re not listening.

What kinds of metrics are you tracking to indicate better company engagement, health, and potential impact on business performance?

We think two of the things that are most relevant to business performance are employee engagement and employee retention (or turnover). And we believe well-being is the upstream predictor of these things. Now, we also look at metrics on an individual client-basis, like same store sales, patient outcomes, and other business metrics that may be crucial to their particular performance.

The wellness industry, as it’s been practiced, has failed, and not from a lack of good intentions or cool technology, but rather because of a lack of relevance to the business. Well-being can’t just be a “nice to have.” It needs to be connected to C-suite level initiatives that are driving the business forward. Additionally, it needs to connect to what’s emotional in people’s work every day. Even if you have access to a website that helps you improve something in your life, if you go back to work and your boss is a jerk and there’s no flexibility to innovate in a company, then it’s irrelevant.

Do you think all company leaders, whether in healthcare or not, have a responsibility for employee well-being?

Research from the Limeade Institute shows that leaders are the third most important driver of this feeling of support. The 2nd most important one is access to resources and tools. And the single most important driver of employee well-being is the direct manager or supervisor. So leaders absolutely play an important role, but they are not the only factor.

Having said that, the most important responsibility leadership has is to the success of the business. We know when you invest in people’s well-being, and they are more engaged at work, they deliver better business results. By that measure, then absolutely leaders have a responsibility in a fiduciary sense to engage in their employees. Whether they have a moral responsibility is harder to dictate. It would be a great world if everyone cared about each other all the time, but independent of that, companies can make strategic investments in their business success through well-being.

Our programs uncover insights and drive action for issues like burnout, for example. When we consider healthcare, we hear from the leaders of some of the largest health systems and hospitals in the world, the #1 business challenge they face is attracting and retaining high quality caregivers. It’s a highly stressful job. And when you have to replace or can’t find people to fill these roles, not only does your business suffer but the patient outcomes suffer as well.

We think of burnout as an organizational virus that targets the most committed employees. It’s a virus because it’s contagious. And there’s science behind this. One or two burned-out people can impact the whole team, and when they leave that has a negative snowball effect. In our studies, we look at look at the root causes. We look at employee engagement and well-being, and burnout sits right at the intersection because it has elements of stress, organizational support, and loving or hating your job.

There’s a cycle—energy depletion, cynicism, inefficacy—and suddenly you’re not delivering the outcomes you’re capable of because of how you feel. And, inevitably, there’s turnover. We added a new burnout component to our engagement dashboard. It’s an indicator that uses machine learning to indicate where people are most at risk for burning out in your organization. It’s not only an analytics tool, but also triggers actions to help reduce burnout.

You came to HLTH to speak about “Owning the Employee Experience.” What’s your message?

While Limeade serves all industries, here we’re talking about our focus on the healthcare employee. It’s a tough time to be a caregiver with all the technological change, policy change and 24/7 pressure. We wanted to provide representation and give a voice to the people who don’t always come to these conferences.

We’re hearing a lot about all the amazing new tools and innovations out there- telemedicine, retail health, genomics, AI. And we do need more touch points in health. But think about it. People spend 10, 12 hours a day at work—and there are thousands of touchpoints every day we can optimize to impact well-being, and ultimately, someone’s health and happiness.

This interview originally appeared on brandchannel.


Director of Marketing, InterbrandHealth