Program’s focus on Vantage Plastics employees helps retention rate

June 29, 2023 • Featured, News, Story of Impact

Project IMPACT goals include decreasing poverty, improving health metrics

Retaining employees was a concern for Vantage Plastics in Standish. Many new hires never reached 90 days, when the company health plan and other benefits kick in.

Vantage leaders had created a nonprofit outreach arm focused on wellness and giving back to the community, but they suspected company employees and their families needed even more assistance.

At the same time, the Central Michigan District Health Department was looking to embed a community health worker within a large company to work one-on-one with employees, connecting them with local resources. Both the health department and Vantage leaders believed such a program could increase employee retention and improve the health and well-being of entire families thus complying with their mission.

The effort launched this winter with support from the Michigan Health Improvement Alliance and a grant from the de Beaumont Foundation in Maryland. The hypothesis about impact already is proving to be true, as retention rates at Vantage are rising quickly. In February, Vantage Plastics hired 40 employees. By April, the need for hiring dropped, although interviews continue, and fewer than 20 new employees joined the company.

The Vantage Plastics initiative — called Project IMPACT — is one of a handful of similar programs being run by health departments, said Community Connections Supervisor Amelia Kasper of the Central Michigan District Health Department. IMPACT is an acronym that stands for “Innovative, Multi-sector Partnerships for Community Transformation.”

“As much as this was a great opportunity to see if we could drive down retention issues at Vantage, it also was a great opportunity to say it’s worth investing in a health worker to connect back to the community,” said Kasper, who oversees six counties.

Lindsay Bechtel is the community health worker assigned to Vantage. She still has other community health duties, but early metrics show her time responding to Vantage employees’ needs is paying off. Employee needs are varied, but in many cases, there are county or regional programs that can assist with problems.

Potential issues: Housing, transportation, health care

Vantage Plastics is a growing plastics thermoforming company that specializes in producing a wide variety of hard-to-make large and small parts — from food containers to outdoor equipment — for a range of companies in all major industry segments. Work is done at a 300,000-square-foot facility campus located in Standish, the Arenac County seat.

Employees struggle with issues such as reliable transportation, permanent housing or intimate partner violence, for example. Sometimes, basic skills can be an issue, and Lindsay recently helped one new employee with budgeting.

“They talked about what it meant to have a paycheck,” Kasper said. “What it looks like to save. And not to just spend. In a few months, the employee was able to put down a payment for a vehicle.”

Overall, Kasper said metrics from the first few months show Lindsay has had 123 cases of helping people address social determinants of health and well-being — factors such as immunizations, food, health insurance and housing.

“We’re tapping into existing programs in our communities,” Kasper said. “It’s a matter of how we better talk with each other, how we come together as a community instead of being different agencies serving our community in different ways.

“Lindsay is connecting employees to existing programs and helping them learn how to fill out paperwork,” Kasper said. “She’s sharing information to teach them about existing resources.”

Vantage’s April metrics show 47% of new employees asked to be connected with resources, up 13% during the first quarter of 2023. So far, Project IMPACT results are affirming the likelihood of notable improvements in retention, poverty and other health indicators on a county level.

Project IMPACT: The Michigan Health Improvement Alliance, Central Michigan District Health Department, local manufacturer Vantage Plastics and its nonprofit outreach arm, The WELL Outreach, have partnered to improve local health and well-being. Their efforts focus on bridging the private sector and public health through an embedded community health worker at Vantage Plastics in Arenac County. The community health worker helps new employees access primary health care and aims to improve preventative care, decrease poverty and increase employee retention. The grant was made possible with funding from the de Beaumont Foundation in Bethesda, Maryland.

Media contact: Heather Smith, [email protected]

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