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Member Spotlight: Higginbotham


Higginbotham offers employers a single-source solution for insurance, financial, and HR services. The firm was established in 1948 and ranks by revenue as the nation’s 20th largest independent insurance firm, serving thousands of businesses and individuals through locations across 10 states. The company’s wellness journey began with a very focused program for tobacco cessation.

As the firm has grown, its vision for wellness has expanded as well. “Wellness is embedded in our culture,” said Katie Callender, senior wellness and health risk management consultant at Higginbotham. “We are not checking a box. This is one of our core values. It’s ingrained into the foundation of our company. It benefits us in recruitment because potential employees see that we really care, and we are doing the right things for our people.”

In her role, Callender manages the firm’s internal wellness program and serves as a wellness consultant to employer clients as well. “We’ve always been focused on making this an employee-centered program,” she said. “That includes meeting them where they are and giving them lots of opportunities to engage based on their specific needs.” This commitment comes from the very top. “Our CEO has always been incredibly helpful and supportive,” Callender said. “If we can demonstrate the value of a specific initiative or benefit, it’s a no-brainer for it to be approved. That is unique in my experience.”

A big part of being employee-centered is ensuring that the healthy choice is the easy choice to make. “That’s how we approach it,” Callender said. “It’s not punitive. It’s just incenting health by making it more convenient. For example, we have a community event policy where we allow employees three days to volunteer in their community. We have a healthy catering policy, which provides certain stipulations that must be met for onsite meals. We also recently did a healthy vending machine makeover. I’ll admit, at first that was not well received. But if I want M&Ms, I can still bring them. It’s just that the unhealthy choice isn’t going to be the easy one at our organization. We are going to walk the walk.”

The Higginbotham team understands that wellness means something different for each individual

“We allow the opportunity for them to engage in their preferred way,” Callender said. “It’s just more effective than trying to force people into one path, or one specific requirement. We open the door wide. It might be the first time they’ve really engaged in wellness. So we try to keep that in mind.”

Higginbotham Employees

The firm has enjoyed strong organizational growth over the years, expanding to more than 50 offices across the southern U.S. As the firm’s workforce broadened and diversified, the wellness program has worked hard to keep up.
“We have always tried our best to offer every resource to every employee whenever possible,” Callender said. “It was easier when we only had a couple of locations, but we have grown a lot, and it’s harder than it used to be to get information disseminated and to ensure access to wellness programming for everyone. We make a conscious effort to ensure all our employees are included. It’s easy for a location to be overlooked if you aren’t careful. In our case, sometimes we even offer those locations specific opportunities.”

She offered a simple example of how this plays out. “When we have a drawing, we make sure we have one winner from every location, so when we communicate the winners, everyone sees the diversity of the engagement in our program. We also try to highlight employees from different offices when we share wellness testimonials. Again, we want to make sure our employees feel like everyone is included and involved.” During the height of the pandemic, Callender said Higginbotham’s program didn’t skip a beat. “We were equipped to handle COVID since our program is so diverse and accommodating by design,” she said. “While a few onsite initiatives were paused, we made up for any losses through a lot of virtual offerings. So while we had to postpone onsite yoga and fitness classes, we offered on-demand workouts via an app.”

The company did experience a rise in mental health needs during the pandemic

While mindfulness programming was already available, as was an EAP with stress, anxiety, and grief counseling services, Higginbotham’s Health Risk Management team saw an opportunity to level up support in this area. “We added someone with a mental health background to our team so our employees would have an additional resource available for mental health needs,” she said. “This person isn’t providing direct counseling, but she manages a bank of content and resources that employees can access at their convenience.” Callender continued. “Mental health is a top concern for us and a top concern for the employers we serve. It just seems like the biggest need across the board. The stigma around mental health is eroding and the walls are coming down. The time to address it is now.”

Higginbotham Employees

Another challenge for Higginbotham and the employers the firm serves is a common one in today’s world: work-life balance

“Now that many employees are working from home, this is even more of a battle for them,” Callender said. “This is particularly true for employees who are dealing with issues at home that they are accustomed to leaving at home, but now they can’t as easily separate it from their work. To address this, we are continuing to build in versatility through online options so they can get the support they need from the wellness program.” As part of its wellness benefit, Higginbotham offers employees onsite clinical screenings, including comprehensive labs and a nurse practitioner consultation. “Our staff values this benefit because many of them don’t have a primary care provider,” Callender said. “They value being able to review their results with a nurse practitioner and seeing what their areas of improvement are.”

When asked which WELCOA membership benefit brought the most value to Higginbotham, Callender said it was the award submission process. “The award process is my favorite part,” she said. “It helps us ensure our program is conducted in the way it should be with the appropriate planning documents and data. It helps us catch things that need to be addressed. It verifies that we’re gathering outcomes and measuring our progress. It’s fantastic, really. It holds us to a standard and helps us maintain validity and growth for our program.“ Callender also noted that relying on WELCOA as a source of knowledge and training was important, given the expanding scope and changing landscape of corporate wellness. “A lot of things fall into the wellness bucket now, which isn’t a bad thing, but it’s important for our team to recognize that we aren’t experts in every facet of wellness,” she said. “No one specialty, vendor, or organization can answer all the questions.”

Want to learn more about Higginbotham’s program, or how your wellness efforts can keep pace with the increasing speed of change at work?