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Techopia Live: Ottawa entrepreneur using ‘sweat’ equity to improve employee retention

While many companies offer perks that incentivize employees to exercise and stay fit, the returns on these programs are notoriously difficult to track. Techopia Live sat down with Ottawa’s Russell Coltess this week to hear about how his new platform is helping HR departments track ROI on these programs.

Coltess, the CEO and founder of L-Spark alumni company Fitchek, told Techopia Live there’s a disconnect between the money large organizations are putting towards employee wellness and the returns on employee retention and company culture. In cases of companies with thousands of employees, where each worker gets a few hundred dollars a year for gym memberships and the like, employee wellness can quickly become a multimillion-dollar spend.

“HR has no idea what is going on with this budget,” Coltess said. “And no one knows how this is actually contributing to the bottom line of the organization.”

Coltess said he spoke to 150 HR managers and wellness experts over the past two years about how these programs could be improved and better tracked. He created a platform that can track workers’ fitness preferences when they’re on-boarded and encourage employees to form “crews” to exercise in a way that suits the group – from lunchtime walkers to yoga enthusiasts, the platform aims to unite disparate employees around a shared interest.

“We find that there’s a better engagement between employees,” Coltess said. He noted local companies such as BlackBerry are already using the solution in its beta phase.

Encouraging employees to exercise together forms bonds within an organization, Coltess said, which can help keep them around for the long term. While it’s true that HR departments often devise benefits and amenities to attract new talent, he noted that conversations must now shift towards keeping it.

“People would think that the largest problem an HR department wants to solve is attracting employees. That is a big problem and they are doing that,” Coltess said.

“However, it actually costs a lot more to replace an employee once they leave. So employee retention is paramount.”

Coltess said that Fitchek, which started out as a marketing platform for fitness studios, has outgrown the name and that he intends to rebrand the company later this year. The name Sweatcrew, he told Techopia Live, has a much closer tie to the firm’s new mission.

“Employees that sweat together, stay together,” he said.

To hear more about the fitness tech solution, watch the video above.