Target Aims to Get Its Workforce Healthier Using Fitbits

The retailer is giving Fitbits to its more than 300,000 employees to encourage better health for its workers.

Target Fitbit initiative

Many of Target's more than 300,000 employees are now placing orders for free basic Fitbit fitness trackers as part of a Target wellness campaign aimed at making the company's employees healthier.

The Fitbit program, which was unveiled by Target on Sept. 16 as part of its annual fall meeting with employees, is offering a free basic Fitbit Zip to all employees, who also will have the option of paying to upgrade to a more fully-featured activity tracker. The Fitbit Zip allows users to track their steps, activities, calories burned and more, giving them the ability to monitor their daily activities and health.

Amy McDonough, vice president and general manager of Fitbit's wellness unit, told eWEEK that the company's activity tracker deal with Target is one of the largest such company-wide wellness arrangements it has made so far.

As part of the Target wellness program, the company is encouraging employees to participate by establishing a $1 million challenge fund that will provide cash gifts to local wellness non-profits on behalf of teams of Target employees that log the most average daily steps. The employees on the winning teams will be able to designate which groups they'd like the funds to go to, according to the company. The challenge program will run from Oct. 15 through Nov. 15.

Target employees are able to obtain their Fitbits through a special, custom online storefront run by Fitbit where they can order the devices they want and have them shipped to their homes, said McDonough.

"They can acquire the devices, get accustomed to them and start wearing them" in preparation for the challenge to begin, she said.

Fitbit's wellness division was created about five years ago to bring such programs together for employers so they can motivate their employees, said McDonough. Fitbit helps by distributing the fitness trackers to workers and by helping them find the products that best meet their needs. So far, more than 50 Fortune 500 companies have such arrangements with Fitbit, including BP, Indiana University Health and Adobe Technologies, said McDonough.

"The Target announcement was exciting because they are a strategic retail partner for Fitbit products and also a large employer," she said. "It's a great example of how these larger organizations are really putting wellness at the forefront."

Under Target's fitness tracker program, employees have the choice of getting a free Fitbit Zip, which is valued at $59.95 retail, or they can apply that amount toward another more advanced Fitbit tracker and pay the difference out of pocket. Other Fitbit models include the Flex at $99.95, the Charge at $129, the Charge HR at $149 and the Surge at $249.95.

"They are really tying this into their corporate culture, and then broadening it out into the community," McDonough said of Target. "They are really making it their own."

The Target wellness initiative also includes employee discounts on healthier foods bought through the stores by workers, as well as for active wear and related products. Target also is offering employee career-growth and career-planning support to help focus on longevity and personal fulfillment inside the company.