Much has been covered on the topic of wellness programs, and I, myself, have written about them in a past blog. I firmly believe the topic remains important for organizations to address as they consider what wellness programs are most valued by employees and how they can most effectively motivate staff to hop on and stay on the train of good health.
The facts are pervasive. Average premiums for employer-sponsored family coverage increased 97% between 2002 and 2012 accordingly to a 2012 Employer Health Benefits Survey sponsored by Kaiser Family Foundation. This health survey indicates that increases in premium spending for both employer and employee can be attributed to chronic illnesses such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes and obesity. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevision indicate that medical costs related to chronic diseases account for 75% of all health care costs. In 2008, medical costs related to obesity were $147 billion.
While not a panacea, prevention remains the go-to approach when it comes to building plans that modify or change behaviours contributing to most chronic diseases. When you consider that employees spend the majority of their waking hours at work, employers can play an important role in providing convenient and effective wellness programs.
Most employer-sponsored wellness programs focus on prevention incentives aimed at tobacco cessation, physical activity, stress management, nutrition and weight loss. While it remains difficult to measure return on investment (ROI) for these programs, there is mounting research to indicate that the payback ranges from $1.60 to $3.90 in savings per dollar spent on employee wellness, according to a 2013 review of economic outcomes. Whether easy to qualify the ROI or not, wellness programs are aimed at changing behaviours such as unhealthy eating, smoking and physical inactivity and other stress-related and potentially harmful employee health outcomes.
After implementing workplace wellness programs, employers face the ongoing challenge of keeping employees motivated. Here are some tips for implementing wellness programs that engage employees:
* Wellness programs must fit the needs of the employee and be created in such a way that incentives are meaningful
* employers benefit from performing regular employee needs assessments to identify motivational wellness triggers
* support for the wellness programs and incentives need senior leadership support
* wellness programs should be aligned with the company culture
* employers should recognize that not all wellness initiatives are enhanced by financial incentives. A study by Linnan et al, found that financial incentives aren't as effective when major commitments are required by employees such as with smoking-cessation and weight loss programs.
In an article by Sheppell FGI several actions are listed that provide low cost ideas that can be incorporated by employees and workplace leaders. One of the biggest and most helpful takeaways for me pertains to starting small and sticking to it. Starting and maintaining a wellness program doesn't have to be a costly affair. Small changes to the culture, leadership focus and direction pertaining to a healthy workforce can pay off with huge results. The point is to understand what fits the needs of employees and then sticking to a program that can be measured and celebrated.
For more information about finding ways to engage and maintain wellness program results, please contact us. We're here to help so that you can focus on what you do best.
Recognized each year on April 2, National Employee Benefits Day is a day to celebrate trustees, administrators, corporate benefits practitioner and professional advisors for their efforts to provide quality employee benefits.
It is also a great time to examine how plan sponsors communicate to their employees about the value and the cost of the group benefits that have been provided to them. Depending on the size of the organization and the emphasis on communicating benefits, what and how information about benefits is shared can range from little to a lot of focus.
A key point to remember involves the need to communicate the true cost of benefits when thinking about them might not be top of mind for employees. This may be the case particularly when employees haven't incurred a health or dental benefits claim for reimbursement in quite a while.
When a plan sponsor can help an employee connect the dots around the dollar value associated with the group benefits and pension coverage they have as part of their employment contract, it creates a deeper understanding of what that employee receives for the work they do in exchange for their total compensation.
Another consideration involves post-employment benefits. In this day and age, providing 'retiree' benefits isn't the norm. In fact, it is becoming quite rare except for larger public sector plans. When employees know whether or not they have post-employment benefits, it becomes an important factor in calculating what additional costs they may need to include in their retirement savings planning.
Some plan sponsors have latched onto a powerful communication tactic that provides employees with an annual total rewards statement. This type of statement provides an overview of the full monetary value of their employment arrangement and it factors in compensation, bonuses, benefits including pensions, and vacation allocation. It allows the employee to consider that their compensation is greater than just their base salary. When employees see the true value of their total compensation, it may aid as an attraction and retention tool to drive higher levels of employee engagement.
In a world where there are so many ways to access information particularly in an online environment, it is helpful to be provide a clear line of sight to the true value of employee benefits using methods that are easy to access and that are familiar to the target audience. Communications should allow for two way discussion that facilitates the intake of questions and the development of a greater understanding of what may be missing or would be valued in the suite of benefits offerings.
While it may not seem feasible to offer a complete total rewards communication package because of cost and resource challenges, the good news is that there are some simple and cost-effective ways to educate employees about the value of their benefits.
To start a conversation about how we can help you in this area, please contact us. We're here to help so that you can focus on what you do best.
Dave Dickinson, B.Comm, CFP, CLU, CHFC
Experienced Benefits Specialist ready to optimize your group benefits and pension plans.