How health and wellness initiatives can energize your business

Jason Crawford

While certain corners of the business world question the value of workplace wellness and disease management programsi, there is plenty of evidence to suggest these initiatives deliver value to the employer and employee. Typically, employers that offer wellness have a more energized and focused workforce. That reality pays dividends that are sometimes hard to measure but become evident over time.

An in-depth studyii conducted by Aflac shows that employers with strong health and wellness programs are more likely to have happier, more engaged employees. While more than half of workers surveyed for the report said they are “satisfied” with their jobs, the number jumps to two-thirds when their employers provide wellness and disease management initiatives. The survey also illustrated that employers with health and wellness programs are far more likely to have employees that:

  • Will recommend their workplace to others
  • Agree that their organization has a strong reputation as a great place to work
  • Say they are extremely or very satisfied with their group employee benefits program
  • Believe their employer takes care of them

We have reached a moment in time at which employers and employees are becoming partners in healthcare, and this is the start of an era of benefits consumerism. Historically there has been no real financial skin in the game for the employee when it comes to controlling healthcare cost. Though they are typically responsible for a $20 copay, they weren’t required to make economically oriented decisions, such as choosing to visit their primary care provider for non-emergency conditions as opposed to seeking treatment in a more costly emergency room.

Now, employees are being pushed to consider cost. The progression over the last couple of years has been passive because there haven’t been incentives for plan participants to make better benefits utilization choices. However, the progression is accelerating, and employers have begun to implement incentives to motivate employees toward improving health and reducing their overall healthcare spend. The most visible example is in the realm of health and wellness, with more employers tying program participation to employee health insurance cost.

In other words, wellness programs are at the forefront of creating a health partnership between employer and employee. The Aflac research noted above suggests that wellness is the proverbial win-win.

However, not all wellness programs are equal. Execution is critical to success, and that means incenting employees to participate. Creating incentives requires a good working knowledge of your workforce population. For instance, a largely female staff will likely be interested in different incentives than a largely male population. A critical first step is establishing an understanding of your workforce. From there, you can create an incentive program. The magic number for incentives right now is about $500, the level at which employees begin to change behavior. In crafting your approach to incentives, consider using this figure as the starting point.

Additionally, how the program is communicated to the workforce is important. We find that employees don’t typically change behavior if there is a $20 cost for something. However, if that something is valued at $50 but provided to employees at a $20 cost, they’re more likely to act.

These are some of the key considerations for changing employee behavior through incentives. Done well, incentives work.

Evidence exists that health and wellness works and employees value initiatives. Effective programs can help with recruiting A-list job candidates and reducing employee churn. The key to making wellness work for both employer and employee is creating the right program for your population.

iReuter’s; PepsiCo’s Workplace Wellness Program Fails the Bottom Line
iiAflac; Measuring Worksite Wellness



©2015 Corporate Synergies Group, LLC. No part of this material may be republished or distributed without prior written consent.
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    By: Jason Crawford

    Jason Crawford specializes in reducing employer costs through in-depth research, strategic plan design, claims data analysis, diligent carrier negotiations and initiatives such as wellness and disease management. He directs the strategic process, monitors the business plan, manages the team and ensures the delivery of exceptional client service.

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