Engagement is the Key to Success
As an HR professional, you have sifted through demographic data models, painstakingly crafting plan changes and offering incentives for employees to opt into consumer-directed health plans (CDHP). You have waged an all out communication campaign to your employees - based on the merits of consumerism and wellness.
Adoption rates for CDHP are where you expected, although there is always room for improvement. As you look to continue to drive participation in your CDHP strategy and encourage employees to make smarter healthcare choices, the question emerges of "What to do next?" as you offer improved tools and processes to facilitate change.
Ask Some Questions
Whether you want to completely overhaul your engagement methods or just tweak them a bit, it is helpful to take the collective pulse of your employees. Pose several key statements and ask for a response ranging from 1 - Strongly Disagree to 5 - Strongly Agree. These will provide key insights on their current points of view.
- My employer cares about my well being.
- My health benefits are easy to use.
- I have a good understanding of how to purchase medical care.
- My employer makes it easy for me to stay healthy.
- I have easy access to reliable health information and coverage.
- I have someone I can talk to about my chronic condition.
- My family and I feel supported during time of medical crises.
Responses to these questions will confirm whether or not you employee's basic needs are being met and will help identify gaps or areas of deficiency in your current strategy. Once you have established this baseline, the following ideas offer several tangible options for you to contemplate as you motivate your organization.
Tell a Story
Use "real life stories" to communicate tactical ways for employees to compare elective procedures. Nothing teaches like a story, even an anecdotal one with plausible numbers. If the local cost for a knee MRI for "Joe's basketball injury" varies from $500 to $2,500 based upon where it's done and the methodology used, the story of "how Joe made his decision" will subtly encourage your employees to shop wisely and to ask better questions.
Success stories, such as weight loss, can be highly motivational to other employees. Let's say that "Jeanine's" focus on healthy eating and exercise during the past year has helped her lose weight. As a result, she no longer needs to take medication for hypertension which is great for "Jeanine" and your organization. Stories often become the next phase of communication to imbed and push change forward.
Make it Easy
Simplify the consumer-friendly tools that employees use whenever possible. Having one debit card for multiple health and spending accounts is significantly easier to manage than multiple cards. Likewise, one mobile app with one login, the ability to photograph and upload receipts, and the visibility to all accounts in one site reduces overall confusion.
Millennials expect integrated technology, while Boomers appreciate closely watching their qualified HSA nest egg grow. So, do not underestimate the advantages of simplifying the common tools to encourage behavior. Understanding your audience will help you understand how to engage more effectively.
As the burden of healthcare decisions continues to shift to employees, employers have an opportunity to engage employees in the management of their own health. Not only does this help reduce the employer's costs, but it can also have positive health and financial benefits for the employee.
Have Some Fun
Encourage your employees to get active with competitions that encourage exercise. Use an activity tracker, like a pedometer, to track your employees' activity. The more steps they take the more points they earn. Create award categories for accumulated point totals - a water bottle for 25,000 steps, a gift card for athletic apparel for 100,000 steps and iPad for the employee who records the most steps during the competition.
If your employees are shy and don't want to use the real name for the competition rankings, encourage them to use aliases like "Fit Gal" or "Cardio Dude". Use current technology and popular gaming techniques to facilitate behavior change. Last year's departmental wellness contests pitted one department against another.
It was fun and encouraged activity, but should you do that again? Maybe - but as an alternative, consider using a game or contest that encourages employees to walk up a flight of stairs to take a picture of a QR code as part of a QR code scavenger hunt. Or, perhaps construct a virtual lunchtime "tennis ladder" for competition between teams at separate facilities on a Wii or Xbox One in each lunch room.
Include spouses in the activities, especially if they are an important part of your organization's health population. Activities like these socialize and drive overall population health. Be creative. The more fun employees have, the more likely they are to engage in the activity and change their future behavior.
Employees must be empowered to make personal healthcare choices through actionable information and tools, communication and education, and health and wellness programs. It is critical that employers find a way to clearly articulate health benefits to people of all generations and backgrounds. Involve your organization's marketing department - they are experts at communication and and will help ensure focused messaging, consistent branding and diverse methods of engagement.
Regardless of the tactics used, one thing is clear - employers who successfully engage their employees and encourage them to become better, more informed healthcare consumers will reap the benefits of long-term cost savings and a healthier, more satisfied and productive workforce.
Beyond cost savings alone, studies repeatedly show that improving the health of a workforce leads to higher productivity. Putting your employees in charge of what they spend helps keep costs down while empowering employees with greater ownership of health.
About the Author
Mr. Turney serves as Director, Public Sector Solutions in ADP's Strategic Advisory Services group. He is a communications and healthcare benefits expert, responsible for consulting with clients to provide strategy, advice, insight on best practice methodologies for driving market penetration and employee engagement.