Business of Well-being

Prudential, Inc.: Financial Wellness and Bottom Line

Prudential Financial, Inc. is a Fortune Global 500 company dealing primarily with financial services like investing and insurance in the United States and 30 countries across the globe. With more than 48,000 employees and total assets of more than $766.65 billion, Prudential Financial is one of the largest corporations in the world. We spoke to Dr. K. Andrew Crighton, chief medical officer, and Maureen Corcoran, vice president of Health, Life and Inclusion of Prudential, about the wellness industry.

Corporate Wellness Magazine - How important is corporate wellness at Prudential?

Dr. Andrew Crighton - I would say it's very important, being the person responsible for it. We tied our health message into our performance message, which all ties into our talent strategy.

CWM - How is that?

AC - We have connected the dots through our health-risk assessment and our data warehouse to see how health and performance impacts the bottom line of the business, and to make sure that employees are at their best and ready to excel work while at Prudential.

We do this by paying attention to physical health, of course, but also to the emotional, social, spiritual and financial well-being of our employees, too. Looking at this broadly, we are able to see how the impact of poor health in any one of these dimensions affects one's ability to perform at their best.

CWM - Could you tell me more about what Prudential is doing with financial wellness?

AC - We started our financial wellness program back in 2009 during the financial crisis. We saw in the HRA that our employees were undergoing their own personal financial crisis. So, we implemented budget coaching to help people manage their day-to-day finances and plan for other financial issues, such as retirement and savings. We set up this program after we measured the stress of their personal finances on their health.

CWM - How did you measure that?

AC - It was through the HRA. At that time, 31 percent of our employees said they were experiencing stress due to personal financial issues. In 2014, this had gone down to 17 percent.

CWM - To what do you attribute the reduction?

AC - Through the introduction of personal budget coaching and through our messaging.

CWM - And what would be an example of one way that the people could manage their financial health that might have led to the reduction?

Maureen Corcoran - So, to expand a little bit on what Dr. Crighton just said. We tailor our programs and services to address what our employees need. Then to figure that out, we look at the demographics of our workforce and see what the trends are. For example, we look at the age of our workforce and see the average age is 45 years old.

These individuals are still taking care of their children and they are now starting to care for aging loved ones. So, when there's an emergency around care or a need to find good child and adult care, they take days off work to find it or they work at their desk to find it. If they're focused on those things, and how to pay for it, they're not focused on the work.

Through our health and wellness program, we offer discounted, child and adult care services that our employees are increasingly using, as well as other life and health services that are free or highly discounted. All of these programs help alleviate employee stress around having to plan.

This is the same reason we have eight health clinics at our different large offices in the United States. Employees can come and get their blood work done and don't have to take off from work to go get it at a lab. They can also see a doctor or a nurse and get free flu shots there. All of these programs working together relieve not only the broad health issues, but also the financial issues associated with it.

CWM - Do you think financial wellness is just a trend?

AC - Financial wellness has been a focus for more than five years at Prudential. We have measured its impact and have watched its effectivness.

CWM - How do you convince somebody that financial wellness is part of that overall broad definition of health?

AC - Our employees embrace it easily. I think what happened is the industry has narrowed the view of wellness to a standpoint, but our employees experiencing this stress see it as part of their overall health.

CWM - How do you measure improvement in overall employee health?

AC - We measure it with our HRA, and analyze it with the Edington Risk Profile, which breaks the data down to low, medium and high-risk groups. Since we started the HRA in 2000, we've monitored these risk groups, and have gone from 76 percent of our population being low risk to just more than 85 percent.

MC - Five years ago, before we started hitting the financial health and the broader aspects of health beyond physical, we went sent out a daily e-letter to every employee. We conducted a survey through this e-letter asking employees how they define health and whether or not they are healthy. Unprompted, the employees themselves mentioned all the broader aspects of health. We heard that financial wellness was important to them.

CWM - Is there one program that stands out as very successful?

AC - No, because again we're not program-focused. We do have a health strategy, but there are multiple programs, so we're always trying to identify a program that fits the employees' needs versus the other way around, where you have a specific program and the employee has to fit that need.

We look at participation, we look at customer service feedback we look at how they utilize the product, and how they felt it met their needs. But to say there is one that is knocking it out I could not tell you that.

CWM - Can you give me an example of one of your programs?

MC - So, the health organization is also responsible for the flexible schedule policy at Prudential. In 2001, 9 percent of the U.S. population was counted as having some kind of flexible work arrangement whether it was part time, flex-time, telecommuting, job sharing or compressed work-weeks. In 2014, at the end of the year, we were at 80 percent of the U.S. population having some kind of flexible work arrangement.

This has been recently identified in the 2014 Total Rewards survey conducted at Prudential as the number three retention driver of why people stay with us. Some people would maybe not look at flex schedules as a health strategy, rather as a retention strategy, but it is.

It enables people to manage their work and life responsibilities and lowers their stress, avoiding things like depression that result from stress.Between 2009 and 2014, the utilization of childcare at the firm tripled and the utilization of adult care, which includes things like in-home care, quadrupled. We also get around 27,000 visits to our clinics a year.

- Our employee populat ion-about 80 percent- will come into an onsite clinic at least once a year. We are able to get one-on-one contact. We get this great participation by listening to our employees. For example, they did not value the telephonic coaching, so we now have two onsite coaches at two of our large sites, as well as two dedicated coaching coaches in our call center.

MC - Our behavioral health professionals are certified in life coaching as well. People use life coaching for everything from planning their future to just making a plan for things they wanted like household projects.

AC - They also use it for getting a degree. They will work with a life coach to set up specific goals to finalize that dream.Our second opinion vendor, Best Doctors, which is open to employees as well as their parents and parents in- laws, makes us unique. Understand that those employees in that sandwich generation can't pay attention to things at home and at work at the same time. So we open this up for people and their parents. If they're having a health issue, Best Doctors will help them understand what's going on and give them recommendations.

MC - Last year, I used it with my mom. We got a second opinion on a cancer diagnosis. Her oncologist was thrilled with the second opinion from an internationally known doctor for that disease in her area. He reviewed what her oncologist had done, confirmed her diagnosis and gave his thoughts. The oncologist then tweaked her treatment. Overall, it was wonderful for our peace-of-mind and thankfully she is well. If we had to do this without this benefit, it would have cost $8,000.

CWM - Can you quantify on what Prudential has invested in this, and what you've gotten back?

AC - It's hard to quantify, but we do pay a yearly fee. I don't have 2014 data right off, but I know in 2013, 40 percent of the diagnoses were changed and 70 percent of the treatment recommendations were changed.

CWM - So where do you see this broad definition of corporate wellness going?

AC - I think it's tied to performance because we've defined each of the five dimensions of health from an individual perspective and what people should be focusing on. We have defined it all the way up through the business to what leadership should be doing. We also support the local community through corporate wellness. For example, when we rotate our fitness equipment out, we donate it to the City of Newark to put in their community centers.

Through our corporate social responsibility group, we donate to food banks. Eating well is part of the definition of physical health. We are pulling away from a strictly medical viewpoint and trying to embed corporate wellness within the organization so it's not just health that's pushing us. We're trying to make it part of our culture.

MC - Another thing we've engaged in the last few years is sponsoring and participating in research that not only informs our own internal health strategy, but also helps the world at large. Maybe Dr. Crighton can speak to a couple of the studies that we've done.

AC - One is where we looked at the impact of telecommuting on health. This study is currently under review and will be published for the American Journal of Health Promotion, potentially in 2015. For another, we are looking at health disparities, which have been a focus of ours since 2015. We were looking at the participation rates of our wellness programs by various races, and we found the African-American population underrepresented.

We made efforts to change our messaging and brought that up to the expected participation level based on the demographics of Prudential. While some companies look at outcome-based incentives and the like, we focused on the prevalence of things like diseases by race.We found in our population that African-Americans at Prudential had a much higher prevalence of hypertension, diabetes and high BMI than the caucasian population.

We want to examine this further and see if we can reduce this issue, but because we did not have a statistically significant population, we worked with our data warehouse to look at 1.3 million employees across 46 companies that examined race data, too. We found their figures were similar to ours. This is a problem we are still working to address.

CWM - What is your philosophy on incentives?

MC - We haven't gone into incentive- based programming to achieve outcomes. We prefer to hit hard with communications and programming, because these get outcomes to where we want. This is very controversial because most of the groups are really pushing the incentives hard.

AC - I think incentives are short lived. Research has not shown incentives to change the risk profile in the long run. Leadership commitment and communication go a much longer way to engage people to make behavior changes. We foster this by grading the worksite. We make sure that the worksite is supporting physical activity, nutrition, safety and out other pillars of wellness. Every two years, we go to the worksites and examine how they're maintaining employee health.

CWM - And how would they do that?

AC - We had some sites that maybe scored a bit low, so they sponsored walking paths onsite. They made sure that people had the ability to walk inside during the wintertime; things like that, as well as our cafeteria offering of a 20-percent discount for healthy food options, which, in turn, increases healthy food sales. This shows employees that we're willing to invest time and energy into supporting their health, rather than just throwing money at incentives. They see the workplace is supporting them.

MC - When one of our sites found that obesity was an issue, it sponsored a local competition that people could participate in for prizes. The result: 16 participants lost a total of 600 pounds. If we had given them each $150 and said, Here, go lose some weight, how many would have? Instead, they saw that there is a fun, competitive and supportive environment. However, we do give one incentive. We give $150 to take the HRA and to perform two healthy activities.

They don't get the money if they just take the HRA. That's the only incentive we offer and 78 percent of our employees take the health-risk assessment, and a large chunk of that don't apply for the money at all. Our people are just really excited about their health and participating. If it works here, it could work elsewhere.

CWM - How do you challenge negative reports about corporate wellness?

AC - ROI has never important for us. We did an ROI analysis back in 2010 when we won the Koop Award. We were very conservative in our methodologies. Other firms include presenteeism and things like that, we did not. We actually subtracted people whose health risk did not improve. We were still able to show a positive. We're not focused on just the physical health and costs.

We're focused on the teams within Prudential performing at their best, where they feel like they're part of something bigger, that their management supports them. I look at this more from talent and performance perspectives rather than just a medicalcost ROI.

MC - When people research and write articles advocating for certain trends, are they looking at every case study done by successful companies? You've seen how Prudential does it. I don't know how unique we are, but we're getting the results that we want. Of course, we always want more. We might be an outlier, but I think companies could learn from some of the basic things we are doing, like learning what motivates employees, what engages them and what they really need to be successful for themselves and their families.