Employers offer wellness programs to reduce administrative costs and create a positive employee experience. Despite constant changes in the U.S. healthcare system and legislation, employer-sponsored employee benefits are a key asset to employees' compensation and fuels the competitive workforce that exists today.
A 2015 Employee Benefits Report, by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) indicates that 58 percent of employers offered the same amount of benefits and 35 percent increased the number of benefits they offered to their employees in 2015. Considering that the healthcare industry and providers are absorbing much of the profits in the aftermath of Obamacare, employers are constantly seeking methods to reduce costs, yet remain competitive in the employee market.
Unknowing of the future healthcare landscape, employers have shifted their human capital management strategy to focus on offering wellness programs and other worksite incentives to add value to employees' compensation, reduce their insurance premiums, and increase their organization's productivity.
The patterns in healthcare spending directly impact the other types of benefits employers offer. For instance, the Employer Responsibility Provision of the ACA required employers to offer health coverage to all full-time employees and skyrocketed employer-paid costs of benefits.
As a result, employers eliminated some of their healthcare plan benefits and offered Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) instead. HSAs help reduces both employer-paid premiums and employee out-of-pocket costs of high-deductibles. SHRM's 2016 Employee Benefits Report notes that organizations offering HSAs increased 7 percent from 2015 to 2016.
Coinciding the need to reduce administrative costs, the growing trend in human capital management is systematically developing a positive employee experience, which not only includes a comprehensive employee benefits package, but also digital tools, social and cognitive engagement, and mobility.
Deloitte surveyed over 10,400 businesses and HR leaders across the globe and found the employee experience and the organization of their business to be among the top talent management objectives aimed at optimizing human capital and achieving operational efficiencies. The consumerization of wellness programs has sprouted many existing, new, and highly innovative wellness solutions and participating providers.
Data from wellness program success demonstrates that when employees do participate in an employer's wellness initiatives, it does gain a return on investment (ROI). A RAND study shows that employers saved 87 percent on healthcare costs when offering disease management programs.
Yet, as much as employers try to push their employees into taking advantage of rich wellness programs that help keep them fit and healthy (and productive at work), many simply do not. This makes employers on the edge of offering a wellness program as part of their employees' benefits offerings take a step back.
CLUES to Wellness
There are factors of predictability that all successful, high ROI wellness programs have that employers can use to evaluate their options when shopping for a wellness program. The five CLUES to Wellness help employers and HR professionals gauge whether a particular wellness program will be effective in their employee benefits strategy.
Of course, this is a major contributor to whether a wellness program will be effective-because when measuring ROI, even if the majority of employees participate if the dollar-for-dollar return is not more than what is spent on the program, the ROI will be limited.
Investigating the types of activities, the ease at which these are performed by employees, and the cost for each activity offers insight as to whether a program will be cost-effective. For instance, having employees complete an annual health and lifestyle assessment to maintain health may be more cost-effective if offering employees convenient locations at which to get the assessment. More employees will participate, which decreases the cost of the program.
Longevity relates to the employee. As an employee completes each step or activity in the program, what are the incentives, and do these incentives end after a certain number of activities has been performed? As employees continue to engage in the wellness program, they must be offered more rather than less.
A common attribute of many wellness programs is to have employees complete a few activities, such as a biometric screening and obtaining a gym membership, then fail to offer new and exciting opportunities for engagement and incentivizing employees to participate. A rich wellness program lasts the life of an employee experience, sustaining health and overall wellbeing.
A wellness program must be easily implemented, marketed, and administered for the HR professional. More importantly, a program must be easily used by employees. The digital age has afforded humans many advanced communicative and automation tools, and there is not any space this is more visible than in the growing world of wellness administration.
Employees desire easy-to-use online platforms that enable them to monitor their progress and status. Whether it be a bank account, a clothing store, or a wellness program, employees will be more likely to use a program if it is easily accessed and updated via online communication.
Integrated benefits administration technology is capable of connecting to online wellness platforms and exchange data, update employees' statuses and provide automatic notifications to HR upon employees' completion of steps or activities. Employees receive constant motivational cues from HR, and HR gains analytical insight on the entire employee population through real-time data and robust reports.
This coincides with usability. Employers must understand their employee population, employee demographics, and even past healthcare data when assessing whether a wellness program is a right fit for their unique workforce. To be valuable, a wellness program must offer employees the ability to improve their health and wellness, as well as be rewarding.
A young, healthy workforce will not gain much value from a wellness program that only offers biometric screenings and chronic disease prevention education, yet will willingly participate in programs that rewarded with monthly massage and relaxation benefits. Efficacy is employer-specific and concerns their unique employees.
This term is often tossed about in the business world because it is simply essential, and most often, relevant to any situation involving business operations, employees, and technology. As evidence of the healthcare system, federal regulations, employee populations, and progressive technology, the pace of business is rapid and ever-changing; thus, any solution that offers support of employers' operations and human capital management must be dependable, flexible, and able to adapt to the changing needs and goals of the company.
An online enrollment and benefits administration system that integrate with wellness programs provides a single interface for employees to use to enroll in benefits and learn about their plans. By leveraging benefits administration technology, employers are able to afford and offer comprehensive employee benefits packages that facilitate a positive employee experience.
Employers seeking to reduce administrative costs, engage employees, and drive workplace efficiencies use the CLUES to Wellness scale to understand which wellness program will be effectively implemented in their employee benefits strategy.
About the Author
Jessica Lynn Campbell is Marketing Executive and Technical Writer for Web Benefits Design. She has a Master's in English-Technical Communication, a Bachelor's in Psychology, and is currently obtaining a Ph.D. in Texts and Technology.
Jessica is an expert and experienced technical communicator, author, and multi-media manager having been published on multiple media platforms including print and online. She is skilled in APA, MLA, Chicago, and Bluebook citation styles. Web Benefits Design is a leading national employee benefits technology firm, who develops a complete, cloud-based employee benefits platform.
The Web Benefits Design's full-service employee benefits administration solution encompasses a highly complex, efficient, and integrated technology, administration, compliance, and communication platform written on a unified codebase. Jessica can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 407-810-7542.