HR executives and business leaders are not always aligned about employee well-being or wellness solution buy-in, new research shows, signaling a need for adviser help to bridge the disconnect.

Optum’s seventh annual workplace study surveyed wellness budgets, return on investment (ROI), incentive strategies and challenges in building a culture of health among companies of all sizes.

Seventeen percent of HR executives versus 30% of business leaders think employee well-being is” very good,” according Optum Health’s Seventh Annual Wellness in the Workplace Study, conducted by the Optum Resource Center for Health & Well-Being.

On the other hand, 41% of HR executives versus 32% of business leaders say wellness solutions are important to the benefits mix.

Seth Serxner, chief health officer for Optum says it is important for benefit advisers and consultants to make sure that both HR executives and business leaders are all on the same page when it comes to understanding their wellness programs.

“[Advisers] might think they have everyone on board when speaking to HR executives,” Serxner says. “However, when HR goes to pitch this program to a CFO or members of the C-Suite, they may need to adjust how they present the business case.”

While HR managers view some of the non-financial productivity and moral factors that are important in a wellness program, the non-HR managers are focused on the bottom line, ROI, cost containment and healthcare cost issues, he adds.

“[Non-HR managers] tend to think the population is healthier and more well than the HR folks,” Serxner says. “So they may not think there is as much of a problem as the people who are closer to the data and understand the health risk condition of the population.”

Optum’s survey did find that wellness budgets are not decreasing, but are actually increasing. Twenty-eight percent of employers increased their wellness program budgets, according to the survey, up from 22% last year.

Serxner says advisers should use the data gathered in this study to help ground their clients in respect to what is happening within the client’s respected industry and with their peers.

“Clients will ask, ‘where do I sit in terms of culture of health, how am I doing with how I am investing my money,’ and what we find is it is very helpful to share some of these benchmarks about what other clients are doing and what the trend over time has been,” Serxner says.

Optum’s seventh annual workplace study surveyed wellness budgets, return on investment (ROI), incentive strategies and challenges in building a culture of health among companies of all sizes.

Optum surveyed 554 benefit professionals at U.S. companies across a variety of industries, which offer at least two types of wellness programs to employees. The size of respondent companies ranged from 20% small companies with two to 99 employees, to 38% jumbo employers with 10,000 or more employees.

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