Health risk factors: How advisers help clients

Identifying the health risk factors for your clients' employee population is the fabric of your wellness bag of tricks. An effective program connects a total wellness solution to those specific risks. The trick is finding the right motivator for changing unhealthy behavior.


Tap into generational differences

Human resource professionals understand the impact of different generations in the workplace. With more employees delaying retirement, many of your clients are experiencing four generations of workers. Each generation has unique values, behaviors and push-buttons for motivation.

Traditionalists (1900-1945) put the company first and believe in "paying your dues." They believe in a top-down management approach and have the expectation that their opinions carry more weight.

Baby Boomers (1946-1964) are driven workaholics that work long hours to establish their self-worth. Some struggle with authority figures and may become insulted by "too much" feedback.

Generation X (1965-1980) are linear thinkers who prefer to work smarter - not longer - hours, with greater output. They work only as hard as needed and are unimpressed by titles.

Generation Y (1981-2000) are circular thinkers who consider all possibilities and are multi-taskers. They are anxious to move on to the next task.

These are general characteristics of the four generations. Not every employee associated with a specific generation shares the same traits. However, understanding the differences provides you with clues on how and when these employees want to receive communication. If you are going to reach them about their health risks, you must tap into their magic motivator.

When considering wellness program incentives, tailor them to appeal to the four generations. For example, Traditionalists value mentoring roles or cash rewards, while Boomers respond to recognition, like a wellness champion designation or bonuses for achievements. Gen Xers appreciate personal life rewards, such as a weekend trip, and Gen Yers welcome technology perks like gift certificates for music, iPods or software applications.

Understand the generational values, and respect the individual differences.


Think like a marketer

Use your skills as a marketer in helping your clients learn what motivates their employees in making healthier decisions. A popular marketing concept is known as the '4 Ps': Product, Place, Price and Promotion.

* Product: The product for wellness initiatives is as individual as your clients and their employees. Creating the right product starts with the question, "What does the customer want and need?"

For your client, the answer may be decreasing the number of absences. Employees may want to quit smoking and need the support to do so. Employee surveys deliver the "wants" of individual employees. Health risk assessments identify the needs for improving health.

* Place: The demographics of your clients may vary by location, department or job functions. Furnishing the right product relies on your understanding of the demographics for each client. For example, field workers often have different wants and needs than those of office workers. Motivation starts by designing wellness activities for specific employee groups.

* Price: Decision-makers may dismiss wellness initiatives as an unaffordable expense. The trick is getting them onboard with cost-neutral or low-cost alternatives. For example, use a differential contribution strategy where employees who participate in health risk assessments and screenings receive a discount on their contributions. Cover the cost of HRAs and screenings through the non-participant contributions.

* Promotion: Communication brings the wellness show center-stage. It is as much an art as finding the secret to motivation. Take all you learned about your client's employee population and speak to employees how they want, when they want. Collect information your client may already have, such as Web-monitoring activity or the number of hits on the company intranet. Use the insight to your best advantage for promoting wellness initiatives.

Think like a marketer to reveal what clients and employees want and need. Then customize wellness initiatives to meet the budget, demographics and preferred communication channels.

Taylor, CWPM, is a consultant and certified wellness program manager at Intercare Insurance Solutions in San Diego.

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