Determining what makes a wellness program successful can be very subjective based on what the investor of the program expects to receive out of it. Does having healthier employees who use less sick time make a wellness program successful or does the continued investment in an employee’s HSA make the program? Is physical health the goal or is it financial, or mental, or even social? To ensure a client has the best wellness program, an adviser must be able to determine what it is their client is seeking.
Companies such as Schneider Electric focus their wellness program on physical health and create health status awareness by providing the tools, resources and education for employees to continue to stay healthy through their health and fitness reimbursement program, health coaching, local and national activities.
“Our ambition is to help individuals and teams to unleash their potential and make the most of their energy,” says Kim Bors, senior vice president of HR at Schneider Electric. “Achieving recognition as one of the Healthiest Companies in America validates our commitment to our employees in helping them to achieve their health goals and maintain their overall well-being to ensure that their life is on at every moment.”
Addressing the whole person
Cathy Kenworthy, president and CEO of Interactive Health, says the most effective approach to wellness is through addressing emotional and physical needs of each person.
“The Healthiest Companies in America award recipients prove that employers can both engage their employees and improve their health outcomes,” Kenworthy says. “With holistic, engaging and personalized workplace wellness programs that encourage and achieve great participation, employees lead healthier and more productive lives.”
Jeff Oldham, vice president of consumer strategy at Benefitfocus, takes the route of financial wellness and says for the majority of millennials entering the workforce managing financial stability comes first in well-being priorities.
“While there was probably a time when people evaluated their employer based on salary and a particular medical plan contribution, I think that is beginning to go away,” Oldham says. “What we’re seeing with large employers is that in order to recruit and retain, specifically millennials, you have to help them with their overwhelming student loan debt.”
Oldham used Pricewaterhouse Coopers as an example of a company that is offering such a benefit to its employees. In September of 2015, PwC launched a new employee benefit that would pay $1,200 a year for its associates and senior associates, those employees who have 1-6 years’ work experience, to help reduce their student loan debt.
Overtime, this benefit would help reduce student loan principal and interest obligations by as much as $10,000 per employee, and shorten loan payoff periods by up to three years.
“There’s a good friend of mine whose daughter was just hired at PwC and when she received her offer letter, the student loan refinancing and repayment was literally the second bullet point behind the salary,” Oldham says. “So that tells you how important it is to a large company like PwC to offer such a benefit.”
What’s the problem?
Stacey Nevara, vice president of client relations at Interactive Health, says an adviser needs to determine what their clients are trying solve from creating a wellness program.
“Are they trying to do a really positive thing for the culture of their organization and looking to just create health awareness,” Nevara says. “Or, are they looking to really put forward something that is more aligned with their health plan, something much more comprehensive, where they’re trying to make a difference as far as health outcomes are concerned?”
Nevara says if the client is just trying to create awareness, the program may not last longer than just a onetime event, but if they are seeking better health engagement, than the employer needs to commit to the wellness or well-being program strategy.
“Once understanding what the intent is, then the question is, ‘How am I going to measure success?’” she says. “I think that question has to be answered so that at the end of a program they are able to look back and assess whether that program is meeting the objective that the employer set out to achieve.”
Crowley Holdings, Inc. is one company that specifically laid out its objectives for pursuing a wellness program and then put the strategy into action. Initially, Crowley’s objectives were to:
- Continue reducing healthcare costs
- Improve health outcomes
- Increase program participation by both employees and their spouses
- Use the program as an employee recruitment and retention tool
- Enhance the company’s overall culture of wellness
“We have taken a proactive approach in creating a work environment that nurtures the many dimensions of engagement, reinforcing healthy behaviors, increasing performance and controlling healthcare expenditures,” says Tom Crowley, CEO of Crowley Holdings, Inc. “This has been done through a comprehensive program we call, ‘Live Well – For Today and Tomorrow,’ which incorporates incentives, coaching and goal setting to improve the total health and well-being of our employees.”
Oldham says there is a direct correlation between physical and financial wellness and being able to remedy the problem in one area may lead to the improvement of the other.
“Numerous studies show with financial wellness effects when people are at work, how they are contributing to presentism, it impacts their ability to focus and their output or productivity,” he says. “So while I’m specifically speaking about financial wellness, I find it very interesting how closely related [physical and financial wellness] are.”
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