HR Management & Compliance

Current Trends in Wellness—How Does Your Program Compare?

In yesterday’s Advisor, Consultant Karl Ahlrichs shared tips on how to save big with disease management programs. Today, he reveals the latest trends in successful wellness programs.

Ahlrichs, who is a consultant with Gregory & Appel Insurance, offered his tips at BLR’s Advanced Employment Issues Symposium, held recently in Las Vegas. Here is his take on current trends:

Current Health and Wellness Trends

  • Worksite biometric screenings and preventive services
  • Emphasis on sustainable lifestyle and behavior changes
    • No longer short fix (quick diet or exercise jog)
  • Focus on self-care
  • On‐site clinics
  • Telephonic wellness coaching
    • Exercise
    • Nutrition
    • Weight loss
  • Incentives to increase participation in wellness programs
    • Cash/gifts
    • Premium reduction
    • Noncash gifts
  • Disincentives to drive healthy behaviors
    • Premium increase
    • Copay increases
    • Reduced benefits
  • Worksite walking programs
    • Self‐reporting pedometer programs
    • Group walking
  • Worksite exercise facilities (mostly at larger self-funded companies)
  • Worksite weight loss programs
    • Weight Watchers®
    • Employee-supported programs

Behaviors that Impact Health Costs

Unfortunately, many “voluntary behaviors” contribute to poor health. For example:

  • Sedentary living
  • Poor diet
  • Obesity
  • Tobacco

In addition, says Ahlrichs:

  • Approximately 60% of emergency visits are clinically inappropriate.
  • Approximately 30% of physician office visits are not clinically necessary.
  • Approximately 25% of prescribed medications are not necessary.
  • Only 45% of patients comply with the medical advice they receive.

(Larry Chapman, Wise Health/Senior VP WebMD)

What types of programs do you offer as part of your wellness initiative?


Source: MyWave® Health Care Reform Survey

What sort of incentives are being offered?


Source: MyWave Health Care Reform Survey

Where Is Wellness Going?

Ahlrichs suggests that managers look toward the following:

  • Culture of wellness
  • In‐person coaching
  • Mobile aps
  • Device programs
  • Outcome-based programs
  • Clinical intervention (i.e., RN, pharmacist, dietician)
  • Employee assistance programs
  • Health Savings Account (HSA) incentives incorporated with High Deductible Health Plans (HDHP)
  • Mental health


It’s the brave new world of HR. Start your strategic thinking with BLR’s new practical guide: HR Playbook: HR’s Game Plan for the Future.


Why Wellness Fails

What can reduce the likelihood of success for wellness plans? Ahlrichs says:

  • Lack of senior-level support of an employee health and wellness program.
  • Employers question why they should pay/use company time for employee wellness.
  • Companies do not have a clear health and wellness goal tied into their strategic plans.
  • Lack of reliable return on investment (ROI) to demonstrate program success as it relates to healthcare savings and productivity.

Do a Wellness Strategic Plan

One activity that can be very helpful is to develop a wellness strategic plan, Ahlrichs says.

  • It should be a facilitated process that you embark on jointly with a trusted advisor.
  • You should use a proven strategic planning process to explore the business and human capital management issues of your organization.

How Will You Benefit from a Strategic Plan?

  • You will get a thorough road map for your benefits and wellness program spanning 3 to 5 years.
  • The plan will help to build consensus on human capital management goals and the benefits program.
  • The budget planning process will be easier.
  • You will have contingency plans in the event of unexpected cost increases.
  • Human Resources and Wellness are then emphasized as critical business partners for achieving bottom‐line profitability in the organization.

From wellness to engagement to development, the brave new world of HR is here. Are you prepared for changes that are unparalleled in scope and impact?

  • Employees all over the world, many of whom you’ve never met in person
  • Technological advances and big data
  • Talent management challenges like Millennials managing Baby Boomers you once thought would have retired years ago
  • Big data on everything from hiring strategies to retention predictions
  • Sweeping regulatory changes in the areas of health care, immigration, and privacy that have necessitated massive changes in the way you do business
  • And the new normal—doing more … with less


HR 2015? Time to start planning with BLR’s new HR Playbook. Find out more or order here—HR Playbook: HR’s Game Plan for the Future.


It’s a lot to keep track of—and it’s not going to get easier. To help you get your head around big-picture strategy for 2015 and beyond, HR’s Game Plan for the Future provides a detailed rundown of trends, case studies, and best practices in the following areas:

  • Recruiting and Hiring
  • Onboarding
  • Social Media and Technology
  • Human Resources Information Systems (HRIS)
  • Flexibility and Work/Life Balance
  • Outsourcing
  • Diversity
  • Talent Management
  • Employee Engagement and Retention
  • Succession Planning
  • Telecommuting

Find out more or order here—HR’s Game Plan for the Future.