A struggle many employers face is deriving the most value from their benefits investments and encouraging employee participation in company health and wellness programs. At a fundamental level, most employers offer similar benefits and, when put side by side, they can often add up to as many as 67 individual services or programs for employees to consider. Most employees however, cannot easily compare these benefits, much less understand how to get the most value from them.
While some employers have made significant expenditures updating their benefits to better serve a modern workforce, deploying these programs and demonstrating a quantifiable return on investment (ROI) is challenging.
To derive the most value from their benefits investments, employers must develop a clearly defined communications strategy to educate employees on their benefits and ensure their programs are personalized to an employee’s unique needs.
Communication Critical to Benefits Success
One of the most critical factors to success for any benefits initiative or wellness program is effective communication. While it’s true that some employees will proactively research their benefits, most employees take a passive approach, which calls for a certain level of education before proper utilization and outcomes. This requires the employer to consistently communicate with employees on how to access their benefits, what they can (or should) utilize benefits for, and how to select the ones best suited to their individual needs.
Of course, communication should not stop once an employee has selected the right benefits. Rather than focusing solely on what benefits are available, employers must also help employees understand how and why they should utilize their benefits to achieve desired results. This can be done through a multichannel communication strategy, including not only educational courses or series, monthly newsletters, and team challenges or exercises but also taking advantage of modern technologies such as push-notifications and centralized dashboards.
Communications should not solely be driven from the top of the organization or through an HR department as well. Instead, supervisors and middle managers must take an active role in guiding and educating employees about their benefits and promoting the company’s wellness culture to their employees. As with most internal efforts, if an employee’s supervisor is not bought in to a program or championing its use, it’s unlikely employees will either.
Using Data to Drive Utilization
Keep in mind, offering a uniform wellness program for all employees is never an effective approach. Focusing on employees without including family members is nothing but a lost opportunity to further engage them and the employee with the company’s overall culture of health and wellness. This is a loss of opportunity to engage and help them. Generalized programs usually only attract the healthiest employees or those who already demonstrate high levels of productivity and health and do not require employer incentives to utilize their benefits.
Instead, through the use of data and analytics, employers can create personalized holistic wellness programs for individuals or population groups. For example, if data indicate that a significant portion of an employer’s staff struggles with diabetes, the wellness program for that group should be optimized to include guidance for those employees and their families to manage their condition and improve their health. By targeting those specific individuals, employers can ensure they are effectively communicating and engaging with those who need it most.
Just as employee communication and personalization is key to the success of any benefits program, so too is ease of use. Employer benefits are often siloed into various different platforms that require employees to hunt down and locate their benefits. This is an ineffective strategy and only serves to further discourage employees from utilizing the company’s investment.
Instead, employers should centralize these programs into one core platform. Using a company-branded mobile app, employers can create a centralized dashboard of available services for employees to access from anywhere, at any time. Employees, thanks to the use of single sign-on, would no longer be required to memorize a multitude of passwords or websites, but instead, can select the service they need quickly and easily. This approach frees information from the workplace to home and allows family members, who typically are key decision-makers, to also participate in the employee’s benefits, selection, and utilization.
Not only does this centralization increase benefits utilization, it also improves employee satisfaction levels and serves as a powerful recruitment and retention tool for HR.
With communication, personalization, and ease-of-use as the core foundation of a company’s benefits efforts, employers can enhance their efforts to attract and retain high-value employees, while reaping the benefits of a healthier and more productive workforce.
Dinesh Sheth is founder and CEO of Green Circle Health, which is dedicated to using innovative technologies to improve the health and well-being of employees and their families. For more information, follow Green Circle Health on Twitter (@GreenCircleH), and visit www.greencirclehealth.com.