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Q&A with Inspirus’ Senior Vice President Theresa Harkins-Schulz

What are some of the ways in which employers are using benefits today to drive greater employee engagement?

Providing benefits isn’t just about employee engagement. Employees are the foundation of your culture, and benefits are an important part of a rich workplace experience that encourages the development of a high-performing organization.

Employers that provide a strong employee experience typically do most or all of the following:

    • Align benefits with the needs of your people. For example, with so many generations in the workforce, organizations need to provide and value a broader set of benefits.
    • Clearly communicate benefits and make them easy to use. Research from SHRM indicated that just 14 percent of employees were very knowledgeable about their employer-provided benefits
    • Recognize healthy behaviors. Although weight loss or step challenges are popular, be aware that some employees prefer to take on challenges more privately. Activities such as regular preventive visits and encouraging recognition for everyday healthy choices can be more effective and increase engagement.
  • Create a sustaining culture of health. Employees drive culture, so employee buy-in is critical for any benefit to be successful. Companies need to make sure they regularly evaluate their benefits mix to maximize its impact on employees.

Lastly, benefits are a part of the entire employment journey. It’s worthwhile to figure out what’s right for your organization.

What are some steps employers should be taking to encourage employees to take more responsibility for their overall well-being?

The Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine has shown that companies that focus on the well-being of workers have, in multiple studies, consistently outperformed the stock market. Of course, employees must be open to improving their well-being. Here are a few steps we would recommend to help employees take greater responsibility:

    • Create a workplace that’s health-forward. More organizations are focusing on creating an environment that’s conducive for well-being, according to Sodexo’s 2017 Global Workplace Trends report. This means adapting work and the workplace so that both are truly wellness-focused and improve all dimensions of quality of life.
    • Incentivize well-being. According to a HealthMine survey, 68 percent of employees would engage more in their wellness program if there were better incentives. Given that people spend about 30 percent of their lives at work, the first step to change often starts with encouragement in the workplace.
  • Ensure a safe workplace. Creating awareness for a safe physical environment increases employee safety, health and well-being.

Ultimately, it’s up to the employer to create an environment where employee well-being can grow and improve.

How do you anticipate the employee-benefits landscape changing in the next five years?

We understand that there’s a lot of uncertainty about the Affordable Care Act here in the U.S. and that it might have a large impact on the way benefits are delivered in the next five years. Regardless of those changes, we see some adjustments that organizations are already starting to embrace:

    • Simplifying their benefits offering. Making benefits easier to understand involves carefully curating a selection of benefits for employees that makes sense instead of putting out every available option.
    • Providing education and tools for better health decisions. According to Willis Towers Watson, 43 percent of employers will provide healthcare decision support, and we continue to see more interest — especially from employees — in being better-educated healthcare consumers.
  • Go mobile. The same study from Willis Towers Watson says that by 2018, 95 percent of employers will deliver health and well-being messages through mobile apps and portals.

More employers are also seeing the direct connection between creating a culture of well-being and enriching the employee experience — increasing engagement and performance. That goes beyond incentivizing healthy employee behaviors to educating them and inspiring action.