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Wellness Communications Breakdown

Originally posted by United Benefit Advisors (UBA)

Not all benefits communication efforts are equally successful.

A recent Jellyvision Lab survey, in which more than 400 workers were polled at companies with more than 2,000 employees, found that while most companies do a great job of getting the word out about open enrollment to their employees, when it comes to wellness programs there is a communication breakdown.
Specifically, the results showed:
  • 79 percent correctly identified open enrollment as a time when they are allowed to make changes to their benefits
  • While 77.6 percent said it’s at least “somewhat important” for their employers to provide a wellness program, nearly one in five workers couldn’t say for sure if their company even had one
  • Almost half (45.3 percent) falsely believed they’d have to pay to take advantage of their companies’ wellness programs
In regard to the last statistic, Jellyvision Lab founder Harry Gottlieb pointed out in an HR Examiner article that “you can’t help but wonder how many people opt out of wellness programming that could help them manage their weight, stay on top of their prescribed medications, or cease smoking simply because they perceive it as pay-for-play.”
Effective communication is even more important since employers are increasingly offering expanded wellness programs. According to the 2013 UBA Health Plan Survey, 56.2 percent of employers with wellness programs now offer coaching, a 4.9 percent increase, and 42 percent offer seminars or workshops, a 0.5 percent increase. To ensure effectiveness of these offerings, employers need to be sure they are well utilized.

With current communication practices not working sufficiently, what can companies do to better educate employees about their wellness programs? Gottlieb told Human Resource Executive Online that it’s crucial to examine communication from the employees’ perspective. Rather than a one-size-fits-all presentation, a format preferred by just 13.8 percent of employees, he suggests companies provide employees with more personal interaction with experts, since that has been shown to be most helpful and allows for workers to ask questions and express concerns.

Other tips for communicating with employees about wellness programs to help increase engagement and participation include:

  • Explain how the wellness programs can keep them healthy, help reduce their need for medical care and even reduce the cost of their benefits
  • Provide information in simple-to-understand terms (avoid medical jargon) in a variety of formats (e.g., in person, via a website, through a blog)
  • Make it clear that results of any wellness program data will be kept confidential
Finally, communicating about wellness should go beyond connecting with employees to also reach their family members. “88.6 percent want family members included because many benefits include family members,” Gottlieb told Human Resource Executive Online. “We offer benefits because we want to attract and retain better talent and benefits make sure the talent is productive. A huge part of that is the influence of family members. If your spouse is listening to you and what you’re doing at work, that will affect them. Providing benefits to their family members, but not connecting with the family members is a huge missed opportunity.”

Ways to do this include using the Internet to target communication to spouses and other family members in a personalized way and even inviting family members on-site, such as when Texas Instruments invited employees’ children to a summer fitness camp, Human Resources Executive Online reported.

Ultimately, it is clear that wellness communications can improve, and by making significant improvements, companies can get better results from their wellness programs.