Employee Education and Accountability Help Manage Health Costs

38% of employers say they have seen desired changes in employee behavior

By SHRM Online staff Nov 16, 2011

As employer-provided health benefits become a bigger portion of labor costs, organizations are increasing employee cost-sharing as well as providing employee health education, wellness initiatives and financial education and advice, according to theEmployee Benefits Accountability and Consumerism 2011survey by WorldatWork.

From July 20 through Aug. 5, 2011, WorldatWork surveyed its members—predominantly HR, compensation and benefits professionals working in large U.S. companies.Among the findings, 45 percent of surveyed organizations reported that turning employees into educated consumers of benefits was a "very high priority" for their organization’s top management, with more senior leaders acting as advocates.

“It’s interesting to note that, although the top human resources executive is still the primary champion of employee benefits consumerism, we saw an uptick in respondents reporting that the CEO, president or another member of the senior leadership team is their primary advocate,” said Lenny Sanicola, a WorldatWork certified benefits professional. “What this tells me is that benefits and especially health care is increasingly being recognized as directly impacting bottom-line profits.”

Other Health Benefit Findings

Among other survey highlights regarding health care benefits:

Consuner-directed health plan (CDHP) options are being offered by more companies (47 percent in 2011 vs. 27 percent in 2006) as a way to manage costs, and a greater number are offering health savings account-based plans as their preferred choice.

As a result of their efforts to make employees better consumers of health care, 38 percent of employers say they have seen desired changes in employee behavior .

Health care reform does not appear to be the primary driver for the trend toward offering more CDHP options. Although 31 percent reported that their efforts toward offering CDHPs increased because of reform, 67 percent reported that their efforts stayed the same.

Financial Education

Regarding another benefit area, the number of organizations offering financial education and financial advice to their employees increased from 22 percent in 2006 to 36 percent in 2011, the survey found.

“With the recent economic downturn, it is surprising that there are not more employers embracing this opportunity to offer financial education to their employees,” Sanicola said. “Those that do so have seen increases in employee contributions to 401(k) plans as well as more active participation in making investment decisions.”​

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