Help Employees to Maximize Their Health Benefits

Many health-promoting programs experience low employee participation and engagement

By SHRM Online staff Dec 5, 2011

A new report by the nonprofit Midwest Business Group on Health (MBGH) offers a series of recommendations to structure the design, communication and delivery of health and wellness benefits better.

The group's November 2011 white paper, Employee Health Engagement: Identifying the Triggers and Barriers to Engaging Employees in their Health Benefits and Wellness Programs, is based on a five-year research project that gathered perspectives from employers, employees, spouses, physicians and health coaches.

“Employers have invested substantial resources to improve the health of their workforce by offering health benefits, workplace health programs and external health management resources,” said Larry Boress, MBGH president and CEO. “Unfortunately, in spite of these investments, many employers experience low program participation and disappointing levels of employee understanding and engagement. We’re working with employers to combat these problems and explore alternative approaches to benefit design and health improvement programs with the intent to motivate employees to be more responsible for their health.”

Key Recommendations

To support employee engagement and health improvement efforts, the white paper recommends:

Take company culture into account when implementing workplace health and benefit programs. Have strategies in place that build trust—a big influence on employee participation.

Include dependents and other family membersin company communication efforts so they can support health improvement and behavior change efforts at home and in their daily lives.

Offer “benefits-at-a-glance” resourcesthat include information such as cost comparisons among plans, the actual cost of health services, and benefit/coverage changes that could have an impact on out-of-pocket costs.

Use the results of clinical screening programsand campaigns such as Know Your Numbers as the trigger to get employees to consider making necessary lifestyle changes.

Structure incentives as part of the benefit designto maximize the employer’s investment in these resources and to promote value to the employee.

Bring your health vendors together to ensure they convey a consistent message to employees regarding the value of employer programs and available incentives.

Provide resiliency/stress management information and resourcesto help employees handle the extremes of a hectic work and home life.​​

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