Canadian employers are facing increasingly complex human resource issues and challenges. These challenges adversely impact organizational health and productivity, which are important determinants of business success. By providing employee benefit plans, employers expect to achieve high standards of organizational health and productivity, attract and retain talented staff and maintain high levels of employee engagement. Go to any conference on employee benefits and read articles on workplace wellness, and you will see that there is ample evidence that organizations are struggling to find the ideal mix of benefits to meet the needs of their workforce and that positively impacts health and productivity.
Business leaders increasingly express the need for strategic advice and actionable solutions to these challenges without adversely impacting the financial health of their organization. Unfortunately, the need to contain costs associated with higher insurance premiums resulting from increased claims, very often drives the final decision on the range of services covered in the plan. Employers also want to see proof that there is a return on investment from ancillary services such as health and wellness / prevention and employee assistance programmes (EAPs).
A holistic approach For benefits plans to be successful, a holistic approach involving the collaboration of all service providers is likely to lead to the desired outcome of a healthy, productive workforce that supports business success. Employers, when shopping the market for benefits plans, should mandate their benefits advisors to firstly uncover the underlying reasons for higher claims that lead to increased premiums. This assessment should involve an analysis of the claims experience, the state of organizational health and wellness and patterns of absenteeism and trends that lead to short- and long-term disability. Instead of asking insurers to present a set of desired services, advisors should identify and work with insurance carriers that go beyond claims payment adjudication processes and risk assessment and that offer innovative, customizable solution sets. The specialist services of EAPs, medical clinics and paramedical service providers ought to fit with the objectives of the client and insurer and work in partnership with them.
The best designed benefits plan may fail to support the employer’s objectives if employees are unaware of the services offered, and more importantly, cannot see the connection between their daily experience at work and the desired outcomes of good organizational health and productivity that the benefits plan aims to support.
This begs the question, how can employers create an obvious connection between the benefits plan and the workplace culture?
The employer, working closely with the benefits advisor and providers, should implement activities that allow employees to collectively experience the plan in the workplace on a daily basis. More specifically, this can be done through on-site programmes in which all employees participate, and by establishing policies that support prevention and cost containment. Consider:
Mandatory business practices that support behavioural changes leading to better health
- Mental health and stress reduction practices like creating policies on the transmission of e-mail after business hours, and
- Enforcing vacation requiring that employees use vacation at least once every 12 months.
- Physical well-being promoted through structured physical exercise programs for employees, and
- Improved workstation design, and
- Healthy and nutritious choices in cafeterias; and
- On-site medical assessments to identify early signs of chronic diseases.
Communications material and tools to enable employees to make better choices when selecting options and services covered by the plan
- Communicate how employees can take preventive actions, and
- Share how to better manage prescription drug costs; and
- Recommend the frequency of use of some services, for example, dental checks once every 12 – 14 months instead of every six months, where possible.
Employee Assistance Programme modules that can be accessed while at work
- Periodic on-site seminars on issues specific to the employee profile of the company, for example, wellness promotion, work-life balance, challenges faced by the sandwich generation, etc.; and
- Intranet portals providing on-line resources and tools that encourage employee engagement in their health and wellness.
These recommendations call for a change in perspective from viewing a benefits plans as a health care cost to perceiving it as an important tool to support a healthy, productive team. The benefits of a thriving work culture are generally seen in better bottom line results and sustainable business success. A change in perspective in benefits plans may be well worth it! What do you think?
Camille N. Isaacs-Morell is a marketing professional who has had extensive experience in the development of marketing strategies to promote employee benefits plans. She passionately believes that employee engagement and the alignment of personal and corporate values are essential to make work a gratifying and satisfying experience. Read more at www.camilleisaacsmorell.com, www.thebigpicturecamille.wordpress.com
This blog post was originally published on www.yourworkplace.ca on 24 September 2013