Employers counting on wellness programs to bend the benefits cost curve must include strong communication plans in their strategy if they hope to achieve their goals. Those who shortchange this crucial step risk wasting their investment of precious resources in a tight economy.
That’s one of the key findings in a new white paper released today by Colonial Life & Accident Insurance Company.
“Well on the Way: Engaging Employees in Workplace Wellness”
uses proprietary and industry research and case studies to show how wellness initiatives can help employers control ever-higher health care and benefits costs, and the vital role of benefits communication in driving the effectiveness of these programs.
A growing number of employers are implementing programs that successfully reduce employee health risk factors and better manage chronic illness — the primary drivers of health care costs. And employees value these programs: Nearly 90 percent of employees say the range of a company’s health and wellness benefits is either very important or somewhat important in their choice of an employer.
Yet these employees still might not participate in wellness programs because of lack of information.
You can build it — but they may not come
Most employers cite weak employee engagement as the biggest obstacle to changing their employees’ health risk behavior, the white paper reports.
But more than half of workers say they don’t know enough about their company’s wellness programs to participate in them. A new Colonial Life survey found 52 percent of workers whose employers offer wellness programs say they’re only somewhat or not at all knowledgeable about them.
Lack of knowledge is higher among younger workers, less educated workers and lower-paid workers.
“Just offering a wellness program and expecting a majority of employees to participate — the ‘if you build it, they will come’ scenario — is prone to failure,” said Steve Bygott, assistant vice president of marketing analysis and programs at Colonial Life. “Communication that clearly delineates the benefits of participation to employees is the first step to long-term engagement in wellness programs.”