health coach and employee

Employer Solutions | 4 years ago

Pillars of Healthcare - Employee Engagement

Successful healthcare is a two-party process. While employers need to ensure they are offering robust programs to their staff, employees also have to take ownership of their health and participate. Learn why employee buy-in is such a crucial part of the process.

By Daniel J. Birach, President, Carolinas HealthCare System’s HEALTHWORKS Division

Over the last few weeks, we’ve been discussing the key elements that make for a successful healthcare program. As we’ve shared, employers that ensure their programs cover these five pillars are more likely to see high employee engagement, healthier teams and lower overall costs.

So far, our focus has been on the employer, including how companies need to structure their healthcare programs to best serve the needs of their staff. This employee-first method is just as beneficial for the company as it is for staff. According to the Gallagher Best-in-Class Benchmarking analysis for large employers, characteristics of best-in-class employers include investing in health and wellness programs as a way of improving the employee experience and incorporating a comprehensive communication strategy to engage employees.

However, successful healthcare is a two-party process. While employers need to ensure they are offering robust programs to their staff, employees also have to take ownership of their health and participate. This is why employee buy-in is such a crucial part of the process.

Over and over we have seen companies and their staff benefit extensively when employees are engaged with provided healthcare resources. From improved health to lower costs, simply engaging employees in maintaining a healthy lifestyle can be a road to success.

Of course, it can be a challenge to get the process started. Individuals are creatures of habit and introducing healthier choices can take a lot of effort. This is why it is incredibly important that employers design their programs in a way that encourages and supports employee buy-in.

Healthcare Pillar Four — Employee Engagement

As we’ve discussed, companies with employees who engage in their healthcare, who take advantage of the health and wellness programs that are provided, see much stronger results in the long term. Employees enjoy a healthier lifestyle, which improves the overall health of the workplace and can help keep costs down.

In the modern workplace — where employee schedules are packed from start to finish and it may feel like there is never a good time to make significant lifestyle changes — the key to driving engagement is finding ways to break through and connect with the employee in a meaningful way. There are several ways a modern healthcare program can accomplish this.

Healthcare screenings and benchmarking — Unlike a broken leg or the stomach flu, chronic health conditions do not often present with clear symptoms. Diseases and illnesses like diabetes and heart disease can sneak up on an individual if they are not actively looking for warning signs. Once present, these illnesses can be life altering, if not life threatening, and can be incredibly costly for the individual.

Often, an annual health screening can bring these conditions to light. When presented with the fact that their current lifestyle is doing more than adding a little bit of body weight every year, and that it actually has them on track to develop diabetes or heart disease, many employees will feel the urgency to take action. Once new lifestyle choices are identified and implemented, these screenings can serve as a benchmark to help the individual see progress in a positive direction, which can serve as further motivation to maintain this new lifestyle.These numbers can also help determine whether a portion of your population is at a rising or high risk for chronic disease which can be a primary cause for the majority of your company’s healthcare spend. It is important to note that employers should never use this data to penalize employees who may struggle with health challenges, but rather to ensure you are providing the most effective resources to support a healthy lifestyle.

Incentives — In many cases, incentives can be a strong catalyst for employees to take part in health and wellness programs. We have seen employers who offer their team members a discount on their healthcare premiums for participating in an annual health screening or for being a nonsmoker. Because it demonstrates that the employer is willing to share the financial benefits of reduced healthcare costs with the team, this is also a great way to establish goodwill between the company and staff. It also shows that participating in these programs is beneficial to everyone, not just the corporate bottom line.

Create a healthy culture — Employee behavior is often defined by and modeled after what takes place at the highest levels of the company. If the boss works long hours, ignores their health and makes it difficult for employees to take care of their own needs, it is unlikely that staff will feel comfortable engaging in the healthcare process. In contrast, if the employer prioritizes health, staff are more likely to follow suit.

Companies can create a culture of health by facilitating employee participation in fitness programs, either by providing on-site classes or offering discounts to local health clubs. Offering on-site health and wellness programs, such as weight loss support groups, nutrition and cooking classes or team fitness challenges, is another way an employer can show their team that health and wellness are an important element of the company identity.

How does your company encourage employees to engage and participate in the health and wellness process? Share your thoughts with us on Twitter (@HEALTHWORKS) and on LinkedIn. And keep watching the Info Hub. In our next post, we’ll talk about the fifth and final pillar of successful healthcare access.