Employee Participation Top Wellness Program Challenge

July 18, 2014 (PLANSPONSOR.com) – More employers are using wellness programs in an effort to reduce health care spending, but employee participation is a challenge.

The 2014 Benefits Strategy and Benchmarking Survey from Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. shows 44% of respondents offer a wellness program for their employees, and nearly three-quarters (73%) say employee participation is their number one wellness challenge.

Arthur J. Gallagher says a key to encouraging participation is recognizing that employees, and their families, have unique needs when it comes to wellness; employers should not limit their wellness programs to health assessments and biometric screenings. “Taking a personalized approach to wellness offerings will increase participation,” according to the report.

Other wellness challenges employers cite include cultural shift/reluctance to change, budget, geography/multiple locations, and return on investment/productivity measurement.

Respondents report using a number of different incentives to personalize wellness offerings and encourage participation in such programs, including:

  • Cash or gift incentives (64%);
  • Premium differentials (44%);
  • Contributions to health reimbursement accounts, health savings accounts or flexible spending accounts (16%);
  • Personal time off (PTO) or vacation days (13%);
  • Deductible differential (5%);
  • Free medication (4%); and
  • Limited plan choice (1%).

Arthur J. Gallagher notes many employers have found that allowing employees to choose their incentives helps to engage them at a higher level. 

According to the survey, metrics employers use to gauge the success of wellness programs include program participation (62%), health risk assessment (43%), biometrics (38%), employee engagement/satisfaction (32%) and financial/claims data (30%).

A comprehensive wellness program considers how employers evaluate the impact of their efforts, the firm says. While these are important metrics to track, many organizations are also looking more closely at the impact of their strategies on safety and productivity.

"Safety outcomes are key indicators of the success or failure of a wellness program, but many employers aren’t willing to address safety and productivity in the same conversation. Breaking down this wall is a hot topic and will continue to be in 2015," according to the report.

A total of 1,833 organizations across the United States participated in the survey. Information about downloading an executive summary of the survey results, as well as how to request the full survey report, can be found here.