Wellness Programs Need to Be More Relevant

Satisfaction with health and well-being programs is high, but more personalization is needed, a survey finds.

Personalization, providing rewards and understanding what employees want are key to maximizing value in employer-sponsored health and well-being programs, according to results from a survey released by Welltok, Inc. and the National Business Group on Health (NBGH).

Most participants (81%) in health and well-being programs saw a positive impact on their physical well-being, and more than 60% agreed or strongly agreed that including family in such programs would likely increase their participation. For those that did not participate, 37% did not find them personally relevant and 20% didn’t know they were available.

When asked about the role employers should play in employee health, getting cost effective care and providing emotional/personal support resources ranked highest among respondents (77% and 74%, respectivey, agreed or strongly agreed). The majority of employees also see a role for their employer in helping them to stop unhealthy behaviors or managing financial issues (53% agreed or strongly agreed).

Younger and lower income employees say employers should help them to become more financially secure. Nearly two-thirds (63%) of the households making less than $50,000 wanted employers to play a role in their financial well-being, while that figure dropped to less than half (44%) for those making $200,000 or more. Sixty percent of participants between the ages of 18 and 34 thought employers should be involved in financial health, whereas less than half of those 45 and older agreed. Nearly six in 10 (58%) females felt employers should play a role in employees’ financial health versus 48% of males.

The study found participation in employer-sponsored programs remains low. For example, emotional health and financial security programs had the lowest levels of participation—24% and 37%, respectively. In addition, only 48% of employees had participated in a program to help them improve their physical health.

NEXT: Providing motivation

The majority (91%) of survey respondents would engage in healthier behaviors if they were rewarded, including those who had an income of at least $200,000 (78%). Nearly all employees younger than 35 agreed (98%), but those older than 55 weren't quite as motivated by rewards (85%).

Eight-six percent ranked their colleagues as one of the top motivators to improving their overall health and well-being at work, followed closely by their direct manager (57%). Perceptions varied by age, however: Millennials were partial to their direct manager's influence (64%) but less so to human resources (HR) (24%) whereas their 55 or older counterparts were less motivated by direct managers (51%) and more influenced by HR (40%).

"The 'one size fits all' approach to communications, however, has proven ineffective in engaging employees and engagement is now the number one challenge facing employers. Personalization is the key and there are emerging engagement platforms and point solutions that show great promise in driving and sustaining engagement by leveraging data, predictive analytics and technology to reach people with personalized, timely, relevant and actionable information," says Brian Marcotte, CEO and president of the National Business Group on Health.

This survey was conducted online from April 29 through May 11, 2016, with 1,003 respondents meeting the following criteria: companies employed more than 1,000 people at all locations, respondents received health insurance provided by their current employer and were working full-time (more than 30 hours per week).