Putting Wellness Programs to Work for Small and Medium-Size Businesses

June 6, 2018
The Case for Making Wellness Programs Work for Small Business – Infographic
June 6, 2018
Innovo Joins Benefits Partners to Expand Client Services, Offerings, and Research
July 25, 2018
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You'd be hard-pressed to find an employer that does not get the appeal of offering wellness programs to employees. These programs are quite literally a feel-good way for companies to invest in the people who work for them, backed by motivational perks to get everyone on board.

Designed to address employee well-being, today's programs support the role health can play to improve job performance. Yet, despite clear advantages and the range of wellness program sizes and offerings available, few have addressed the needs of small and midsize businesses.

Innovo analyzes why and shares insight on new ways that small and midsize employers can approach wellness for their competitive advantage.

So, What’s the Challenge?

Historically, the ask has been too great for smaller companies. The industry has taken methodologies that fit large firms and tried to apply them to all firms. We find this approach to wellness altogether wrong for smaller businesses. The typical small to midsize employer simply cannot commit the vast amount of time and resources required to manage robust programs. And without the staff to support them, these programs don’t prove to be sustainable or effective. Claims have less of an impact on program cost for small to midsize firms, and it’s far more difficult for them to measure ROI.

That's not to say that larger programs don't have their advantages. With a large-scale wellness program, your company can regularly host visiting nurses who can come in to take glucose, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels; every month can be tailored to different health care topics with groups and activities; and you can offer yoga at work, chair massage, nutrition seminars - the list goes on. The problem is that this type of high-level program is difficult to manage on an ongoing basis. It's not sustainable, which usually results in the company running out of steam with the initiative, causing it to fall by the wayside. This wastes even more money, time, and resources, and the cycle of inefficiency continues. Small and midsize companies demand a different approach!

Solution: Keep It Simple

At Innovo, we've begun to introduce our clients to simpler, easy-to-use, incentive-driven, technology-enabled programs designed for small and medium-size companies. Our team has embraced several smaller, effective programs emerging from established insurance carriers as well as startup tech firms.

These new offerings all have one thing in common — simplicity. Recognizing that it’s harder for small companies to prove ROI for wellness programs, the programs focus on preventing risk factors through uncomplicated, easy-to-achieve employee incentives. They leverage technology to make employee participation nearly effortless, encourage ongoing engagement, and enable real-time feedback. Without a heavy lift on the employer’s part, the programs help promote a culture of wellness and engagement among their employees.

Close-Up: Turnkey Options for Smaller Companies

Below is an example of a new program being offered by one of the major health benefits carriers for companies with fewer than 100 employees. The simplicity of this plan is that it does not require much management from HR, it is very simple for employees to understand, the goals are simple and easy to achieve, and there are direct financial incentives to participate. This is one of many new options coming online to fit the needs of smaller companies. The same carrier, for example, has a different plan modification to serve firms with 100–249 employees.

Solution: Tailor for Your Needs

Part of the attractiveness of programs designed for small and medium-size firms is that they're easier to deploy and administer, requiring less time and effort from the HR department. Unique in our support of this type of initiative, Innovo takes ease of execution even one step further. We provide a personalized, on-site approach where we help our clients set up their program and enroll employees, face to face. We also share aggregate monthly reports for employers to observe participation, results, and opportunities for improvement.

To help ensure your own success, consider the aspects of your corporate culture that will help drive or limit employee adoption. Then take steps to leverage strengths and overcome challenges, as needed. Keep in mind that the same wellness program can be executed in different ways to suit the needs of your company and to achieve better results!

Close-Up: Case Study

Getting off to a strong start is important. Creating an atmosphere that fosters participation from the beginning can be crucial, because when employees don't take the first step of completing a health assessment, the rest of the program won't work. For some corporate cultures, it's especially important for senior leaders to sign up for new programs in a public setting, both to underscore their importance, and to help motivate others to participate. This insight helped drive our recent success working with a small Massachusetts-based firm. After failing to implement a wellness program on their own last year, the company turned to Innovo for help. With laptops in hand, our team spent an afternoon on-site to encourage enrollment. Working closely with the HR executive, our program began with a short introduction from company leaders, who then immediately met with Innovo consultants to sign up. In an open setting, employees saw firsthand that wellness was valued as an initiative and that enrollment was an easy and hassle-free process. (With a little advance preparation, we kept sign-up timing to 10 minutes.) Simple tweaks to the program rollout generated significantly better results.

Solution: Enlist the Millennials First

The opportunity to leverage technology-enabled wellness programs to appeal to millennials in the workplace is significant. This tech-savvy generation represents an estimated 35 percent of the working population. Forecasts suggest that number will grow to 75 percent in the next 10 years. Millennials are also the most likely to want employers to play an active role in supporting their overall health and wellbeing, more than any other generation in the workforce.7 And more than half of millennials claim that living or working in a healthy environment influences their personal health, compared with 42 percent of respondents from Generation X and 35 percent of baby boomers.8 (Millennials matter, but the numbers show there’s still an opportunity among older generations, too.)

Offerings from technology-focused players in the health benefits industry are now giving small and midsize employers a leg up in capturing the attention of millennials. One program that Innovo is introducing to clients is a wellness app integrated into the benefits enrollment system. This includes steps-tracking as an embedded feature in the enrollment system. Other companies offer cost-efficient platforms that can be added to health benefits plans. These are separate from the enrollment system and more closely linked to the health plan. In this model, employees are invited to “walk off deductibles” by linking Fitbit® or similar activity-tracking devices to online monitoring systems to earn points or other deductions. We believe the intersection of tech and wellness will present our clients with a range of new opportunities, and Innovo benefits experts will continue to watch developments in this market segment closely.

Putting Wellness Programs to Work for You

There’s no mistaking the benefits of wellness programs in the workforce today. They have positive goals that can’t be ignored. However, the method by which they are deployed is evolving. Punctuated by easy-to-achieve incentives (without heavy lifting on the employer’s part), small, targeted programs are designed to promote a culture of wellness, team bonding and higher productivity.

We are riding that wave and helping our clients seize new opportunities.

“Innovo introduced us to an incentive-driven and technology-enabled wellness program that was available through our insurance carrier and the perfect fit for a firm of our size. They helped us implement the program with our employees and provided ongoing support, which made the program turnkey for us to use. Better yet, the results exceeded our expectations. While our employees received cash incentives for taking the right steps for good health, we collectively earned a payback of our annual premium that amounted to nearly one month of free insurance. Talk about a win-win!”

Michael Saperstein
Executive Vice President
Paul E. Saperstein Co.

Consider these action steps for a wellness program that works for you:

  • Opt for a program that is sustainable and scaled to fit your organization. Smaller companies may prefer wellness programs that are included as part of current insurance programs.
  • Select a technology-based program to encourage employee participation, ongoing engagement, and real-time feedback.
  • Help your employees get started by scheduling a wellness event with on-site help.
  • Have the company owner or senior leaders sign up first to underscore the importance of your wellness efforts.
  • If available, evaluate your employees’ health from your carrier’s data (aggregate form) to assess success, send employees communications of encouragement, and make adjustments.

Are you considering integrating a wellness program or updating your existing program? Innovo can help you find and execute the right program to drive competitive advantage.

Reach out to us.

1 Retrieved from: https://www.ifebp.org/aboutus/pressroom/releases/Pages/Workplace-Wellness-Goes-Beyond-ROI-.aspx.

2 Gubler, T., I. Larkin, L. Pierce (2017, June 28). Doing Well by Making Well: The Impact of Employee Wellness Programs on Employee Productivity. Retrieved from: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/08/170802134738.htm.

3 Retrieved from: https://www.wellsteps.com/blog/2018/01/10/reasons-to-have-a-wellness-program-benefits-of-wellness/.

4 SHRM (2017). 2017 Employee Benefits: Remaining competitive in a challenging talent marketplace. Retrieved from: https://www.shrm.org/hr-today/trends-and-forecasting/research-and-surveys/Documents/2017%20Employee%20Benefits%20Report.pdf .

5 Fronstin, P., R. Helman (2015). Views on the Value of Voluntary Workplace Benefits: Findings from the 2015 Health and Voluntary Workplace Benefits Survey. Retrieved from: https://www.ebri.org/pdf/notespdf/EBRI_Notes_11_Nov15_WBS.pdf.

6 Aon Hewitt and The National Business Group on Health and The Futures Company (2014). 2014 Consumer Health Mindset. Retrieved from: https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/benefits/pages/millennials-wellness.aspx.

7 Ibid.

8 Ibid.