Seventy-two percent of companies in the US offer some type of employee benefits plan. From free coffee and casual dress codes to health care coverage and retirement plans, a good benefits package contributes to higher employee engagement, productivity and loyalty. However, as any HR managers will attest, there are many challenges that arise when developing an effective employee benefits strategy. Research firm Towers Watson recently interviewed group benefits leaders from around the world, asking them about the biggest employee benefits challenges. Common threads among all the responses were “costs” and “administrative complexity.” The hard costs of providing the benefits are usually the first hurdle that comes to mind. However, these leaders emphasize that managing benefits programs are equally as challenging. While some costs are out of your control, HR managers can use tools available through their company’s intranet to control administrative costs and increase participation, reducing costs through sheer volume of use. Let’s illustrate by delving into the reasons why it is worthwhile investing in employee benefits and wellness programs.
Why Invest in a Wellness Program?
Americans have become increasing aware of the benefits of wellness and preventive care, so much so that the Affordable Care Act, the biggest health care legislation passed in decades, specifically addresses policies and incentives around wellness programs. Why? The U.S. Department of Labor explains it’s “not only to improve the health of Americans but also to help control health care spending.” Healthier employees decrease overall health care spending and the bottom line for their companies and their families. Small businesses, in particular, are struggling to keep up with the rising costs of providing health care, forcing them to increase employee contributions or switch to high deductible plans. However, many employers have been able to lower their employees’ contributions through rebates when they participate in a wellness program.
The benefits of a wellness program go beyond the bottom line, however. Employees are a company’s most valuable asset. Ensuring their health and wellness directly contributes to the success of the company. Healthier employees are more productive, absent less often, more loyal and have greater job satisfaction. According to a RAND Corporation study, every $1 invested in overall wellness efforts yields a $1.50 return on investment. The ROI increases to $3.80 for every $1 invested when the wellness initiatives focus on chronic diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease and obesity.
Make Your Intranet a Wellness Tool
The first step to ensuring a return on investment for your wellness program is developing an effective strategy for participation. Let’s look at Fortune magazine’s “5 Hallmarks of Successful Corporate Wellness Programs” and see how your intranet can be used to accomplish each of these strategies.
- Be practical and accessible. Brainstorm wellness initiatives that employees will find practical value in, and make it easy to participate. Start by using your intranet to gather feedback from employees about what they are interested in. Get creative. Try recipe swaps, weight-loss challenges, educational sessions, work-out teams or lunchtime yoga classes. Use the intranet to provide a place to sign-up or join a team, to track success, stir up competition and announce when milestones are met. Use the calendar to post upcoming wellness events or deadlines. Your intranet should be an existing platform that employees are already accustomed to using regularly. Incorporating it into your wellness plan ensures employee participation is easy and convenient. Cloud-based intranet software also provides remote access, so employees can participate at home, on business trips or during their commute.
- Create a health-conscious work environment. The company intranet is your most effective marketing tool. Many marketers are already using it to promote their company’s mission and vision. Use the same platform to promote a health-conscious environment. Create a health blog or forum, providing practical information. Wellness encompasses a variety of topics, including financial health, maintaining a work-life balance, avoiding colds or simply using correct posture. Take advantage of video to send employees links to helpful tips. Have a health tip of the day or week. The next time the staff meeting is catered, offer healthy choices. Use your intranet to promote contests with health-related prizes.
- Make wellness part of the company structure. Fortune interviewed Jason Lang from the CDC about workplace health programs. “It’s just as important as sales and marketing. It’s just as important as research and development. It’s just as important as customer service,” he emphasized. Use your intranet to show employees just how important wellness is in your organization. Enact appropriate policies as part of your wellness program, such as “no smoking on company grounds.” Appoint a wellness ambassador for each department or floor. Show that employers are accountable for providing safe working conditions, emphasize expectations and ensure compliance with government standards from within your intranet platform. For example, MyHub intranet software has an easy to use forms module that can be used to capture when an employee has read a particular policy and agreed to follow it. Be sure management sets a good example. Have company leadership participate in the wellness blog. Employees will be more engaged if they feel like the wellness program is not just a function of the HR department. Use your intranet to show that employee wellness is central to the entire organization.
- Link your wellness program with existing support programs. Integrate employee assistance programs (EAP) with your wellness initiatives. This helps employees to feel that management cares about the overall wellness of its employees and that the program is in place for their benefit. Use your intranet to store important EAP information. Create an Employee Wellness Resource Center, a one-stop shop for everything employees need to know about wellness. Use intranet forms to ensure employees have read EAP policies and know what’s available to them. Use blogs, employee forums and other communication tools to keep employees informed of changes.
- Offer health screenings and educational opportunities. Many companies partner with a third-party vendor to provide health screenings and education. While legislation prevents employers from forcing employees to participate in these screenings, you can use your intranet to encourage participation, reinforce that the results are confidential and inform employees about the benefits. Recruit wellness professionals from your local area to host employee seminars on eating correctly, financial stability, reducing stress or any other wellness topic that is of interest. Use your intranet to promote the event. Offer incentives to employees that attend such events or screenings, and track those points or incentives via the intranet. Post a video of the seminar in your Employee Wellness Resource Center for staff that were unable to attend.
Employee Benefits Trends
The RAND study mentioned above found the biggest area of increased wellness participation is centered around fitness. The two most popular trends are company-provided fitness bands or activity trackers and company-organized fitness competitions. Intranets have long boasted “project management” as one their significant benefits. Use the intranet’s project management capability to join these popular trends, creating fitness teams and competitions. Cross department lines and unite your organization through one, central cloud-based platform.
Think of your intranet as a tool to leverage your biggest asset – your employees. Whether your goal is to increase wellness, promote employee benefits, increase productivity, improve internal communication or organize files for easy access, intranet software can accomplish all of these goals. If you are not currently using an intranet or have one that doesn’t seem to live up to these expectations, talk to the experts at MyHub Intranet Solutions Limited. Contact us to learn more about our free trial.