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Employee Benefits

Control Health Care Costs with Wellness Programs

As health care benefit costs spiral out of control, businesses are looking for ways to cut medical costs. And increasingly, they're turning to wellness and productivity management programs. Why? Health and wellness programs can not only help keep your employees healthy, but also combat increasing health care costs, prevent absenteeism, boost productivity and improve morale. One of the most important aspects of a successful wellness plan is good communication. When and how you communicate about your wellness efforts can make the difference between a stunning success and a dismal failure.

The following is an edited excerpt from a Kiplinger audio conference titled Control Health Care Costs with Population Health and Wellness Programs. The conference was conducted by Richard Babcock, a Senior Associate with Mercer Consulting, a firm that specializes in human resources. Richard, who works in the Mercer’s Health and Productivity Management specialty practice, explains why good communication is vital to any wellness program, and discusses the building blocks of health care communication.

When setting up a wellness plan in your organization, don’t underestimate the importance of clear, ongoing communication. You probably have a varied workforce: employees of different ages, education levels, ethnicities and income levels. And not everybody likes to receive information the same way. You need to first get people’s attention, and then give them the tools to take action. Here are some suggestions to help communicate your wellness goals:

1. Make communication a year-round effort. Often employers make the mistake of talking about wellness initiatives only once a year—usually during the benefits enrollment period. Instead you should be communicating constantly throughout the year using various communication channels.

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2. Take a long-term approach. Healthy behavior doesn't happen overnight. Let employees know they will receive ongoing support.

3. Research to establish a baseline. Learn the current state of employee health before attempting to improve it.

4. Secure management buy-in. This is vital. You need to show that management is committed to the program.

5. Align with corporate goals. Align wellness goals to your organization’s goals. Not only will employees benefit from the program, so will the company’s bottom line.

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6. "In sickness and in health." Let employees know that the plan is for everybody, no matter how good—or bad—their current state of health is.

8. Apply principles of adult learning. Adults don’t like to passively receive information. Don’t just send out a description of the plan. Hold meetings, health fairs, etc., to get people engaged.

9. Leverage the Web, where appropriate. Employees, especially younger ones, are used to getting information online.

10. Personalize when and where possible. People want information that pertains to them. And as far as personalization goes, nothing beats face-to-face communication. Get out and talk to people whenever possible.

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To learn more best practices for setting up a wellness program in your organization, click here to buy the recording of the full audio conference.

In addition to learning how to communicate wellness goals, you’ll learn:

• Typical features of a well-designed population health management strategy

• Incentives and communications that get the best results

• Common mistakes companies make

• Success stories from other companies