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Improving Employee Healthcare: The Vital Role of the CEO

The healthcare industry in the U.S. is in the midst of major market disruption.  As systems condense and integrate and nontraditional players enter the marketplace, guiding this transformation will require smart, bold action on a variety of fronts.

Human Resource teams and insurance companies have traditionally led the way when it comes to initiating and implementing improvement efforts. While they have achieved some level of success, there is opportunity to do more. Surprisingly, in the abundance of material on healthcare improvement planning, we find very little that speaks to the role of one central individual—the CEO. What precisely should be the task of the CEO, and how is this role different from that of other executives or other stakeholders?

In today’s fast-moving business environment, companies cannot settle for incremental improvement; they must occasionally make radical changes to remain competitive. This is particularly true in the age of market disruption.  In this post, we’ll look at some of the market dynamics that are driving the need to improve the healthcare delivery and cost model and examine several best practice actions CEOs can take to help accelerate these improvements, including: 

  • Clear communication
  • Strategic collaboration
  • Leading by example

Healthcare as a core business issue

A fundamental management tenant is that leaders take personal ownership of their company’s toughest challenges. Still, despite persuasive arguments, many CEOs have not treated health care costs as a central business issue. They often transfer the responsibility to other internal teams or departments that lack accountability for the company’s financial performance. This is not the optimum approach.

Getting CEOs to approach health care costs like they do other parts of their business can deliver substantial performance results. Key attributes CEOs can bring to the forefront are their motivational and influencing capabilities. They can help bolster improvement efforts by communicating the rationale for healthcare changes, securing beneficial alliances and modeling the desired changes. 

  • Clear communication. CEOs regularly make gutsy decisions that affect employees, from closing business units to discontinuing strategic operations. They make clear the reasons for the changes, and employees acknowledge them as a part of their workplace reality. Communicating health care changes should be no different.

The area of cost containment and balancing rising healthcare expenses with employee expectations is a good example. Controlling costs often requires steering employees to providers that can deliver high-quality care at the lowest price.  But imposing limitations or implementing any type of healthcare change can be met with stiff opposition—even though the change may be in the best interest of all parties.

This is where honest, transparent communication is vital.  Case in point: Walmart confidently uses financial incentives to guide employees toward a number of pre-selected centers of excellence— specialized programs with concentrated areas of expertise— for expensive medical procedures. The practice has resulted in significant cost savings. Employee complaints have been minimal because the company’s leadership has effectively communicated the reasoning and logic for the practice just as they do with any other important change in company strategy.

  • Strategic collaboration.  Strategic partnerships are essential for remaining competitive in today’s highly disruptive business environment. To become more entrenched in the ecosystems that employees engage in, it’s important for CEOs to strengthen and expand their alliances with a broader range of partners in and outside the healthcare market. CEOs are ideally positioned to work with potential partners to identify ways to work together for mutual advantage.

The trend toward value-based care will continue to drive companies to closely scrutinize their healthcare options and fine-tune their cost management approach. Business can’t do much about shifting market dynamics. But they can team together to more effectively negotiate with providers and help ensure that healthcare quality is in line with costs. Bottom line: CEOs who form smart alliances and are proactive in their collaborative approach will save more on health care as will their employees.

  • Leading by example: When substantial financial risk is at state, CEOs have a fundamental duty to roll up their sleeves and get personally involved. Leaders who give only lip-service to an improvement effort will find everyone else following suit.


Modeling the behavior you want and creating a personalized story will help employees buy into in the improvement approach by answering their pressing questions, such as “What are we changing?”  “How will it be implemented?” and “How will it impact me?” People will go to surprising lengths for issues they believe in, and a compelling example set by the CEO will establish and reinforce their loyalty (and participation) in the effort.

Key takeaways

CEOs are uniquely positioned with the responsibility and authority to articulate the strategy, vision and goals that frame every new business challenge or initiative. This is especially true when it comes to managing a transformation as significant and sensitive as employee healthcare.

For CEOs leading healthcare transformation, there is no single model for success. But they can place the odds in their favor by focusing on several core leadership actions: making the changes understandable and meaningful; modeling the preferred behavior; building a reliable and loyal team; and relentlessly pursuing results. Together, these efforts can generate the synergy needed to achieve tangible, lasting improvements.

How to Build a High-Impact Benefits Package that Will Help Your Business Win the War for Top Talent

The unemployment rate has now fallen to 3.6%, according to recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. While American workers welcome the news, it can be a challenge in this climate for hiring managers to stand out and continue attracting the best talent out there.

If your business is struggling to fill open positions, and you’re not receiving the quality applicants that you’d hoped for, take a look at your benefits package. When was the last time you updated it?

The 2018 Employee Benefits Survey from the Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM) showed that 34% of organizations beefed up their benefits packages within the last year, and 72% said that retention was a reason they did so. Over half cited attracting top talent as a main part of their reasoning.

In our current “war for talent” climate, creating a benefits package that can sell itself to candidates will ensure you’re attracting that top talent. In fact, your benefits package could be the differentiator that will give you the timely competitive advantage you need. A CareerBuilder survey revealed that 32% of workers will be looking for a new job in 2019, 15% of whom cited lack of benefits or low compensation as the reason.

Here’s how to create a high-impact benefits package that will help your business both attract and retain top talent.

Understanding What’s Hot

Of course, what’s most important to the top talent you’re looking for will depend on your industry. For instance, not every job can offer remote work benefits—some require a worker’s presence in the office.

However, there are general trends as far as benefits go. The same SHRM survey mentioned earlier also showed that benefits for parents have been increased in the last few years, including paid maternity and paternity leave and adoption, foster child, and surrogacy benefits.

According to Jobvite’s 2018 Recruiter Nation Survey, recruiters say that the most effective benefits to attracting top talent are medical and dental benefits (67%), followed by 401(k) benefits (55%).

Medical and dental benefits may seem like a given, but making these benefits competitive in themselves can upgrade your overall package. This is why it’s important to shop around for the best price on packages that offer the comprehensive care that your employees need. For retirement, many workplaces offer a company-matching benefit that top talent will look for when considering job offers.

The next most important benefit offering discussed in the Jobvite survey was work-from-home benefits. As mentioned above, this benefit may or may not be possible for your given industry. However, with our current everything-digital work culture, it’s worth considering making it happen, as 43% of recruiters said this was the most effective benefit offering to attract and retain talent.

Offering a flexible work arrangement or flexible schedule shows employees that their work-life balance matters, and that the company wants to support them in managing family obligations and other priorities outside of work.

The last three benefits listed as top attractions in the Jobvite survey were casual dress (36%), continuing education reimbursement (31%), and a signing bonus (28%). Paid vacation is still considered a top benefit, and many top candidates will negotiate the amount of days off they receive with the rest of their offer.

Another hot topic in the benefits world is student loan help. According to data from the Harvard Business Review, 48% of job seekers said that student loan assistance would be taken into account when considering a job offer.

Americans now owe around $1.57 trillion in college debt, as USA Today reported, yet only one in 10 companies surveyed by the Employee Benefit Research Institute offer student loan repayment subsidies or consolidation or refinancing services for employees. This means that employers willing to make this a priority will be ahead of their competitors when attracting top talent.

These examples show how any organization can construct a benefits package that checks off the list of what the modern candidate is looking for.

Building a Comprehensive Package

Once you’re aware of what candidates want, how do you begin the reconstruction process?

1. Research the competition

First, assess the trends within your industry. Start by researching the job ads that competitors are posting, or use a tool like Glassdoor to view salary trends for a given job title or company. Understanding what your competitors are offering is crucial to creating a competitive advantage.

You may also learn about other company’s benefits through interviews with top-level candidates. They may ask for a certain amount of vacation days, a salary level, or 401(k) contribution because they’re receiving it in their current position.

But as ApplicantPro points out, your top recruiting competition may not be the same as your business competition. Companies hiring individuals with the same qualifications, and not necessarily a company offering the same services as yours, may be more of your hiring rival.

2. Use data in strategic planning to increase ROI

Keep up on the latest research about what employees want, in addition to what competitors are providing. Each year, human resources organizations release surveys that reflect the latest trends, such as the surveys mentioned in this article from the SHRM and the Employee Benefit Research Institute.

According to the SHRM, planning benefits strategically based on specific data can help your company receive the greatest return on investment. This is important, because benefits aren’t cheap—they make up about a third of compensation costs (32%). When companies strategically plan benefits for recruitment and retention, the overall performance of the company is above average at 58%, versus 34% from organizations that don’t plan strategically.

3. Understand what drives motivation

Employees are more likely to feel motivated and satisfied by their work if they’re fully supported with adequate pay and benefits. This means making enough money, but it also means being able to receive high-quality healthcare services and to take time away from work to relieve stress and enjoy their personal lives.

This is why it’s also smart to offer a comprehensive wellness program that offers discounted gym memberships, for example, or mental health services, along with a good healthcare package. Over half of employees surveyed by the SHRM said that healthcare, paid leave, and flexible benefits were very important to job satisfaction.

Remember to approach the construction of your benefits package with people in mind, not just the bottom line.

4. Ask your employees for feedback

To better understand what would entice employees to stay at your company, why not ask them?

Implementing some kind of survey system can be instrumental in building a benefits plan that meets the expectations of employees. Just the gesture alone can show workers that you are considering their needs and desires, which can lead to greater feelings of satisfaction and recognition.

Consider holding discussions about benefits where employees can make comments and ask questions, and invite them to offer their opinions about their current package.

5. Continue adapting

During interviews with top candidates, one strategy that could help you succeed is being open to what they’re looking for, and asking them what their expectations are. This can not only open your eyes to what top talent is looking for, but it can also help you revamp your benefits offerings for your current employees. 

Updating your benefits package is not likely to be something you can do once and be done with. Preferences change year over year in the realm of recruitment, as new technologies are introduced or new working trends pick up, so remember that your benefits plan needs to be revisited and adapted regularly. For example, the gig economy and the surge of freelancing has made flexibility and remote work more popular and desirable for employees across industries.

6. Embrace new technologies

Finally, recruiters and hiring managers should embrace new technologies that can help them create a strategic benefits plan for recruitment and retention.

According to the Jobvite survey mentioned above, almost half of recruiters say that artificial intelligence (AI) and automaton will improve their jobs and will allow them to focus more on strategy. Streamlining tasks can open up a lot of time that can be used on research and data analyzation that will lead to better benefits planning that’s focused around attracting talent.

Using an online benefits portal is another way to increase employee satisfaction and streamline the benefits process. According to the SHRM, 32% of HR professionals say that an online portal is very effective as a communication method with employees. A portal can help the HR team deliver messages while emphasizing the value of benefits to employees.

Key Takeaways

Winning the war for top talent takes research, planning, and strategizing, and may not happen overnight. But it’s more important than ever to focus on benefits offerings as the unemployment rate continues to drop and the recruitment competition heats up. Remember to:

  • Stay abreast on what’s hot in the world of HR and recruiting
  • Research your competition
  • Base benefits planning decisions on specific data to ensure Return on Investment
  • Think about what drives employee motivation and satisfaction
  • Survey employees and candidates to find out what would excite them beyond a high base salary
  • Continue to adapt your plan
  • Integrate new tools and platforms that will streamline processes for both you and employees

If you show both top candidates and current employees that benefits are important to the organization and do the research to offer what they really want, you’ll be well on your way to creating a high-impact benefits package that will set you apart from competitors.

The Complete Guide to Hiring the Right Benefits Broker

Are you looking to hire an employee benefits broker and don’t know where to start? Or have you had the same broker for a while and are now wondering whether you could do better? Picking the right benefits broker is challenging, especially because the right partner can have an enormous impact on your employees and your bottom-line.

You want to work with a company that is not just your benefits broker, but your trusted benefits advisor. Especially at growing companies, having expert third-party help is essential to keeping your costs low and your value-add for employees high. The right benefits broker will not just sell you on a benefits package and then leave you to figure out the rest. They will be an HR and Benefits specialist who can help you navigate the entire benefits process and keep your benefit offerings up-to-date and competitive.

But the stakes are high, and there’s so much to consider – how do you even get started? Well, luckily this guide is here to help you. We will examine why it’s important to pick the right broker, and when to hire a new broker before diving into what you should be looking for in a broker, including that they provide:

  • Modern benefits that appeal to your workforce
  • Cutting-edge benefits technology
  • Cost savings
  • Comprehensive employee education

Looking for a Better Benefits Broker: Why and When to Start

Before we dive into what you should be looking for in a benefits broker, let’s examine the reasons why it is important to choose the right broker and when to start looking for a better partner.

Why You Should be Picky About Your Benefits Broker

Your benefits broker’s performance will have an enormous impact on your benefits package’s ability to draw top talent to your company, encourage your existing employees to deliver their best work, and keep employees around for the long-haul. These are just some of the reasons why it’s important to pick the right benefits broker, but let’s look at some specifics.

On a purely numbers level, benefits are a big deal. Benefits spend is a large part of your overall budget, making up 25-40% of most companies’ payroll. The right partner will help you minimize those expenses while maximizing the return-on-investment.

But benefits are never all about numbers; they are ultimately about people. Your benefits package is one of the most important parts of your employees’ total compensation package and is meant to help your employees live a higher quality of life. Your benefits broker should help you craft a package that meets those needs for the well-being of your employees and your company. Benefits that are tailored to take care of your employees will strengthen your company culture and can mean the difference between attracting and retaining top talent that drives your company’s growth or watching your best people leave for better offers. Your employees are responsible for your company’s success, so it’s important to make sure that they are properly taken care of.

So, when building or updating your benefits package, you need a benefits broker who will help you balance your budget and your employee’s needs. Which is why it is important to be choosy when hiring a benefits broker, and not just stay with the same broker because that’s what you’ve done in the past. But when is the right time to make a change?

When to Shop for a New Employee Benefits Broker

Many companies overlook the importance of taking a proactive approach to benefits, frequently staying with the same benefits broker for years out of habit. That means that employers fall out of touch with the newest benefits trends, losing the ability to properly evaluate whether or not their current broker is providing them with the best possible service. That’s why it’s a good idea to keep yourself apprised of what’s what in the benefits world so that you can tell when your benefits broker may be underserving your business.

The decision of what kind of benefits broker you are looking for, and whether your current broker meets that description, should be based on a comprehensive review of your company’s mission/vision, culture, short and long-term goals, and business strategy. You want a benefits broker that will support each of those elements and help you achieve sustainable growth.

So, the reasons why you may want to look for a new benefits broker will depend on your unique business needs. That being said, there are some clear signs that it’s time for a new broker that any business can look out for, including:

  • Continuing to pay the same fees while retaining more or less the same benefits package year-over-year
  • Receiving limited guidance and/or a poor service level from the broker
  • Going several years without reexamining the broker relationship
  • Difficulty finding ROI to justify investment in your current broker

Your business and its needs are constantly changing and so is the benefits marketplace. If you haven’t updated your benefits offering in quite some time, chances are that you can do better for your employees and your bottom line by looking for a new benefits partner.

How to Pick the Right Employee Benefits Broker

Now you know why you should take a proactive approach to your relationship with your benefits broker and what to look out for when deciding whether or not to look for a new broker. But how do you know which benefits broker is right for you, once you’ve decided that your current one isn’t meeting your needs?

Modern Benefits

The last thing you want is a broker who doesn’t stick with the times and strive to deliver cutting-edge, high-impact benefits options. Looking for a broker who can craft modern benefits packages will not only help you compete in today’s market, and offer benefits that even appeal to Millennial talent, it will also help you find a broker that you can trust long-term. If a broker is keeping up with the latest and greatest now, odds are that they will continue to do so. On the other hand, ff they’re already behind the times, chances are they’ll just continue to fall behind.

What kind of benefits should the ideal broker help you navigate? Some hot-topic benefits to ask about are telemedicine, financial wellness, remote work, and other flexible work benefits that will help you compete in the digital age. Again, even if these benefits aren’t the right fit for your company now, they might be in the future and a broker who has expertise in building diverse benefits packages will likely offer other cutting-edge solutions that you can use.

Another increasingly popular option that the ideal benefits broker will be able to offer is wellness benefits. These benefits help prevent lifestyle-related healthcare costs while increasing employee engagement and quality-of-life. Think of subsidized gym memberships, weight-loss or smoking-cessation challenges, access to a nutritionist, financial planning, employee assistance programs, and more. There are so many wellness benefits that it’s easy to get overwhelmed. The right broker will help you find the benefits that address your employees’ specific challenges.

Benefits Technology

Technology is an all-too-often overlooked aspect of what sets a great benefits brokers apart. Software is what makes the world run nowadays, and benefits are no different.

Benefits technology makes navigating your benefits package easier for your HR team and your employees. The ideal broker will offer a benefits portal that makes reviewing and managing your benefits package in one central location a breeze. This makes it easier for you to plan your benefits strategy and for your employees to take full advantage of your offerings. It’s perhaps even more important that your benefits broker provides you with enrollment software to ease the annual headache that is open-enrollment. Getting employees enrolled in benefits is one of the hardest parts of the job as an HR professional, and a streamlined software solution can make open enrollment as painless as possible for both your HR team and then rest of your employees.

Cost Savings

Of course, one of the main reasons to hire a benefits broker is to minimize your benefits costs while maximizing your package’s impact on your employees. That’s why it’s a good idea to hire a benefits broker who will also serve as your benefits consultant or employee benefits advisor, helping you craft a strategy that meets your goals and needs.

One of the main ways that brokers can help you develop your benefits strategy is through data collection. They can provide third-party health risk assessments (HRAs) and employee surveys to establish demonstrated employee needs. That information enables you to craft a strategic benefits plan that keeps costs low while increasing the benefits that matter most to your employees.

Another cost-saving offering to look out for is a tiered health plan structure. These health insurance packages allow employees to manage their health expenses, keeping your costs low while making sure that employees get the coverage they need. Young and healthy employees to take on low-premium, high-deductible plans paired with HSAs to keep their upfront costs low, while employees with families or health risks can opt-in to more comprehensive plans.

Health savings don’t stop at the plan level, either. The right benefits broker will help you reduce your prescription drug spend while making sure that your employees get the medications they need. Drug formularies can guide employees towards lower-cost, preapproved medications and away from expensive alternatives. When necessary, benefits brokers can also help you impose limited restrictions such as requiring employees to try generic drugs before covering name-brand equivalents. And some brokers will help you cut costs across the board by offering a prescription savings card as an added benefit for your employees. These cards can help employees save up to 80% on most medications.

Education

Your financial investment into your benefits strategy isn’t worth a whole lot if your employees don’t understand the benefits offered to them.

Your benefits broker can help you provide your employees with the tools they need to decrease their medical expenses and increase their wellness to minimize days off and maximize productivity. But if your broker doesn’t also help you educate your employees about those options then your employees won’t take advantage of them. As a result, you won’t see those savings that the broker promised when you when you hired them.

Even by itself, education has a huge impact on your bottom line and employee welfare. According to a McKinsey survey, engaged healthcare consumers spend one-third as much as passive consumers. That means that having a benefits broker who helps you educate and engage your employees can lead to massive savings for your employees and your company. Plus, helping your employees become educated, intelligent benefits consumers will allow them to better understand their own needs.

At the same time, you’re investing a huge amount of money into employee benefits to reward and engage your employees so that they are productive, loyal, long-term members of your team. You want to make sure that they understand all of the benefits that you are offering them and all of the perks that make your benefits package stand out.

Choosing the Right Employee Benefits Broker: Key Takeaways

We’ve covered a lot in this guide, so let’s take a moment to go over the key points that you should keep in mind when hiring a benefits broker:

  • Benefits are a major expense and a significant investment in your human capital, so it’s important to work with the right broker for your organization
  • Don’t simply stay with the same benefits broker for years without reexamining the relationship, and be on the lookout for signs that your broker isn’t keeping up with the latest benefits trends
  • Look for a broker who offers and has expertise in modern benefits such as telemedicine and wellness benefits
  • Ensure your broker offers software solutions for benefits management and enrollment
  • See what the benefits broker can do to help you build a benefits strategy and proactively manage your benefits costs
  • Work with brokers who will help you educate your employees so that they can take advantage of their benefits, fully appreciate the package you offer, and become smarter healthcare consumers
Massive Changes to Healthcare Will Effect Your Business: What You Need to Know

Massive Changes to Healthcare Will Effect Your Business: What You Need to Know

The healthcare industry in the U.S. is uniquely ripe for transformation. It is a dynamic and growing market with rampant inefficiencies that attracts new technology-savvy players seeking opportunity. Case in point: Ecommerce giant Amazon recently entered into a joint venture with Berkshire Hathaway and Chase Manhattan to enter the healthcare space. Amazon’s health offering will disrupt long-time insurance incumbents like Blue Cross, United Health Care, Aetna, Humana and Cigna.

This competitive repositioning will force employees to change the way they consume healthcare (i.e., go to the doctor, fill prescriptions, etc.). Companies that begin to plan now for this change will have a significant advantage over those that wait.

In this post, we’ll take a look at some of the key factors driving healthcare disruption and outline several best practice steps you can take to position your company for long-term success, including:

  • Don’t do it alone
  • Prioritize the disruption
  • Accelerate innovation
  • Extend traditional boundaries

Market forces are accelerating the pace of change

In healthcare, progress has moved forward in fits and starts. Overall, however, the pace of change is accelerating. We’ve already seen consumers shift away from brick-and-mortar stores in other markets, and it was only a matter of time before healthcare followed the same pattern.

Consumers are accustomed to quick responses, electronic access to information, and the ability to be more engaged in decision making. With purchasing power tilting more in favor of consumers, it’s natural that they would opt for more easily accessible options when seeking   the healthcare services and products they need.

The forces that have managed to disrupt other markets—from travel to media to retail—have so far made only slight intrusions into healthcare. But that is changing. Big technology companies like Google and Apple are also moving into the healthcare space, bringing unique capabilities such consumer recognition, extensive supply chains and powerful analytical capabilities—all backed by vast financial resources.  

Other market entrants adding to the disruption include leading pharmacy retailers such as CVS and Walgreens, which are integrating their e-commerce systems with their numerous retail outlets and walk-in clinics to create new healthcare delivery platforms. All of these efforts seek to address long-time service delivery shortcomings while leaping ahead of incumbents.

In the coming years we can expect a number of industry trends to play a central role in re-shaping the patient care and healthcare delivery landscape.

  • Data as a strategic asset. One of the most valuable resources in healthcare is data. Access to data and the ability to leverage that data is essential to creating consumer-centric models of care, improving outcomes, and reducing costs. To that end, many traditional technology players today are building connected tools, wearable devices and healthcare applications, allowing patients to track and monitor their treatment progress and send data back to the healthcare provider. Meanwhile, insurance companies are partnering with drug manufacturers to utilize patient data to personalize patient care and improve the consumer experience.
  • Better decision making through AI. According to Accenture, the artificial intelligence (AI) health market is expected to grow to $6.6 billion by 2021—a compound annual growth rate of 40 percent. A number of factors are driving that growth:
    • Patient management. AI tools can help doctors and insurance providers better identify and prioritize patients to deliver the optimum level of resources to minimize costs and enrich patient outcomes. The technology will be instrumental for analyzing large volumes of data to evaluate and develop future treatments. 
    • Diagnostic insight. AI is assisting researchers and doctors in diagnosis and understanding of complex diseases. Case in point: the FDA recently approved artificial intelligence tools to detect bone fractures and diabetic responsiveness in patients, helping to reduce time from onset to therapy.
    • Labor shortages. AI tools can help reduce the burden of providers performing documentation and data management. They have also proven highly effective in helping triage patients so doctors can focus on patients with the most critical need.
  • Managing social determinants. Most health outcomes are the result of circumstances outside the healthcare system. These social determinants, such as the conditions in which people are born, live, work and age, undergird many of today’s healthcare challenges. As social determinants become a greater focus in healthcare treatment and delivery, care spending is expected to drop while quality of life would improve for impacted communities. In many areas, this has already begun, as hospitals and health insurers work with local health departments to identify social determinants and address community health concerns.  

Taking a strategic approach to transformation

With the healthcare market poised for major disruption, business leaders are rapidly developing strategies to remain competitive. Disruption is not all doom and gloom. With the right approach, it can be as much of an opportunity as it is a threat. How you respond can make all the difference. Following are some best practice steps that can help you take control of your response effort and better position your company to capitalize on this market shift.

  • Don’t do it alone. Working with a strategic employee benefits broker is essential for gaining an edge and avoiding obsolescence in today’s fast-moving digital world. Find digital-savvy partners willing to challenge traditional thinking and make sure your strategic approach is aligned with market realities. The right broker will ensure your business is not only poised to adapt to any market changes, but will also leverage those changes to your business’ advantage.
  • Prioritize the disruption. The scale, the reach and the quality of the experience are three dimensions in which digital disruptions can be viewed. Your ability to accurately assess these dimensions can provide important market advantages. How will the disruption effect your business and your employees? With new value will it bring? What challenges will you need to tackle? How will it impact other aspects of your business operations? Disruptions that impact two or more of these elements should be given priority focus.
  • Accelerate innovation.  To survive and thrive in the digital era, companies must be able to innovate faster than their competitors. Driving innovation at this speed requires a culture that encourages and celebrates innovation.  Many organizations have little tolerance for risk or failure, but risk-taking is the lynchpin to innovation. Companies that encourage creativity, set bold objectives and aren’t afraid of failure are better equipped to succeed in the face of market uncertainty. While innovation is vital to your response strategy, ultimately your company’s core goals and mission should drive your business focus and transformation initiatives.
  • Extend traditional boundaries. Carefully examine what organizational changes your company may need to become more collaborative and open. This requires an objective and honest assessment of people, processes, and technologies across the organization. Be prepared to question beliefs based on history, long-held practices and accepted patterns. Consider why and how these beliefs are held and assess and weigh current practices to previous patterns.  Set aggressively high targets that extend traditional boundaries and requires people to think outside the box. A willingness to break from established practices can open the door to creativity, allowing your team to see the possibilities often hidden behind the status quo.

Key Takeaways

When it comes to pioneering innovation, the healthcare industry presents a paradox. Although life-changing medical breakthroughs often come about at a rapid pace, the manner in which healthcare is delivered has been painstakingly slow to improve. But change is indeed coming and the winners will be those that figure out how to best prepare for, navigate, and benefit from this massive disruption.

The one decision business leaders need to make when it comes to healthcare disruption is how to respond to it. Taking effective action will often requires leading a journey into unfamiliar territory using new tools and processes. Uncertainty is inevitable. Instead of trying to change that, explore what is technologically possible, understand the risk-reward tradeoffs, and then rally the best resources to bring the vision to life.

Whatever the approach, one thing is certain: disruption waits for no one—there’s no time to waste in moving from awareness to action.    

The Lowdown on Wellness Benefits: What They Are and How They Can Help Your Business

There is no question that wellness benefits have become all the rage in recent years. Companies of all sizes are offering benefits such as on-site exercise facilities, healthy food during the workday, and flexible work hours in order to improve employee health and morale. Wellness has been treated as something of a cure-all for business ills ranging from healthcare costs to high turnover rates. Are they worth the hype? We think mostly so, but that in order for wellness programs to be effective they should be tailored to your company’s values and your employees’ specific needs.

In today’s post we’ll explore the main reasons why you should adopt wellness benefits including:

  • Decrease healthcare costs
  • Genuinely help employees
  • Adapt to and augment company culture
  • Increase employee engagement for productivity and retention

Let’s take a look at what wellness benefits are, how they can help your business, and how you can get started creating a wellness program of your own.

Benefits Overview

So what exactly are wellness benefits? Generally speaking, they are any program that is intended to improve an employee’s mental or physical health. Companies are increasingly adopting wellness benefits in order to keep their healthcare costs low or increase employee morale.

Typically wellness benefits fall into one or both of two categories: those that address mental health and those that address physical health. Screenings and counseling can help identify both mental and physical issues at the same time, but the wellness solutions to the two different categories of health are generally different.

Some examples of physical wellness benefits are:

  • Contests for exercise, weight loss, or smoking cessation
  • Subsidized gym membership or on-site exercise facilities
  • Free healthy food in-office
  • Diet and exercise education and counseling

While mental wellness benefits can include:

  • Flexible vacation and remote-work policies
  • In-office breaks
  • Counseling and therapy
  • Support groups

Later we’ll explore how you can assemble the right wellness package that best fits your company’s values and your employees’ needs. But first let’s examine just why you should consider implementing wellness benefits in the first place.

They Work

One of the main reasons why wellness benefits are catching on so quickly is that they just work. In fact, wellness programs have an average ROI of three to one. There are several reasons why the return on investment is so high – the first one being that it doesn’t take that much of an investment to create wellness benefits. Some programs can be expensive, but benefits like education and competitions are easy to set up and require almost no monetary commitment. Fundamentally, wellness is a form of prevention, which is almost always more cost effective than treatment. So even benefits which involve medical care, such as screening programs, save big bucks in the long run.

The most obvious impact on your bottom line is decreased medical expenses overall. Wellness benefits are especially effective at targeting common ‘lifestyle’ issues, like smoking and obesity, and associated chronic diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. They have proven successful in encouraging exercise, healthier eating, weight loss, smoking cessation, and increased mental health; all of which lower medical costs.

But the financial benefit doesn’t end there. Because employees become healthier and happier, they miss work less frequently and are less stressed at work. This leads to increased productivity and decreased turnover, which are major benefits to your bottom line and to the success of your organization as a whole.

They Actually Help Employees

Unlike other methods of cutting healthcare costs, wellness benefits are actually about making employees’ lives better. They decrease the need for healthcare, rather than the coverage itself, and in-so-doing put the employee’s needs front and center. Wellness programs only work for the company if they succeed in helping employees; the ROI comes directly from improved employee health.

This makes your job a lot easier – and more rewarding. You get to think about what’s genuinely best for all of your employees and then make it happen. And for once you won’t have to fight tooth and nail to get employees to adopt the new initiatives, because the benefit to them will be self-evident. Employees are the lifeblood of any company; make the most of this opportunity to make their lives better while also helping the company succeed.

They Adapt to and Augment Company Culture

Every company’s challenges are different, and the solutions need to be as well. Your wellness benefits can and should be tailored to fit your company’s specific needs, goals, and values. They are also often most effective when implemented with your company culture in mind; choose the benefits that reflect what your company stands for.

If your wellness benefits are aligned with your culture, they are more likely to be adopted by your employees and are more likely to address your employees’ challenges effectively. And if you have a strong culture, then your employees are already onboard with its values, so they will embrace benefits that reflect those values.

Best of all, when you implement wellness benefits that are aligned with your company culture, they will become an important part of the culture over time. Wellness can be an enormous asset to your culture, serving as proof that your culture is fostering a sense of shared values and commitments.

They Increase Engagement

Because wellness benefits are intended improve employees’ well-being, they generally make employees feel more valued. They are frequently viewed by employees as quality-of-life benefits that are meant help them more than they help the company.

The fact of the matter is that even if you were to implement wellness benefits purely to cut healthcare costs, you would still have to make your employees’ lives better in order to attain that goal. And your employees would appreciate you, and their work, more for it. When your employees feel valued, they will be more engaged with their work, increasing their productivity and decreasing turnover.

Don’t just take our word for it – a recent study found that 85% of employers saw an increase in engagement after implementing wellness benefits, and that employee engagement was actually the primary reason for providing wellness benefits for 42% of companies surveyed.

We probably don’t have to explain to you how much it helps to have your employees engaged in their work. Wellness benefits can help solve the retention crisis that many businesses are facing in today’s economy. Turnover is a fact of life and an expensive problem that is only getting worse, especially when it comes top talent.  And, a major driver of turnover is the difficulty of providing meaningful work. So, when companies release wellness benefits that get employees engaged in their work, they can do wonders for employee retention and productivity. In 2016, Aflac found that 60% of employees would take a job with lower salary but higher benefits, and that 42% of employees said that increasing benefits would help keep them in their jobs.

How to Create a Wellness Program

So, wellness benefits can decrease your healthcare costs, strengthen your company culture, increase employee productivity and retention. But you may be wondering how to get started setting up a wellness program. Well, let’s explore the basics of introducing wellness benefits in your organization.

In order to develop an effective wellness program, you should determine what health issues you need to address. You can do this in a few different ways. The first is to consider the main healthcare issues nationwide, particularly for the demographics that reflect your workforce. The second is to look at your healthcare expenses over recent years for main drivers of healthcare costs. The third, and best, way to figure out what issues to tackle is to conduct a Health Risk Assessment, or HRA, company-wide. These questionnaires provide you with the information you need to identify the issues that most affect your employees. Third-party vendors can conduct the assessment in order to maximize employee comfort and participation and can analyze the results for you to give you the best possible insights.

Once you have determined what issues you want to tackle, it’s time to decide on what programs you want to implement. We encourage you to choose the benefits based on the issues you identified in conjunction with your company culture. Don’t think too much about what other companies are doing to address the same issues, try to think about how your company should solve them. Every company is different, and you want your programs to be in line with what your company values.

Wellness programs generally fall into four main categories: screening, education, incentives, and counseling. Screening generally encompasses preventative care beyond what is covered under the standard healthcare plan and helps you catch potential issues before they start affecting employee health and well-being. Education empowers employees to take control of their health and can take the form of health fairs, regularly scheduled health seminars or talks. Incentives directly encourage employees to act to improve their wellness by making it easier to make healthy changes or rewarding wellness accomplishments. Examples of incentives include contests, subsidized gym membership, free therapy or guided exercise sessions on-site, or rewards for participating in the other components of the wellness program such as screenings or educational talks. Finally, counseling allows employees to receive confidential advice about their physical, mental, or financial health.

Now that you have decided which programs can make the most difference for your employees, implement them enthusiastically and consistently. Get key stakeholders, especially executives and managers, deeply involved in all of your wellness programs. Effective wellness should be fun and rewarding, but they also involve challenging employee’s habits and lifestyles, so your leadership teams can encourage adoption by getting fully onboard themselves.

If you follow these guidelines, you should have a strong wellness program that is tailored to what your company stands for and what your employees need to be the healthiest and happiest versions of themselves. Just one last thing – listen to your employees once you have rolled out wellness. They likely know what they want and need better than you do, so you can continue to develop a more effective wellness strategy by encouraging and integrating their feedback.

Key Takeaways

We’ve thrown a lot of information about wellness at you in this article. Don’t worry if you can’t remember it all – you can always come back to refresh your memory. Just remember these key points when you start thinking about developing a wellness program:

  • Wellness is worth everything you put into it and more
  • Your company culture should guide your wellness strategy – and your benefits will strengthen your culture in return
  • Wellness benefits actually improve your employees’ lives and make them more engaged with their work, increasing retention and productivity
  • There is no right way to implement wellness, do what makes sense for you and your employees, and don’t forget to have fun

There are many ways to integrate wellness benefits into your business. We certainly have not covered everything in this article, but hopefully you now have a better sense of what wellness can do for your organization and how you can start putting together a wellness program. We would love to hear from you about your wellness strategies successes, so post any ideas we may have missed in the comments!

Prepare Your Company for the Future of Healthcare Today

Prepare Your Company for the Future of Healthcare Today

The healthcare industry is changing at a rapid pace, and it can be hard to keep up as an employer in order to minimize costs and maximize the well-being of your employees. That’s why it’s worth considering where healthcare is likely to go and what steps you can take today to set yourself up for success in the future.

Let’s examine how the healthcare industry is changing and key ways to prepare your company for the future of healthcare:

• Become a better healthcare consumer
• Adopt telemedicine
• Empower and engage employees
• Embrace wellness

Healthcare: Where it is Now and Where it is Heading

The entire healthcare industry, and insurance in particular, has changed drastically over the past two decades. Consolidation, rising costs, technology, and government action have all contributed to a turbulent and challenging healthcare marketplace for employers.

At the beginning of the millennium, comprehensive insurance plans with low deductibles were still commonplace, but they ultimately failed due to the lack of an incentive for employees to reduce spending – which was especially vital after the recession. Insurance companies tried to solve the issue through carrier-managed plans which controlled access to care to reduce costs, but these plans proved extremely unpopular. As a result, carriers and employers are turning to consumer-driven health plans (CDHPs) to increase cost-sharing and decrease spending. The most common type of CDHPs are high-deductible plans paired with tax-deductible health savings accounts, which keep premiums low and give employees significant control over their healthcare costs.

The problem with these plans is that, while they provide employees with an incentive to manage and reduce their costs, the plans do not provide them with the tools they need to do so effectively. The rest of the healthcare pipeline, including employers, are struggling to catch up with ways to reduce costs and empower employees now that more of the healthcare costs lie on the consumer.

Throughout the healthcare industry, the focus is on cutting costs and increasing efficiency – resulting in the formation of conglomerates. The lines between insurance carriers, brokers, pharmacy benefit managers, pharmacies, and providers are all becoming more blurred. The most prominent recent mergers have been between insurers and PBMs; Aetna recently merged with CVS Health and Cigna purchased Express Scripts.

There is good reason to believe that this trend of consolidation will continue, and that major companies not historically associated with healthcare will get involved. Amazon has made it clear that it intends to enter the healthcare arena, partnering with reinsurers Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan and purchasing the prescription delivery service PillPack. As with so many other industries, Amazon is likely to change the way that the healthcare industry functions and take over a lion’s share of the market in the process. And once it has, it is likely that other tech giants will follow suit.

The current trend of consolidation and CDHPs are moving the industry towards a “direct-to-consumer” model, with fewer middlemen and greater focus on customer experience. There will be more opportunities for employees and employers to save time and money, but at the same time there will be an even greater burden of responsibility to be intelligent consumers. The more knowable the market is for consumers, and the more control that they have over their healthcare, the more important it is that understand it. Education, already a crucial and too-often-neglected part of the healthcare equation, will likely become even more vital to both employers and employees.

Employers have often borne the brunt of the burden of rising costs and an ever-changing healthcare industry. Future changes could cause further turmoil for companies that do not adapt quickly and effectively. However, change is not always bad news at all. You can set yourself up for success in the current and future healthcare markets by taking a proactive approach to your healthcare policies and adapting properly to every new development. The future is looking pretty bright – for smart healthcare consumers.

Become a Better Healthcare Consumer

In order to thrive now and in the future, it’s important to become a better consumer. The same trends that have empowered employees to take control of their own healthcare costs have also given employers greater responsibility for their own costs. So how can you meet this responsibility?

Education is the first step to becoming a smarter consumer. Knowing the ins and outs of the market, including which new options exist and could benefit the company and its employees, allows you to take control over your healthcare present and future. This is especially important when the relationships between every player in the healthcare industry are being thrown into turmoil. Proactive employers, armed with current knowledge, can negotiate better deals and carve out an advantageous space for themselves in the new market that is continuously forming.

An important part of becoming a better healthcare consumer is to take advantage all of the new tools that are becoming available that employers can leverage to minimize their expenses and provide value for their employees. For instance, mail-order prescriptions and other alternatives to traditional pharmacies can reduce your spend on prescription drugs. Modernized, alternative healthcare fulfillment will only become more common, so adopting them early will set you up to take full advantage of new developments.

Adopt Telemedicine

Telemedicine is perhaps the most significant alternative to traditional care that employers can leverage to reduce their costs while keeping employees healthier. In an age when offices are increasingly moving in the direction of remote work, remote doctor’s appointments just make sense. Plus, telemedicine is likely to become even more widespread and powerful, so making it part of your employee’s healthcare habits now will pay dividends in the long-term.

Like all other digital healthcare solutions, telemedicine saves employees – and by extension employers – time and money by offering a more convenient alternative to traditional options. It lowers direct costs by reducing the number of expensive emergency room and urgent care visits and is often even cheaper than a traditional doctor’s appointment. Also, employees commonly skip or reschedule preventative care appointments during work hours because they feel pressured not to miss work, which can actually lead to greater healthcare costs down the line (not to mention make employees feel mistreated).

Telemedicine also makes your team members better employees. Because employees can consult doctors from their home or office, they generally don’t need to miss work in order to get medical advice. And, because telemedicine allows employees to access the care they need more quickly, your employees will be healthier overall, raising their productivity when they are in the office.

Empower and Engage Employees

At Launchways, we strongly believe in empowering your employees to become smarter healthcare consumers. This is particularly important in healthcare because of the shift towards consumer-driven health plans. With the current trend of consumer-driven healthcare, employees need to be more involved in their healthcare decisions in order to minimize costs while maximizing their health. So, turning your employees into smart, proactive healthcare consumers can really set you up for present and future success.

Coaching and education are important parts of empowering employees, allowing them to choose the options that are best for their health and their wallets. Digital tools not only provide employees with the information they need to be smart consumers, they also make it easier to navigate the healthcare process – an important step in getting employees engaged in healthcare decisions. And engaged consumers spend a third as much on healthcare as passive consumers, according to the 2016 McKinsey Consumer Health Insights Survey. The same survey also found that 80% of consumers view digital solutions as the most effective way to perform many fundamental healthcare activities such as finding doctors and insurance plans, checking health information, and monitoring health metrics.

Because employees prefer digital options, they are more likely to take control of their healthcare decisions when offered digital solutions. And since digital options are streamlined and user-friendly, they genuinely make it easier for consumers to save money and manage costs through intentional consumption. Tools like HealthiestYou are already providing employees with one-stop-shop digital platforms to manage their healthcare. Just as Uber has revolutionized transportation and apps have modernized dating, healthcare apps make it easy for consumers to find the insurance plans, doctors, medications, and pharmacies that work best for their health and wallet.

Embrace Wellness

Wellness benefits are getting increasing attention due to their ability to reduce healthcare costs and make employees feel valued and engaged in their work. The cost-benefit analysis of wellness from a healthcare perspective is clear – the healthier your employees are, the fewer healthcare-related costs they will incur. Smoking cessation and weight loss programs are obvious examples of cost-saving wellness measures, but other health-promoting benefits can have almost as big an impact on your bottom line.

Because wellness benefits generally target lifestyle related health costs, they are often seen by employees as quality-of-life benefits. They show employees that you care about their wellbeing, which makes them feel valued. Given the challenges of high employee turnover and the difficulty of keeping employees engaged in their work, the morale boost from introducing wellness benefits can be a very welcome side effect indeed.

So wellness is important, but what exactly are wellness benefits? The first kind of wellness benefits have to do with physical well-being, such as:
• Onsite gyms
• Discounted or free gym memberships
• Company-wide exercise or smoking cessation challenges
• Nutritional benefits: eg. healthy meals and snacks on-site or access to a nutritionist

The second type of wellness benefits address mental health, which is an often overlooked area that can result in significant healthcare costs as well as reduced performance. Examples of these benefits include:
• Time off to recharge: vacation time, sick days, “personal days”, floating holidays, summer Fridays
• Stress relief breaks: naps, required breaks throughout the day, or even on-site massages
• Meditation or mindfulness apps
• Support groups (particularly for alcohol or smoking cessation)
• Onsite or remote counseling

Wellness benefits can have a significant impact on your healthcare costs as well as your employee’s well-being and work satisfaction as a whole. If you’re interested in learning more about wellness programs and what they can do to empower your organization, keep an eye out for our upcoming article on the topic.

Key Takeaways

The healthcare industry has changed a lot in recent years, and there is every reason to believe that it will keep changing at an even greater rate. Employers have to adapt to face new challenges and accommodate new healthcare models in order to keep afloat. But by planning ahead and taking advantage of new developments, employers can define their role in the healthcare equation, minimize their costs, and maximize their employee’s health and well-being. Just keep in mind that a few key steps can help you manage costs now and prepare for the future:

• Becoming a better consumer by educating yourself, renegotiating relationships, and leveraging new tools
• Adopting telemedicine to reduce direct costs and absenteeism and to increase productivity
• Empowering and engaging employees to make them the best possible healthcare consumers
• Embracing wellness to reduce long-term health costs and make your employees feel valued

Healthcare is an incredibly complex topic and there is no right or wrong answer for how to manage your employee’s healthcare. Every organization will face its own challenges and find its own solutions. But, hopefully this article has provided some insight into where the industry is going and some of the things you should consider doing for the present and future well-being of your company and its employees.