May 2011 Archives
In a survey on the Psychologically Healthy Workplace Program website, we asked, “Does your employee wellness program include financial incentives?”
Here are the results:
The most recent Art & Science of Health Promotion Conference looked at the use of financial incentives in more depth. Many companies, according to Dr. Ron Goetzel, a leading researcher at Emory University and Thompson-Reuters, have used financial incentives to increase participation within their wellness programs, with some very mixed results.
Some companies have used significant financial incentives, in the form of reduced health insurance premiums, or payment for memberships in fitness clubs. If the incentives are high enough, employees participate at higher rates in completion of health risk assessments and they are more likely to sign up for fitness activities or classes offered as part of the wellness program.
The problem that many of these companies have encountered is that higher rates of participation have not always led to behavior change. Participation rates are high only as long as the financial incentives are offered. If they are withdrawn, so that the employees may engage in wellness programs for intrinsic reasons rather than to get a financial reward, the participation rates plummet.
There is also a trend that many of the companies are noticing. If the financial incentives do not continue to increase, year to year, the participation rates are trending down. To be fair, these companies are still seeing a return on investment of approximately 3:1.
Other companies that do not offer large financial incentives are frustrated that modest financial incentives do not appear to be effective in increasing participation. Jill Young, MS, the Wellness Coordinator for the University of Montana discovered that small to modest financial incentives did not produce a positive return for their wellness program. It was only when the incentives were high that they were able to produce a positive return on investment.
This leaves us with some important questions. Do financial incentives work to promote wellness in the workplace? Can they be sustained over time? What is the tipping point for companies to experience positive benefits from investment in wellness? What are the conditions that are necessary to move a wellness program from a motivational system that is based on rewards to one that is more intrinsically motivated?
Our survey hints at difficulties associated with getting people to be motivated to improve their health and be able to live their lives with more energy and engagement. Providing financial incentives to engage in wellness programming has had some positive results, but there is more work to be done to understand the psychology of health and wellness.
Couldn't make it to our 2011 Psychologically Healthy Workplace Conference in Chicago? Never fear, a little bird told us there was a lot of event coverage on Twitter. We've aggregated the postings from the first day of the event, below. Stay tuned for tweets from day two, as well as other goodies, including interviews, photos from the conference and more.
At #phwc pre- conference workshop focus on creating wellness focused work culture
Great news for small businesses -- you can also have wellness-focused culture, just like the large organizations, says Chapman #phwc
Challenges facing businesses: aging workforce, fundamental changes, globalization, economic uncertainty, health-related costs #phwc
Companies need to get economics of business and their concern of employees in balance, says Chapman #phwc
To get management on board with wellness, it cannot focus on only betterment of employees. Must also have economic benefit - Chapman #phwc
8 wellness culture domains: communication, incentives, policy, leadership, infrastructure, environment, normative, evaluation. #phwc
Need congruence between formal policies, informal policies, and actual practices. #phwc
Policies, practices, norms and values, phys. environ, function of the org, external environ, interactions all contribute 2work culture #phwc
Avg. cost of employee's health in 2010 - $34,918. Includes health plan, sick leave, workers comp, presenteeism, disability #phwc
Presenteeism -- Productivity lost at work bc of a health condition, even minor ones like indigestion, sore throats, etc. #phwc
Presenteeism accounts for more than half of that cost #phwc
Regarding presenteeism, says Chapman, "Workforces will be more productive by addressing underlying health problems" #phwc
"This is enhancement of human capital. Wellness is one of the best platforms to put together everything we do in workplace." Chapman #phwc
Chapman - wellness is intentional lifestyle characterized by personal responsibility, moderation, max personal enhancement of health. #phwc
Workplace wellness program - organized workplace program that assists employees in making voluntary behaviors changes ... (cont) #phwc
(cont) behavior changes that reduce health and injury risks, improve health consumer skills and enhance their personal productivity #phwc
Identy health needs, intervene in the 8 domains, assess intrrmediate effects, assess long-term effects #phwc
Needs relate to health risks, injury rates, chronic illness, disabilities, absenteeism, medical costs, and presenteeism. #phwc
Use employee biometrics, as well as questions ("Does wellness program help you be more productive") to measure impact #phwc
Benefits of workplace programs for employers: improve employee health; reduce sick leave, cost of health benefits, workers' comp #phwc
Intangible benefits: improve employee morale, loyalty, decision-making, productivity, recruitment/retention, competitiveness #phwc
Wellness focused culture is critical to effective wellness program. #phwc
The best-designed wellness program won't do much good if you're not using effective communication to reach, inspire employees. #phwc
Component of wellness culture: communication. Distribute info and promotion through vehicles that will provide greatest reach. #phwc
Wellness communication needs to be timely, repetitive and have a call-to-action. "What do you want people to do?" #phwc
Also to consider with wellness communication, make sure it can reach the family, not just the employee. #phwc
"Most employers have not done a very good job at telling employees WHY this (wellness program) is good for them." - Chapman #phwc
Chapman recommends incentive that reduces an employee's health care premium. Builds connection between wellness-health costs #phwc
When you have a high enough employee participation (like at LLBean where > 90%), it creates cultural phenomenon in workplace. #phwc
Include wellness program as part of employee policies: HR, health benefits, etc. Also, include family involvement. #phwc
"You never know when spouse will be on the employees' health plan," says Chapman. Also, program can be family- strengthening. #phwc
Consider the workplace environment to promote wellness: What food options are at meetings? Can you set up a walking course? #phwc
Despite economic recovery and return to growth, not many benefits, money has trickled down to employees, Ballard says. #phwc
What's a psychologically healthy workplace? Uses organizational best practices to improve employee well-being, organizational function #phwc
Employees in psychologically health workplaces have less stress, lower turnover, as reported by winners of PHWP awards program. #phwc
Organizations with psych. healthy workplaces have comprehensive plans, custom tailor programs and ongoing evaluations. #phwc
Employee well-being is sometimes built into mission statement; senior managers are also involved, "walking the talk." #phwc
National-level PHWA given to nonprofits, corporations, govt agencies, large and small -- shows ANY ORG can put practices into place. #phwc
Ballard - We are poised right now to make a big difference in the workplace for many years to come. #phwc
Opening session of #phwc
Psychologically healthy workplace is about optimizing stakeholder value rather than maximizing shareholdet returns #phwc
Next session: what's next in flex? #phwc
Fraone: What is flexibility – involves flexible times and flexible places, and also career flexibility #phwc
2 dimensions of flexibility: time and place. Not about working less #phwc
World of work is changing. For ex, no longer a primary breadwinner in household, but workplace hasn't adapted to these changes. #phwc
What's happening now in flex: More people willing to discuss it (like White House), HR more willing to add flex to orgs. #phwc
There's a business case for flex. Helps with retention, recruitment. But also significant economic benefit of savings. #phwc
Stronger culture of flexibility negatively correlated with voluntary turnover. #phwc
Work flexibility improves attraction&retention; can also improve productivity& decrease costs of commuting real estate & energy consumption
What's next in flex: More attention given to men. This is no longer a "mommy" issue, as its been considered in past. #phwc
"Listen to the men in your organization. Don't assume this is a women's issue or a mommy issue," says Fraone. #phwc
Work -life issues are an everyone issue, not just a mommy issue. #phwc
Also, millennials expect flextime. No flex="no thanks!"
Millenial workers will demand flexibility. Plus, boomers have aging parents to take care of making flex critical for them too. #phwc
Aging workforce can benefit from flex as retirement age increases and more workers become caregivers #phwc
Technology availability means more possible remote work, which means business continuity during bad weather, disasters, etc. #phwc
Flex is also strategic because global environment requires agility, Fraone says. #phwc
Flexibility can make your business more agile especially in a global marketplace. #phwc
Organizations must do more than offer flexible programs; they must have an established flexible culture, says Cavanaugh #phwc
Four levels of flex: nonexistent, informal, strategic, and deeply embedded. #phwc
Cavanaugh presenting 7 challenges to a flexible work culture. Challenge #1 - Manager atttiudes.
Manager attitudes are a challenge to flex. #phwc
Attitudes abt work still stuck in industrial revolution, but we're now in largely a service industry. Manager mindset holds back flex #phwc
Solution: Train the managers. Break the cycle so they can embrace new way of working. Encourage managers to talk about discomfort. #phwc
Challenge #2 to flex: Senior leaders like the status quo. #phwc
Another challenge to flex. Senior leaders like the status quo. #phwc
Solution: Restate the business case to senior leaders; demonstrate lowered costs by adding flex.
Challenge # 3: Perception that flex doesn't work for everyone.
Flex CAN work for everyone, but you have to get creative, Cavanaugh says. #phwc
Third challenge to flexibility. Flex won't work 4 everyone #phwc. Reality: there is flex for everyone it just doesn't look exactly the same.
Solution: Customize flex by team. Let corp policies outline choices. Let managers customize flex to fit needs of their dept, location. #phwc
Challenge # 4: Idea that being on site, having face time means you're working! #phwc
4th challenge to flex: the need (real or perceived) of face time. #phwc
Solution to face time myth: Focus instead on employee performance. #phwc
It's OK to say no to flex, but tie it into productivity and performance. "No, but I'm concerned about .. and if I see changes ..." #phwc
Challenge # 5: Flex grows underground. Informal flex is a big threat to a psychologically healthy workplace. #phwc
Offering informal flex can give perception that it's OK for some people, while not OK for others. #phwc
Challeng #5: informal flexibility. Can create an environment of "haves" and "have nots" #phwc
Solution: Find positive experiences of flex and communicate them to help shift expectations about flex.
Challenge # 6: Not sure how to measure effectiveness of flex. How do we know if it's working?
Challenge numero 6: can be difficult to know if flex intiativea are working. #phwc
Solution: Identify and track metrics to measure. Choose short-term and long-term metrics that matter to dept and leadership. #Phwc
Challenge # 7: Flex remains siloed in organizations.
Unlucky number 7: flex remains siloed in many orgs. #phwc
Solution: Engage cross-functional flex teams. This influences multiple stakeholders, builds more comprehensive case for flex. #phwc
Happening now: "Exploring the Importance of Integration in Worksite Health Management" with Laura Ellison of Motorola Solutions #phwc
Many types of health programs in the workplace: risk appraisals, health fairs, screenings, flu shots, incentive programs, etc. #phwc
Develop programs and plans to benefit everyone on the health risk spectrum (low-risk, at-risk, injury, conditions, disability #phwc
Starting point to creating health program, says Ellison, decide on your management business philosophy for employees. #phwc
Build a health program, wellness plan that is a "business within a business" - Ellison #phwc
Integration also needs measurement. For ex, physical activity (walking clubs, yoga) need to be connected to business goals as well. #phwc
Common program pitfalls: Emphasis doesn't match needs of employees. No common goal with vendors and resources. Timing is off. #phwc
That concludes Day One of #PHWC. Conference continues at 8 am CST tomorrow. Thanks to our audience tuning in from home.
A recent global survey conducted by BlessingWhite attempted to identify drivers of retention and turnover.
The top three reasons people identified for staying with their current employer was:
- Liking the work they do: 30%
- Having development or advancement opportunities: 17%
- Believing in the organization’s mission: 11%
Conversely, the top three reasons people identified for leaving their employer was:
- Lacking opportunities for growth or advancement: 26%
- Disliking the work: 15%
- Wanting more money: 15%
Now, one conclusion you could draw from this is the same as the press release that BlessingWhite put out: Employees will stay for the work but leave for their career. I am not sure I agree with this conclusion, though, because I am always wary of sweeping generalizations when less than a majority of people completing a survey endorse a particular response.
I interpret their results a little bit differently. The results indicate a lack of agreement about what is the most important reason to stay or leave. Because, not a single reason was endorsed by half or even a third of respondents, there was a great deal of variation in responses.
Some of that variation was undoubtedly driven by generational differences and other variation was driven by the country in which the respondent worked, both of which BlessingWhite highlight in their report. However, some of the variation was also likely driven by the uniqueness of the person (e.g., differences in priorities, life situations).
The lack of consistency in responses means organizations should not simply take the results of this survey and design costly, companywide initiatives to improve the number of people who like what they do or increase the number of growth opportunities that exist within the organization.
Instead, the results highlight the need to figure out what drives retention and turnover in your own organization – because clearly there is likely to be some variability. It also means that to maximize the impact on employees, your intervention(s) must be multifaceted. Otherwise, you run the risk of only improving retention and turnover for a relatively small subset of workers.
Therefore, the results of this survey really emphasize the importance of tailoring retention initiatives to the unique characteristics of the organization and its workforce. Of course, to be able to do that, you will need a good needs assessment to provide valid, actionable data on which to design future initiatives.
The Psychologically Healthy Workplace Program has a strong presence in Canada, with local programs in Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario, Manitoba and Nova Scotia. The Association of Psychologists of Nova Scotia recently announced its 2011 provincial-level awards. Check out the video, below, to learn more about the winners.