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“Whole Person,” “Holistic Well-Being” and Other Things We Heard at Conference Board

If Conference Board’s 18th annual Employee Health Care Conference taught us anything, it’s that the concepts of a well-being program and employee engagement are continuing to evolve in new and exciting ways. Our industry truly is making progress toward improving life for the people we serve. We left feeling optimistic about the future.

Here’s our top five takeaways from the conferences in New York and San Diego:

1. Health and well-being programs are changing to meet employee needs.

The market has evolved engagement and wellness strategies, and employers are beginning to follow suit. Employers need to make sure their programs create a dynamic, two-way relationship with participants. It’s more than simply asking an individual to complete a task and earn a reward. Instead, employees want something tangible out of the experience. They want to work for organizations with cultures that promote well-being and support healthy lifestyles.

At Conference Board, WebMD Health Services presented with our client of more than 10 years, Prudential Financial. Keith Winick, Director of Health and Wellness and Analytics at Prudential Financial, clearly articulated how Prudential’s program has grown to become comprehensive and holistic (terms that came up a lot during the conference), focusing on empowering all employees and making the entire Prudential family as engaged as possible.

There’s no shortage of statistics for why this is a good idea, but here are two we find compelling:

  • Actively disengaged employees cost the U.S. economy $450 billion to $550 billion each year in lost productivity1.
  • 57% of large employers believe that a lack of employee engagement in programs and benefits is their biggest obstacle to managing employee health2.

Prudential has developed an approach to its well-being culture that supports the overall health of individual employees, business groups and the organization overall, as well as the communities where its employees live and work.

Support from leadership and supervisors is also important—and starting to get more attention. Harvard Business Review ran an article not long ago titled “Good Bosses Create More Wellness than Wellness Plans Do.” Prudential has taken this to heart. It has made an effort to improve supervisor support to improve job satisfaction and employee retention, not to mention productivity.

Prudential also has made an effort to create consumer-first well-being experiences. The company continually evaluates the Health Risk Assessment powered by WebMD to meet the changing needs of its employees.

2. Habits are social. People follow people.

There was a lot of talk at the conference about the power of social networks to reinforce good behavior and recognize employees for their accomplishments. That could be through social media or crowdsourcing platforms. In some cases, this is replacing incentives or changing the way incentives are used.

Interestingly, the biggest private employer on the planet doesn’t do incentives. Representatives from Walmart at Conference Board shared that they don’t want to buy compliance from their more than two million employees because they believe it doesn’t create lasting behavior change. Instead, the company believes it can create lasting behavior change if it can inspire people based on sharing their own successes.

3. Want to capture awareness? Be relevant.

Sometimes you hear something and it sounds so obvious it’s like a moment out of The Emperor’s New Clothes. For instance, the idea that calls to action or prioritization should be based on the needs of the individual. A program should only show things to each user that are relevant to him or her in the moment. Individuals should have the power to choose what they want to do. After all, they know themselves best. It just goes to show you that the level of sophistication of personalization in our industry really is starting to catch up to what we enjoy in other parts of our lives.

4. Focus on the whole person.

You couldn’t be in a session without hearing terms like “whole person” or “holistic well-being.” This has really lead to the evolution of well-being, as well as the breadth of solutions available in the market. In one particular session, we heard someone comment on the need to shift from being vendor-centric to member-centric. The individual should be at the center of everything.

Each vendor has its own information and its own value to give, but it is important to think about what aligns best with each individual user. A healthy eating program, no matter how great it is, may not be right for me if I’m fit and eat well. But smoking cessation information might be relevant—and therefore I should be aware of it. Some companies are working to solve the problem of providing better information about all the different vendors that are available through a particular well-being program.

Interestingly, this evolution has led to a proliferation of vendors, each with a core focus or expertise.  The challenge it brings to employers is having to partner with so many different vendors and then figuring out how to raise employee awareness.

Multiple sessions discussed the idea of “integrators” or hub platforms.  Others talked about using artificial intelligence to pull in the right solution for employees. This is an exciting time. At WebMD, we are strategically focusing on true integration that doesn’t just push users out to other vendors, but pulls their data into our WebMD ONE experience, using it to drive behavior change.

5. Well-being culture and workplace culture are becoming more related.

The conference demonstrated that the market is shifting to bring together well-being culture and workplace culture. A well-being program should be thought of as part of workplace culture; improving the former also improves the latter. And when you have good culture you have engaged, happy, healthy employees.

For more on culture, check out our 10 Steps to Creating a Company Culture That Shines e-book.

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