Executives must stress wellness program benefits consistently

November 10, 2008
 [An Oct. 28] IBJ Daily AP story about wellness programs ("Workers want bigger carrot for health programs") examined what employers are doing to increase participation in these programs. Their efforts are worthwhile. Everybody benefits from wellness programs, which reduce costs for both employers and employees, and improve employees' health. But I want to encourage companies to change their benefits mind-set. When companies do embrace programs such as wellness, they hand out T-shirts and expect everyone to get on board.

The result? Cynical employees grow tired of annual "take-aways," and human resources teams find it harder to make meaningful cuts.

Is this how companies should handle what is, for many, the second-largest cost of operations?

No. We need to see four key changes. Benefits should be an ongoing executive suite focus, not simply an annual budget concern.

Benefits should be part of an ongoing conversation with employees, not a once-a-year enrollment discussion.

Benefits should be viewed holistically, as affecting employees' physical and fiscal health.

Companies need to prepare for a transformation. With increased participation in things such as wellness programs and health savings accounts, health benefits are poised for change.

As [your] article suggests, employees expect valuable programs from employers. The successful employers will be the ones that find ways to meet that expectation in this changing environment.

Bryan Brenner

CEO Benefit Associates Inc.
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