How Wellness Can Help Retain Top Talent

The cost of healthcare benefits can make as big of a dent in a recruiter’s level of happiness as it does in the company budget. Anytime you have to make benefits decisions, the associated costs can keep you up at night.  

But you also have to remember your responsibility to the company to attract top talent from a limited pool of qualified candidates. Trying to offer current and potential employees great benefits with limited resources can be stressful.  

Luckily, it’s possible to find a solution to both of these issues underneath the same umbrella — an effective wellness program.

Meeting New Workplace Expectations

Wellness perks are not new, but they are newly ubiquitous. Many companies have offered programs to help employees quit smoking or take health assessments for decades. In recent years, both the variety of programs that large companies offer, as well as the sheer number of dollars spent, has increased dramatically. And, in fact, younger professionals have come to expect these benefits as part of a competitive compensation package.

A recent survey from the Society of Human Resource Management shows companies are increasingly integrating wellness initiatives into their organizational fabric. As of 2015, 70 percent of survey respondents offer general wellness programs, 46 percent offer health and lifestyle coaching, and 40 percent offer programs for preventable, chronic health conditions like obesity.

Additionally, a 2015 survey from Fidelity Investments and the National Business Group on Health predicted that employers would spend approximately $700 per employee on wellness-based incentives this year alone. This is up from $594 in 2014 and $430 in 2010. And in companies with more than 20,000 employees, wellness spending per employee reaches nearly $900 — compared to $717 in 2014.

Wellness benefits are gaining momentum, and providing these options may be a way for your company to keep up with employees’ ever-changing needs. It’s no secret young professionals expect different things from their jobs than many of their older counterparts. A Workforce 2020 study from Oxford Economics found that while Millennials are prepared to work more, they desire “comprehensive benefits” more than previous generations.

Investing in employee health is not only a way for you to show employees you care about their long-term well-being, but it’s also a way to meet or exceed those expectations and earn their job satisfaction and loyalty.

Establishing the Nucleus

Effective wellness programs take many forms and focus on many aspects of health. Only your company can determine the exact strategy that will work best with your workforce. But some key strategies are foundational no matter what type of team you’re on. Here are three tactics that will help you position your wellness program as a perk.

1.   Go beyond the surface. Creating a superficial program may jump-start participation, but if you don’t address lifestyle habit formation, your program will not have many lasting results. To build a truly effective program, you need to take a three-prong approach through motivation, support, and a long-term plan of action.

Encourage your employees to think beyond surface-level goals to reflect on one habit they want to improve, as well as why they should care about it. Go into as much detail as possible to tap into intrinsic motivation and enact long-term behavior changes.

2.   Build a choice-centric program. The heart of your program should be choice-centered and include comprehensive benefits. Allocate the bulk of your resources to providing personal coaches, trainers, and even medical professionals to help people determine what areas to focus on. Connecting people remotely is a great way to save costs. For instance, Comcast offers a service called Doctor on Demand. This allows employees to video chat with a physician in real time.

Flexibility helps prevent you from treading into paternalistic territory (i.e., making employees feel like there’s an unspoken expectation that they have to participate). Present your program as something that’s so great, you think employees would love to partake.

3.   Incorporate bonus wellness solutions. After you’ve developed a solid foundation, the possibilities are practically endless. Get creative and — most importantly — ask your employees what kind of programs they’re interested in.

Some ideas include bringing professionals like nutritionists, yoga instructors, or masseuses to the office. If you can carve out some permanent or temporary space, invite employees to teach and share fitness classes and demonstrations on-site. Stock healthy food options in the company fridge, and work with local gyms to offer memberships.

Zappos is one company that has found success in its wellness program. Among other initiatives, it reimburses employees for participating in events like 5Ks and marathons. It hosts a benefit fair where local wellness-focused vendors are invited to help employees be more proactive about their health. It even has a wellness points program in which employees earn points by participating in events and later receiving prizes at certain milestones.

How you promote wellness is as much limited by your creativity as your budget. So invest as much as you can — an effective program can improve your employees’ health, reduce your healthcare costs, help you retain your most valuable talent, and enable them do their best work for years to come.

Chris Cutter is the founder and CEO of LifeDojo. LifeDojo’s evidence-based 12-week wellness programs lead employees through a journey of motivation, daily action, and support, resulting in permanent health behavior change.

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