This week, the Winston Benefits team is at the HR Technology Conference in Las Vegas. We'll be sharing notes from the best employee benefits, wellness, and HR technology sessions at the conference.
Employers and experts have discovered workplace wellness programs need more than educational initiatives to improve employees’ health. If education alone were the answer, there wouldn’t be so many smokers or people who are overweight or obese.
Today employers are trying new tactics to help bring employees on board with wellness efforts and get them actively taking steps to improve their health, including incorporating technology into wellness plans, said Barry Hall and Scott Marcotte of Buck Consultants Talent and HR Solutions Practice at the HR Tech Conference this week in Las Vegas.
Gamification, Mobile Technology and Social Media
There are three types of technology that are of particular interest in the area of workplace wellness:
Gamification. The use of game-like features in non-game situations to motivate changes in behavior. This could be through actual games, contests or game-like experiences.
Mobile technology. Mobile applications or other communication via smartphones or tablets.
Social media. Social networking platforms and collaborative content management, such as blogs, podcasts, texts and RSS feeds.
“The role of HR has traditionally been to prevent people from playing games at work and stopping them from using social media,” said Hall. But now HR is starting to see these technologies as tools that can help achieve three goals HR is often trying to achieve with employees: developing skills, enabling innovation and changing behaviors.
3 Case Studies
Buck Consultants and WorldatWork’s recent Employer Study: Emerging Technology in Health Engagement found that of 408 employers surveyed, 62 percent use gamification to promote health engagement and half use social media for that purpose.
These employers are realizing that they need to reach employees where they are, which is on social media sites and mobile devices -- often at the same time, said Marcotte, who along with Hall shared some examples of employers that boosted their employees’ wellness with the help of technology.
A large telecommunications company starts a wellness portal. The portal works like a social media site where people have profiles and can share information with other users. The company was surprised to find that employees were willing to post really personal information about their struggles and successes on the way to wellness. It helped employees encourage each other and keep each other accountable as they worked to incorporate new, healthy habits into their lives.
Retailer Aeropostale uses social influence. The employer started AeroBabies, a Facebook group where pregnant employees could connect with each other and get information on having a healthy pregnancy. The group, which is moderated by a certified nurse midwife, drew participation of two-thirds of the company’s pregnant employees. In the first year the company saw C-section rates drop to 33 percent from 44 percent, with $140,000 in estimated savings.
- Wayne Farms uses games to boost health insurance literacy. Last year the poultry producer switched to a high-deductible health plan and needed to educate employees about how it worked and how to manage their out-of-pocket costs while using it. They set up a site with games and social media as an alternative to using brochures and other printed information to educate employees. The effort helped double employees’ understanding of key concepts.