Technology as an Enabler for Employee Wellness programs
Healthcare benefits costs have significantly increased over the last few years and employers are taking steps to reduce this cost. One of the measures taken by employers is to boost employee health through workplace wellness program. As per 2015 SHRM report, 70 % of organizations offered wellness program to the employees. Another report also showed that disease management component which tends to have immediate effects shows an ROI of $3.80, and lifestyle management component which are generally preventive in nature whose benefits are seen in long terms have an ROI of $0.5. However, many employers often see low participation from employees in wellness programs. The primary reasons for low participation are the lack of time, inconvenient time & location, lack of awareness and disengaged wellness programs. With wearables devices’ and apps such as Apple’s Healthkit and Google Fit coming in, technology is playing a major role in addressing these challenges by evolving the wellness program. In fact, technology has enabled integration of wellness program with HR functions in organization. Let us look at in more detail and learn how technology is paving the path for wellness programs to evolve.
- Wearable Devices: In a traditional setting of wellness program, if an employee performs a workout there is no way for the employee to track this activity other than manually entering the information. This makes the process tedious and time consuming often resulting in low participation. With wearables, it has been a complete turnaround; the employee can focus of completing the program without worrying about such issues.
- These devices can be easily integrated with existing HR system in the organization so the data regarding the activities can be stored in a centralized location. Even the apps of the wearable devices can be used to synchronize data with mobile app of HR system. The employer can use this information to offer incentives accordingly.
- Wearable devices can also be used by employees for setting reminders so that planned activities are not missed and they are on track to achieve their goals
- People with same devices can form groups and challenge other employees or work as a team towards the accomplishment of goals. This brings in healthy competition and keeps the employees motivated to participate in wellness program.
- Gamification: With the use of technology, the gamification element in wellness programs has moved to the next level.
- The wellness programs these days are able to have customized activities, challenges, goals, milestones, competitions and incentives.
- Employees are able to track their personal and/or team progress in real time. Elements like leaderboard and monthly topper keeps the employees motivated and engaged with wellness program.
- Once data from wearable devices is integrated with the HR system, employees with similar interests (such as cycling) can be easily identified. Such employees can form groups and can challenge and interact with other group members. This creates a healthy competition among employees, which fuels a competitive spirit between them.
- Analytics: Traditionally, decisions regarding wellness program are based on personal relationships, experiences, and risk avoidance. However, with People analytics, the decision could be data-driven. The likes, dislikes, performance and participation can be better analyzed with analytics.
- Data collected from the participation of employees in different activities when analyzed would help employers to identify what elements are liked by employees and what is not liked by employees.
- The analysis of employee’s performance in a particular activity would help the employer to fine-tune the activity. It may be the case that the activity is too easy or too difficult for the employees.
- Sentiment analysis of the comments and posts written by participants would help employers to know the employees reaction towards the wellness program.
- Social Engagement: In order to increase effectiveness of wellness program, employers are looking at different ways to integrate with popular social platform such as Facebook and Twitter.
- Employees can share their achievements, photos with their friends and family on Facebook, Twitter and other social media platform.
- Businesses are maintaining Facebook pages and are having Twitter feeds to communicate with employees about the wellness program. In addition, they are also using the social platform to publicly reward their employees.
- Integrating with various message boards and online forums enable them to foster a culture of discussing wellness between employees
Wellness program has considerably grown over the last few years, but they are still some distance away from becoming the core of an HCM solution. However, given the start, it won’t be surprising if wellness soon moves up the ladder and becomes the essential element of an HCM solution.