Employee Wellness Tops Lists of Company Benefits Coordinators

Article excerpt

No longer are company benefits coordinators only charged with contracting for a health plan and staying within budget.

Today, they must be versed in wellness programs, incentives, health coaching and disease management.

Company wellness programs are corporate America's latest buzzword - how to help employees become healthier and more productive, which will save the company in medical costs.

The SouthWest Benefits Association, a regional educational group for employee benefits professionals, met Thursday to hear strategies and success stories for creating a healthier work force. Telling people they need to change for the good of the company isn't the right approach; targeting them according to their personalities and goals works much better.

"We've always looked at employees as rational - give them the right information and they will pick the right things for themselves," said Mark Landis of Hewitt Associates in Dallas, who spoke to the group about "behavioral economics." "But people are looking for guidance, and the most astute employers are giving it to them."

Landis said employees usually fit into six "buckets" - from those who value their independence but appreciate wellness tips and opportunities to those who aren't terribly worried about their health but would respond well to fitness center discounts and other incentives. Approaching them according to their "bucket" works far better than bombarding them with wellness facts, he said.

Margaret Walsh, benefits coordinator for Oklahoma Gas and Electric and president of the SWBA board, said OG&E just launched a formal wellness program. She said her company is targeting employees with things like workout programs for different generations and information that reaches out to their spouses and families. …