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Good communication can help company wellness programs succeed

By Lisa Gillespie - EmployeeBenefit News
October 17, 2011

What good are company wellness programs if employees don't know about them and the services offered? Just like other employee benefits, wellness programs can be under-appreciated and under-used if they're not properly communicated.

Currently, 60% of employers offer a wellness program, and another 8% of companies plan to offer one within the next 12 months. The growing popularity of wellness programs bodes well for the health of our country's workforce, but only if employees take advantage of them.

"Employers today are more interested than ever in offering wellness programs to their employees," says Randy Horn, president and CEO of Colonial Life & Accident Insurance Company. "They're looking for ways to help offset the rising cost of providing health care coverage to employees, and they want to attract and retain a quality workforce as well. But merely offering a wellness program won't necessarily get employees engaged, you have to communicate well and often."

Employers can partner with a benefits carrier that offers face-to-face communication as part of its enrollment services to help spread the word about their wellness benefits. Tools such as benefits statements and salary illustrations can help employees understand the value of the services provided. But a sit-down, face-to-face session with a benefits counselor can help employees develop an even better awareness and appreciation of a company wellness program.

"Don't underestimate the value of personal, individualized benefits communication in today's workplace," says Horn. "The increasing responsibility employees have for making decisions about their benefits makes good communication more important than ever."

The perception among employers is that their workforce knows very little about their benefits. In fact, less than 19% of employers think their employees have a very good understanding of their benefits. And nearly 5% think their employees know nothing at all about their benefits.


In a Harvard Business Review 2010 survey of HR leaders, 43% say their employees are satisfied with their benefits, but considerably fewer (30%) say the same about their benefits communication. In fact, 23% of them say their employees view their benefits communication as weak.

"Employers shouldn't let poor communications impact their investment in a company wellness program," says Horn. "They can complement the work that's being done by HR departments and others in the company by adding 1-to-1 benefits communication to their toolbox."