Monday’s Benefits Panel at the Human Resource Executive Forum® — “Is Wellness Worth It? Pursuing a Real ROI for Wellness” — went well beyond questions of investment returns and lower healthcare costs. The heart of that session’s message was more about the people: making them better, and making wellness work, by recognizing their needs.
Panelist William D. Katz, vice president of human resources for AmeriGas Propane Inc., shared his experience of coming to grips with the nature of his workforce — and getting top managers’ attentions about that too — before a real commitment could be made and real results could come in.
“Understanding wellness means understanding human nature,” said Katz. “In our workforce, there are a lot of truck drivers, and a lot of them are heavy smokers. We also have lots of obesity. We’ve had lots of results pointing to what we need to do.”
But it wasn’t until Katz took that data and compared it to his company’s life insurance data over three years that the population statistics could really made a statement — to him and the C-suite as well.
“We saw three times as many [AmeriGas employees] were dying compared to the general population,” Katz said.
Now in the company’s third year of the wellness program he was able to convincingly argue for, “our premature death rate has improved by 40 percent,” he said.
Panelist Mark Bukowski, senior health and clinical consultant for Aon Hewitt, agreed it “all comes down to letting the data help you make your wellness decisions,” not just seeking the data to prove wellness’ worth.
At Aon Hewitt, he said, “we custom-design wellness programs for each company, each location … that’s where all this is going.”
Even securing buy-in from a CEO is sometimes more effective and successful, panelists agreed, when applying a human touch.
“We find CEOs are actually more enthused by the anecdotal proof [of a wellness program’s success] from employees who’ve been through it than the hard data,” said panelist Jennifer Benz, chief strategist and founder of Benz Communications.
The group — led by moderator Michael Miele, president of healthcare analytics group for Gallagher Business Services — seemed to agree that the data going in can be more effective than the data coming out.
“We’re all seeing the power of trend data,” said Benz, “how your workforce data compares to all the other workforce data [in specific regions and otherwise].”