The Well-Being Journal

Reflections from The HERO

Jennifer Rudloff

A couple of weeks ago the Health Enhancement Research Organization, also known as HERO held its bi-annual Think Tank meeting and Forum (the HERO version of a conference) in Phoenix Arizona. After having some time to reflect on both of those meetings, I would like to share some of my reactions with you. Let me start with the Think Tank.

The Think Tank brings employee health management (EHM) experts together bi-annually to exchange ideas, expertise, and recommendations in an effort to solve problems and react to opportunities. Members of the think tank have a major role in the creation and dissemination of national EHM policy, strategy, leadership and infrastructure. During the most recent session we addressed three subjects: (1) the role of consumer directed initiatives and personal responsibility in health care, (2) the impact of an aging workforce and actions that must be taken both domestically and internationally, and (3) the role of financial incentives in the health management industry. As you might imagine, the use of incentives drew significant debate so let me expound upon that discussion.

Overall the field is fairly supportive of the use of financial incentives to drive participation in health management programs. However, we also agree that while financial incentives can drive participation, little evidence exists to show that financial incentives alone change behavior. The lightning rod seems to be the use of incentives to reward “health outcomes” as it is defined in The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Such incentives reward people for keeping biometrics such as cholesterol, blood pressure, and body fat within reasonable limits. The opinions on this issue varied widely at the HERO Think Tank.

From my experience I know that all employers are different. As the result, I believe America’s employers need the latitude to put in place the incentive programs that work best for them, based on their cultures and their business environments. We do not need further regulation regarding incentives. Instead, the pros and cons of various incentive programs should be evaluated so that employers can make discriminating choices that support the needs of their people and culture. Others may disagree with my perspective. For instance, American Heart Association has distributed position statements taking the view that outcomes-based incentives tied to health plan or self-insured company premium costs are unfair and discriminatory, instead advocating for ‘‘participation-based’’ incentives. Their fear appears to be that such incentives could lead to the mistreatment (including greater cost burden) of people with existing disease. While an understanding view points, current law already provides many safeguards and people who take good care of themselves already pay a disproportionate amount of the health care cost burden.

Regardless of our individual views, the one thing that the think tank fully agrees on is that as an industry, we must speak with a united voice. Articles by Michael O’Donnell, and by Paul Terry and David Anderson have done a nice job of advocating for the “one voice” approach.

The HERO Forum was also an enlightening experience. Highlights were the following:

  • Many companies are going back to the basics. Part of the format at the HERO Forum is to have “How To Do It” workshops where best-practice health management programs are highlighted. This year many of the professionals guiding these programs described how they were getting back to the basics of superior program planning, setting clear objectives, communicating their programs effectively, generating engagement through creative approaches, and measuring outcomes effectively.
  • People were networking and discussing some of the most timely topics in health management. Many good ideas were discussed in areas like the broader view of well-being, program integration, and the impact of work culture on health management success.
  • The research showing the efficacy of health management is continuing to advance and HERO is leading the way.
  • There are many breakthroughs in the area of participant engagement that involve superior communications, incentives, program positioning, and the ability to use new media and technology in the effort.
  • The use of small actions and social media in effectively advancing behavior change was addressed by Chris Cartter, General Manager of MeYou Health, in the closing keynote. Chris provided deep insights into this topic.

Both the HERO Think Tank and the Forum were well attended and the sessions and debate were provocative. If you are not a member of HERO, I urge you to consider getting involved. If you were there, what were your impressions and biggest takeaways?What are your thoughts on the incentive debate? Please share.

Topics: HERO Think Tank Workplace Well-Being Healthcare Engagement Business Performance Health Financial Incentives for Health Management Program Events Health Enhancement Research Organization

Well-Being: Move the Needle, Reduce Costs

Jennifer Rudloff

John Harris, Chief Well-Being Officer at Healthways, talks about the correlation between the well-being of employees and an organizations costs, productivity, engagement, and performance. In this video blog, you will learn about how impacting well-being will return results.

[yframe url='http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EQdHJeueN_g']

Topics: Basic Access Work Environment Workplace Well-Being Healthcare Engagement Physical Health Business Performance High Performing Teams Health Well-Being Index Employee Satisfaction Competitive Advantage Cost Reduction Cost Savings Productivity Healthways Reduce Absences Well-being Assessment Performance/Productivity

Planning With Purpose for Workplace Well-Being Programs

Jennifer Rudloff

Last week I had the privilege of talking with Employee Benefit Advisors about planning health promotion programs. During my interview, I discussed best practices for employers related to planning effective communications and engagement strategies for these programs.

[audio:http://eba.benefitnews.com/pdfs/johnharris.mp3]
In this podcast, you'll learn:

  • Six things to consider for planning effective health engagement programs
  • Strategies for employers and advisors to use social networking sites for engagement
  • Importance of planning worksite health promotion programs
  • How to create enthusiasm and conversation around the office
  • Communication vehicles that pertain to various audiences
  • The importance of addressing employee privacy concerns when talking about the programs
Topics: Well-Being Employee Benefits Workplace Well-Being Engagement Business Performance Planning Communication

Bad Bosses, Bad Business

Jennifer Rudloff

The movie Horrible Bosses played last weekend to packed houses. While the audiences roared with laughter, I suspect many people recalled horror stories shared amongst friends throughout the years; and I know they weren’t alone. If you’ve been in the workforce for any length of time, chances are you have first hand experience dealing with your very own bad boss. While (we hope) the characters in this film were a caricature of real world experiences, the truth is many employees are feeling stressed and unappreciated and it’s straining not only on individuals but on organizations as well.

So how wide spread is the problem? And how do employees perceive their bosses? Wayne Hochwarter, a professor at Florida State University, has spent years studying boss-employee relationships with a focus on hostility, stress, and declining performance. His latest findings are shocking and uncover a sad state of affairs in employee/employer relations.

According to Hochwarter:

  • 40% of workers wouldn’t acknowledge their boss if they ran into them on the street.
  • 29% believed that their boss would throw them under the bus to save their own job.
  • 34% reported that their boss is two-faced, & speaks negatively behind their back.
  • 24% have caught their supervisor in a direct lie but never received an apology
  • 29% of employees have hidden from abusive bosses.
  • And while employees are constantly asked to produce and increase productivity, 41% of employees believe their bosses are just plain lazy.

Doesn’t paint a very pretty picture, does it? Unfortunately, we’re seeing similar trends reveal themselves in the Well-Being Index. The WBI shows work environment consistently coming in as the lowest scoring index. The score that’s dropped the most over time is ‘collaborative supervision’. The work environment has gotten more dog-eat-dog, unemployment is at record highs, and jobs are less plentiful. Supervisors can get away with being less collaborative and more command and control-oriented. Since employees need the job, they put up with more restrictive management styles.

Some good news: Employees ability to work to their strengths actually trended up. Lean workforces are the new normal and it’s allowing people to take on responsibilities that play well with their strengths. Unfortunately doing more with less can get exhausting and it’s wearing workforces thin.

So who’s suffering the most as the result of a poor work environment?

  • Gender: Females are more likely to report that they do not have a trusting work environment and lack collaborative supervision.
  • Marital Status: Fewer single people believe they have collaborative supervision and they feel they don’t get to use their strengths at work (this is likely a function of age)
  • Ethnicity: Hispanics have the highest work environment index scores, and African Americans have the lowest – there is a 12.3 point difference between the overall well-being scores of these two groups.
  • Income: As you might expect, scores for the work environment index increase directly with income with those making $120k or more per year achieving the highest overall scores. These higher scores are tied to their ability to use their strengths at work, and higher job satisfaction. Interestingly, trusting work environment does not seem to be impacted by income as much as other items.

So what’s the impact of a poor work environment? Reduced productivity, increased absenteeism and presenteeism, decreased loyalty, and more stress. It also makes people angry. We know that if people score poorly in the work environment, 31% of them report being angry for most of the previous day. Put into perspective, that level of anger is on par with the 100 poorest counties in the US, as well as the troubled countries of Sierra Leone and Haiti (ouch).

Employers must think about how they can foster healthy change in their workforces and leaders. It starts with changing the culture. We know that a collaborative environment – where management and workers voluntarily partner together, employees feel challenged, and everyone has the resources to get the job done – creates the best possible culture with the highest well-being. I challenge you and your organizations to some introspection: What can you do to increase collaboration and better support your people? And what’s standing in your way?

Topics: Relationships Well-Being Horrible Bosses Work Environment Business Performance Well-Being Index Competitive Advantage Performance/Productivity