You Want to Be a Great Workplace. So Now What?

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You Want to Be a Great Workplace. So Now What?

It is true that becoming a “great workplace” doesn’t happen overnight. But instead of getting overwhelmed by a seemingly endless list of programs and offerings (and money...being “great” must cost so much money!) that so called “great workplaces” should all have, let’s take a look at what it means really to be “great”—with a few practical bite-sized pieces that you might be able to tackle at your organization right now sprinkled in for good measure.
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What’s Hot and What’s Not: What the Data Says About 10 HR Practices

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What’s Hot and What’s Not: What the Data Says About 10 HR Practices

Just like in any profession, there are plenty of fads, “hot topics”, and trends that come and go in the world of human resources. But which of these workplace practices are really here to stay and which are just a flash in the pan? Here at ERC we are taking a dive into the data from our most comprehensive survey of the year, the recently published 2017/2018 ERC Policies & Benefits Survey, to find out!
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5 Ways to Keep Your New Year’s Resolution (and Wellness Program) on Track

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5 Ways to Keep Your New Year’s Resolution (and Wellness Program) on Track

One week into a new year and you are probably already sick and tired of hearing about the latest diet trend or exercise regimen that is “guaranteed” to make your New Year’s resolution to “get healthy” stick this time around.

Most medical professionals will tell you that (unfortunately) there is no silver bullet to a “healthier you”, and as it turns out, a good old fashioned healthy diet and consistent exercise routine tends to be just what the doctor ordered.

So what does all this talk about New Year’s resolutions have to do with HR and building great workplaces here in Northeast Ohio?

Well according to ERC’s 2015 Wellness Practices Survey, at three-quarters of local organizations, the connection is their formal wellness program. Take the analogy one step further, and you’ll quickly discover that wellness programs often suffer from the same plight as New Year’s resolutions—the best of intentions, but lacking in follow-through when it comes time for implementation. Despite becoming an almost standard benefit at many employers over the last several years, some wellness programs and individual wellness focused activities are now suffering from a lack of participation and interest on the part of the employees.

In fact participants in both the 2013 and 2015 ERC Wellness Surveys cited “effectively educating and incentivizing employees to participate in wellness programs” as the most common barrier to creating a successful wellness program at their organization.

To help both employers and employees make the most of what can be and should be an important piece of overall employee wellbeing, participating organizations in ERC’s Wellness Surveys offered the following advice on creating (or reinvigorating) a successful wellness program.

1. Offer wellness activities/programs that employees find useful.

This particular struggle is most easily addressed if met head-on at the program’s inception and can be as simple as a survey of employee’s interests in a list of potential activities under consideration. Understanding the basic demographics of your workforce can also help inform what types of programs make the cut. Gender, age, shift work (who will actually be around if you are offering programs on-site during the day), etc. are all useful statistics to consider, but don’t get too overzealous and start trying to dig into specific health related needs—HIPPA can get messy quickly.

By starting out with wellness activities that employees want to take part in, you are already ahead of the curve.

But don’t worry if you already have a program in place, it’s not too late to start taking your employee’s interests into account. In fact, a quick survey of your employees every couple of years to make sure the programming is still relevant isn’t a bad idea either.

2. Make the programming accessible—both geographically and intellectually.

If your organization is on the larger side or draws employees from a diverse geographic footprint, make sure the activities are easily accessible to as many individual employees as possible. Your employees are probably juggling a family life, the stress of work, and any number of other time intensive activities.

In short, their time is valuable, so partnering with a gym with only one location far on one side of town may not see the best results. Instead, consider offering reimbursement for a gym of the employee’s choosing or make the investment in an on-site gym or fitness classes.

Online programming can be an easy option, but make sure it is providing useful information that isn’t too overwhelming or too basic. One the one hand if the online articles, tracking mechanism, or lectures are overly technical and scientific employees might be turned off, but by the same token presenting overly simplistic information won’t do your employees any good either.

3. Use the resources you already have.

Many health insurance packages include an array of free resources that you the employer can pass along to your employees. All you have to do as the employer is promote them. But that is sometimes easier said than done—now someone has to be tasked with sending out the email reminders or monthly newsletters to help get employees on board. If financial resources are not available to create a new position (e.g. Wellness Coordinator) delegation or committee work can be helpful in prevent overloading a single individual with wellness related administrative tasks. Of course if all else fails, and you are determined to create a robust, successful wellness program, just ask for help. You may find that you have a multi-talented staff that is more than willing to share their kick-boxing expertise or vegan baking skills with their co-workers.

4. Get full buy-in on all levels.

As with most new initiatives, it is critical to get the full support of the top management team. Buy-in from the top can definitely be helpful when budget season rolls around, but when it comes to wellness programs, a more visible buy-in can be hugely helpful as well. Having the CEO out there trying to get to his or her 10,000 steps during lunch can be a great motivator and even a fun way for employees to interact casually with other employees that they may not typically encounter on a day-to-day basis. And of course keep in mind that the importance of buy-in goes beyond these specific activities to the bigger picture of what you are trying to achieve with your wellness program. If your end goal is to fully indoctrinate your organization with a culture of wellness, engaging employees at all levels is particularly important.

5. Incentivize, when you can.

Even with all the struggles and barriers to participation discussed above, many organizations are running very successful wellness programs. If better health isn’t enough of a motivator, money is bound to do the trick. Keep in mind that there are specific limitations as to how much and how the monies are distributed for each individual and for different types of activities. Cost can also be a strong disincentive against certain behaviors, most notably tobacco usage. The Affordable Care Act provides a detailed breakdown of allowable incentives and disincentives should you choose to go down the path of incentivizing your wellness program. If you aren’t quite ready for the monetary commitment, remember that food or other small non-monetary incentives can help improve the effectiveness of your programming by bolstering attendance at lectures or participation in fitness challenges.

Much like the New Year’s resolution you made a week ago, setting your organization’s wellness program up for success can seem overwhelming. But with the help of the advice above and a little extra hard work and perseverance in 2016, you too can get to the gym 4 days a week and get your employees to show up for the nutritionist you’ve booked for that lunch-n-learn next month.

View ERC's Wellness Practices Survey Results

This report summarizes the results of ERC’s survey of organizations in Northeast Ohio, conducted in September of 2015, on practices related to health care and wellness.

View the Results

What Are Employers Doing to Manage Health Care Costs?

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What Are Employers Doing to Manage Health Care Costs managing healthcare costs health care cost management

According to the 2015 ERC Wellness Practices Survey both the average percent premium increase and the average annual spend on health insurance premiums have declined since the 2013 survey.

This slight downward trend is certainly not the case at every organization and did not occur without significant cost management efforts on the part of both employer and employees. Of course there are variables that no one can control, i.e. unexpected serious illness, aging employee population, etc., but this year’s survey results help illuminate which tactics employers are using (or not using) most effectively to help push the variables that are in their control in the right direction.
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6 Trends in Corporate Wellness and Executive Health

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Trends in Corporate Wellness and Executive Health

Workplace wellness programs continue to gain traction across the country as the benefits of these programs on employee health, wellness and productivity become more apparent. Evidence-based studies have demonstrated both physical and financial advantages to the employees and to their employers as wellness initiatives are introduced by corporations.

Creating a culture of health and fitness provides a competitive advantage when hiring new recruits and retaining current employees. Many prospective employees absolutely will consider the health and wellness programs offered by a corporation when considering a prospective employer.

We spoke with Dr. Buchinsky, MD and Dr. Adan, MD, from University Hospitals, about the trends in corporate wellness and executive health going on in today’s workplaces.
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The 15 Attributes of a Great Workplace

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The 15 Attributes of a Great Workplace

ERC's NorthCoast 99 program recognizes great workplaces that excel at the attraction, retention, and motivation of top performers. ERC is proud to have recognized great workplaces in Northeast Ohio, and has accumulated a great deal of insight into what makes a workplace truly great through the research we conduct as part of the program.

What makes a great workplace that draws extraordinary employees to love coming to work every day? What makes a great workplace that attracts, retains, and motivates the very best talent?

Here are 15 attributes that we believe are characteristic of great workplaces for top talent, based on our research over the last 15 years.

1. Offer Challenging and Meaningful Work

Great workplaces understand the importance of keeping employees' work interesting, exciting, challenging and meaningful, because consistently, top performers say that challenging and meaningful work is the number one attribute they seek in a job.

2. Hire and Retain Great People

Great workplaces are made up of great people. Within great workplaces, top performers work alongside other top performers who are positive, hardworking, committed and loyal, believe in what the organization does, and participate in making the workplace great.

3. Provide Competitive Compensation

Great workplaces offer competitive and fair compensation, above-average pay increases, and opportunities to earn more pay based on performance, such as bonuses, profit sharing, and other incentives to keep and reward top performing talent as well as attract new talent.

4. Value and Reward Employee Contributions

Great workplaces show they appreciate and value employees and their contributions. They celebrate success often, and praise, recognize, and reward employees in a variety of formal and informal ways. They never miss an opportunity to say 'thanks' for employees' hard work.

5. Invest in Training and Development

Great workplaces invest in training and development for their workforce to grow their talents and capabilities. They make time for learning and support it by paying for employees to participate in various opportunities and offering/delivering a variety of training and career development programs.

6. Guide, Support, and Develop Top Performers

Through performance management practices that help guide, support, and develop exceptional performance, great workplaces provide clarity on how to be a top performer, help other employees become top performers, and assist existing top performers in sustaining top performance. Reaching for excellence each and every day is what makes great workplaces successful.

7. Encourage Work/Life Balance

Great workplaces are flexible to employees' work/life needs and encourage work/life balance by offering flexible schedules, providing generous paid time off, accommodating individual requests and needs, and creating a supportive work environment that is understanding of personal and family obligations.

8. Invest in Employees' Health and Wellness

Great workplaces genuinely care about their employees' well-being. They offer wellness options that help employees develop healthy lifestyle behaviors as well as provide an array of benefits which support their employees' health and personal welfare.

9. Involve and Empower Employees

Great workplaces involve and empower employees by listening to their input, involving them in moving the organization forward, and giving them opportunities to lead initiatives, collaborate with one another, participate in decision-making, and make a meaningful difference at work. At great workplaces, employees believe that their opinions matter and that they can positively impact their organizations.

10. Share Information About the Organization's Performance

Leaders frequently share information about the organization's performance, its financials, the vision and direction of the organization, and other critical information and updates at great workplaces. In addition, leaders regularly interact with and communicate with employees one-on-one, in small groups, and as an entire staff. Additionally, great workplaces help everyone understand the mission and purpose of the organization, and how their work connects to the big picture.

11. Are Led by Exceptional Leaders

Great workplaces are led by exceptional and inspiring leaders. Leaders set the example from the top and lead the organization well. They genuinely care about and value employees. Relationships between leaders and employees are characterized by mutual respect, trust,  honesty, and support.

12. Encourage Innovation and Growth

Great workplaces are successful, growing, and innovative. They hold themselves to high standards, are focused on delivering exceptional customer service and quality, and strive to innovate and continuously improve their organizations. They are always raising the bar in their businesses and in their workplaces.

13. Hire the Best of the Best

Great workplaces hire the best—and only the best. They recognize that a great workplace and culture results from great people. They define the talent they need, strategically recruit it, and put into place selection practices that identify top performers, as well as on-boarding practices that engage top performers and set them up for success from the start.

14. Create and Sustain a Unique Culture

Great workplaces have a unique culture that is their own, often described as fun, congenial, collaborative, positive, passionate, and creative. Their work environments, people, and workplace practices all help create a vibrant, positive, magnetic, and infectious culture.

15. Serve the Community

And last but not least, great workplaces make an impact on and give back to their local community. Not only do they generously donate their company resources to the community, but they also serve their communities by helping others in need and offering their staff's time and talents.

There is no magic formula for achieving a great workplace, and these are just some common attributes of many that great workplaces seem to have. While no workplace is perfect, many organizations strive to become a truly great workplace and come close. The NorthCoast 99 winners are among these organizations, and they, as well as all other organizations that strive everyday to be great workplaces, should be applauded for their efforts to become employers of choice in Northeast Ohio. They are truly making a difference.

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Top 10 Corporate Wellness Program Mistakes

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If you’re grappling with low participation and minimal results in your organization’s wellness program or aren’t sure how to make your initiative more successful, you may be making some critical oversights. Here are the top 10 corporate wellness program mistakes.

1. No budget

Many organizations plan to create a wellness program without allocating the resources they need, especially a budget. A wellness initiative can be a major undertaking and adequate funding, staffing, and resources are all critical to a successful program. It’s unlikely that you will be able to see any meaningful results without investing any money or resources into a wellness initiative.

2. Limited interest

Many wellness programs fail because employees have limited interest in the activities or wellness in general. Thus, it’s important to identify the activities in which employees have interest to determine those that may generate better participation, as well as find creative ways to generate interest in wellness (incentives, social activities, contests, etc.). Without participation, you likely won’t achieve any significant behavior change.

3. Assuming that one-size-fits-all

No two employees have the same body, strength, or motivation and likewise not all employees need the same type of help with wellness. Some may need assistance with nutrition and others with fitness. Even within these buckets, employees will vary in terms of their level of fitness/wellness (i.e. beginner, intermediate, advanced). Offer a variety of options and resources so that you can meet the needs of your employees’ many interests, needs, and levels of health.

4. Offering just a few wellness activities

A wellness program is more than just offering an on-site fitness class, annual fair, flu shots, and an occasional seminar. These are wellness activities rather than a comprehensive wellness program. While activities are critical to a wellness initiative, activities alone will rarely create the behavior and lifestyle changes that you are probably seeking. The activities you choose should be connected to the behaviors you want to change in your workforce and the needs of your employees.

5. No connection to your benefits strategy

Wellness programs with no strategy or goals lack direction. Too often, they may not be linked or connected to benefits plans or business strategies, or may be perceived as an extraneous benefit by employees. It’s important to consider the reasons why you are creating the wellness program in the first place and the purpose it serves your business in order to measure whether or not you are meeting its goals. It’s equally as important to make sure that employees see the connection between the wellness program and these strategies.

6. Limited support from senior management

We don’t just mean support for the program’s budget. Senior management needs to buy into your wellness program and participate regularly. They must to be visibly “walking the talk” when it comes to wellness, and most of all, they need to care about employee well-being and recognize how it affects the business. It tends to undermine the success of the program when employees don’t see that their leaders care about wellness.

7. Failing to target high-risk employees

While it’s important to try to engage all of your employees in your company’s wellness efforts, be especially concerned with those that are high-risk. Every organization has some employees who are driving their claims more than average employees. Without engaging these employees to participate, you may not see the results you want. Be prepared to provide targeted resources and support to these employees to help them make critical lifestyle changes.

8. Not changing the little things

By “little things,” we mean the nuances of your culture. If you want employees to take wellness seriously, you’ll need to impact the “little things” in your organization that impede your efforts to create a healthy place to work. These could include replacing soda vending machines with healthy drink options; changing food choices at meetings and staff functions; allowing flexible schedules to work out; and getting rid of traditional morning donuts. If wellness is truly a priority, you have to exemplify that throughout your entire workplace.

9. Lack of change and reinforcement

Over time, employees’ enthusiasm for your wellness program will fluctuate if you don’t keep the program fresh. If new activities and components are not constantly being integrated into the program to maintain employees’ interest, it may be difficult to motivate continued participation. Similar to other workplace initiatives, continue to change and adapt the program over time.

10. Doing it alone

Many organizations try to launch a wellness program with just their own internal staff and the assistance of their health insurance carrier and neglect to use outside experts and vendors. The reality is that designing a wellness program usually requires expertise and experience beyond the traditional HR function. As a result, it’s good practice to select outside resources and support that can help a wellness program succeed. There are many vendors which not only offer assistance with program design, but also provide a variety of tools, services, and products to support and complement your program. 

Corporate wellness programs can be incredibly beneficial to workplaces, driving down health insurance costs, engaging your workforce, and ultimately creating healthier employees. Keep in mind, however, that just a few mistakes can potentially prevent a wellness program from generating the results you want and need for your business.

Additional Resources

For more information about health and wellness from ERC Health, click here.