Fitting wellness into your client’s benefits program: part 2

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In the second part of a two-part series, Joel Kranc talks to advisors about how to advise their clients on integrating wellness programs.

An example of something smaller businesses with limited resources can do, says Lidia Pawlikowski, a senior consultant of health and benefits with Morneau Shepell in Toronto, is the development of a “wellness calendar” to encourage areas that are recognized nationally (i.e. February Heart Health Month) but also areas that are important to them as an organization. “It’s a good starting point, [as] they can send out a communication and what’s great about that is it is continuous,” she explains.

This allows employers to be less “episodic” in their wellness offerings and better enables them to work with vendors to have a more consistent wellness strategy over time.

Others agree about the customized nature of wellness programs. Neil Curtis, owner/consultant with NCHR Consulting and Recruitment Services says, “wellness is not a product.” He explains that advisors who attempt to package wellness as a one-size-fits-all solution are missing the boat. “When the client sometimes has a problem understanding the advice, advisors have a tendency to put a bow on it and say ‘here’s the product,’” he notes. But, says Curtis, this is where advisors are getting it wrong and what fits for one company does not necessarily fit for another.

And much like Morneau’s Pawlikowski, Curtis says you need to understand the landscape or in this case, demographic, make-up of the company in order to provide solutions that make sense. Understanding things like who uses a single versus family plan, what therapeutic drugs are being used by members or absenteeism – information that is available to business owners – to better make the right wellness choices.

Pawlikowski says that employers get “annuals” from their insurance companies, something advisors can review to determine what areas are driving costs. They can then build a wellness program around that information. “Those are the levers that are going to impact that organization,” she says. “And it doesn’t cost a lot of money. There are so many vendor partners that will come in and do programs or lunch-and-learns [for employers].”

Even when costs and resources are still considered a problem (at least at the outset), advisors can assist by building a business case and strategy for senior leaders that show how the risks can impact the organization.

Overall, both advisors and small businesses must work with each other to ensure customizable offerings can be developed that will help employers meet their wellness goals — and improve the health of their employees.

Transcontinental Media G.P.