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The Secret Weapon That Can Solve Your Talent Crunch

By Kate Rockwood | May 13, 2019 | Rally Health

It’s official: Employers are fighting an all-out war for talent. The national unemployment rate hovers near a 50-year, sub-4% low while consumer confidence has spiked. In January, businesses hired 5.8 million people, but another 3.5 million quit — ostensibly to seek better opportunities in a booming job market.

What’s more, the US has had more open jobs than job seekers for nearly a year — which has not happened since the Department of Labor began keeping track in 2000. For employers, that means finding — and keeping — the right talent may be harder than ever.

“There’s a fight for talent happening right now,” said Danielle Sherrets, director of workforce well-being and health care innovations at the National Business Group on Health, which includes companies like Coca-Cola, Delta and Capital One. She spoke on a panel at the Rally Innovation Summit, a three-day February event in Napa, CA that drew diverse leaders from the employer, provider and payer arenas to spark conversation and collaboration around today’s most vexing issues.

Wellness programs were a hot topic at the event, in part because “building a culture of health and wellness is a step in the right direction of winning that talent fight,” said Sherrets.

Employers who think they can throw money at the problem may be surprised to find that salaries alone won’t cut it. Today’s workers want benefits. And when Textio, an augmented writing platform, analyzed data from 300 million job listings to see which listed benefits were most likely to move the needle on recruitment and hiring, they found that some perks (like concierge services and climbing walls) did little to move the needle. But when companies mentioned an on-site gym, they filled positions 19.7 days faster than companies that didn’t offer this benefit.

“If you must have one ‘Silicon Valley style’ perk on offer, it should be an on-site gym,” Textio CEO Kieran Snyder told CIO.

But even if your building will never have room for a bench press, promoting a culture of wellness can get more qualified candidates in the door — and to stay put once they’re hired. A 2018 survey by the Consumer Technology Association found that nearly half of business leaders (46 percent) think wellness programs — such as weight management programs and gym memberships — will be very important to their hiring and retention efforts over the next five years.

Traditional perks, like health insurance, skills development, and retirement matching, still matter, of course. But — no matter how experienced or seasoned your workforce is — a culture of wellness is quickly emerging as an important and lasting differentiator.  

Fair Fight

Some 60 percent of Americans have at least one chronic condition, like diabetes or heart disease, and 12 percent have five or more.  A recent report by Transamerica didn’t pull any punches when describing the problem: “Too many members of the U.S. workforce engage in too little physical activity, consume a diet loaded with too many energy-rich (calorie-rich) foods, (are) too frequently dependent on nicotine from tobacco, endure excessive workplace stress and long hours, then too often opt for alcohol before receiving inadequate restorative sleep.”

No wonder, then, that candidates have started eyeing their exhausted, overweight, and unhappy potential-coworkers and thinking, “No, thanks.” When faced with multiple job offers, they take seriously not just the financial value of a company’s wellness perks, but also examine how authentically a commitment to wellness is built into day-to-day life. That’s why venture-backed tech companies shower their staffs with healthy snack options, nap rooms, mindfulness classes, and regular health fairs.

Some point to the current “youthquake” as one driver behind the wellness obsession: Millennials are now the largest generation in the American workforce, accounting for one in three employees, according to Pew Research. And while Gen Z still remains a minority (baby boomers outnumber them five to one), their numbers swell with each graduating high school and college class. No wonder, then, that employers are keen to know what motivates this younger pool. And only 15 percent of both generations view corporate wellness programs as unimportant, with “extremely important” getting the top vote across both millennials and Gen Z workers.

Still, it’s a mistake to assume that only younger workers care about a culture of wellness. Workers across all age groups seem deeply invested in their health, with baby boomers 98 percent more likely to visit a health site than the average Internet user, according to Corporate Wellness Magazine. And, regardless of age, 45 percent of Americans working at small- to medium-size companies say they would stay put longer because of a wellness program, despite a labor market in which the average worker stays at a job for only about four to five years.

“It’s old school to wait until someone is flagged with something, like diabetes, and then decide to offer health coaching,” said Tripp Jennings, innovation officer and VP at BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina, speaking at the Rally Innovation Summit. “We have to flip the script on what’s not working. We have to move beyond checkboxes to deep engagement.”

And, indeed, employers are starting to do just that: The number of companies offering wellness programs increased from 2017 to 2018, according to the Society for Human Resources Management, with offerings like onsite stress-management programs and company-organized fitness challenges both increasing dramatically. But programs aimed specifically at targeting certain employees with chronic conditions actually shrank, from one-third in 2017 to one-quarter last year. Employers are seeing a stronger reception to broad, culture-creating wellness programs than one-off solutions.

Will Work for Wellness

Offering employees the tools to improve their lives can engender a lot of goodwill and loyalty. Creating that sort of environment, however, requires far more than a tacked-on, one-size-fits-all wellness program.

For a wellness program to truly nurture a culture of wellness — one that can both attract and retain top talent — forget the quarterly emails from HR or the poorly promoted fitness fair. Employees want to see buy-in and support at the very top, whether that’s the CEO unveiling a new wellness offering at the company all-hands meeting or the c-suite execs signing up for the company bike challenge. The communication drumbeat needs to be both consistent and broad, with updates and offerings that appeal to both gym warriors and the casually active.

To keep that momentum going, consider the careful deployment of an incentives program. These don’t have to be pricey or complicated endeavors. Even simple items, such as gift cards, athletic gear or company recognition, can turbocharge employees’ engagement and help sustain the wellness culture you’ve created.

“If you’re going to have a digital strategy and you don’t have an incentive program, you’re probably going to have less than 10 percent of the population participating,” said Brian Dolan, chief strategy and partner integration officer at Rally Health, speaking at the summit.

When it comes to building a culture of wellness, you need more employees involved — not only the folks who would find their way to the gym, regardless. Because when everyone at the office feels like their health matters (and their employer cares enough to support that), people are both happier and more productive. And it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that happy, engaged employees do great work and stick around for a long time. That’s a difference that prospective candidates can feel as soon as they walk in the door.

Rally® is the only truly integrated health care platform that unites benefits, wellness, medical care, and rewards in a single, intuitive experience. It is the proven choice implemented by more than 200,000 employers, including 47 percent of the Fortune 500. If you’d like to learn more about how to simplify heath care, contact rallysales@rallyhealth.com.

Kate Rockwood
Rally Health