Poor employee engagement in health and well-being benefits is keeping large employers up at night. Despite investing in well-being programs, research shows only half of employees participate. What’s more, just half of employees understand how to obtain health care services and even fewer understand how to pay for them. Many admit that the health care system and its benefits are so difficult to navigate, that they grudgingly give up and hope for the best.

Cause for concern

Why this engagement crisis? Many employees don’t use the system enough to understand the benefits and services available to them, including price transparency tools, second opinion programs or telehealth. Despite employers’ best communication intentions, it’s often difficult for employees to access them at the point of need. Additionally, the proliferation of new programs has created an overwhelming ecosystem of siloed solutions, forcing employees to hop from program to program to meet their needs.

Even small improvements in engagement have the potential to reap big rewards for employers and their employees...

Employers are more motivated than ever to crack the engagement code, as pressure mounts to manage costs, recruit and retain talent, and improve business performance. Appropriate utilization of benefits has the potential to mitigate health care costs and health-related absence. What’s more, employees who frequently participate in these programs are more likely to be engaged at work, satisfied with the workplace culture and feel valued by their employer.

Strengthening efforts

Given these business outcomes, employers are boosting efforts to improve employee engagement. Through an initiative led by the National Business Group on Health called the Leadership Forum on Employee Experience, 20 large employers and several industry partners are teaming up to identify strategies to promote greater utilization. These strategies include creating personalized communications that put health and well-being information in employees’ hands at the moment of need; integrating the health and well-being ecosystem to create a seamless one-stop shop; and optimizing plan design, incentives and high-touch services to promote greater interaction with benefits and programs.

And the timing is ripe. Emerging capabilities of big data and predictive analytics may enable employers and their partners to better forecast employees’ needs, while innovative technology solutions can potentially promote a simpler, more accessible health care experience.  

Even small improvements in engagement have the potential to reap big rewards for employers and their employees, helping each to maximize their health care investment and bringing them closer to their goals.