Canadian Companies Step Up Promotion of Health and Wellbeing for an Organizational Edge
Targeted News Service (Press Releases)
TORONTO, Ontario, March 21 -- Willis Towers Watson, a risk management, insurance brokerage and advisory company, issued the following news release:
Just a handful (12%) of Canadian employers are currently differentiating their benefit programs for recruitment and retention. However, this is projected to change considerably over the next three years when nearly three-quarters (72%) expect to do so, starting with customizing benefits for critical workforce segments. This, according to Willis Towers Watson's (NASDAQ: WLTW) Best Practices Survey.
"Plan sponsors are quickly realizing the power in using their health and wellbeing strategies to differentiate themselves from competitors," said Wendy Poirier, managing director, and Health Innovation Leader at Willis Towers Watson. "They're taking steps to gain this competitive advantage by integrating physical and emotional health, and social and financial wellbeing programs into their total rewards programs, while clearly recognizing the value of benefits to meet their talent and prospects' evolving needs."
In tandem with offering more compelling benefits, employers are looking to provide more flexibility and decision-making support to enhance their plan members' experience. "Personalization and informed choice are key," said Dawn Noordam, senior director, Health and Benefits Consulting and leader of Willis Towers Watson's Benefits Marketplace Canada. "We know from the survey findings that the majority of plan sponsors intend to increase the variety of benefits they offer and want to place more of a spotlight on voluntary benefits and workforce perks, while also helping employees to make the best choices suited to their individual needs," said Noordam.
According to the study, 60% of employers now offer flexible benefits but this is set to rise to 78% by 2020. By then, almost two-thirds (60%) expect their employees will be customizing which benefits and options to purchase with their employer-provided benefit dollars, up from 43% today. At the same time, 41% of survey respondents plan to make workforce perks, such as child care services, volunteer time off, onsite conveniences or concierge services a core part of their employee value proposition, compared to 21% today.
"Another important development is the emergence of a continuum of solutions to support emotional wellbeing," said Poirier. "There are a number of tools and technologies that provide solutions for measuring stress in the workplace, developing resiliency, educating and training managers and employees, providing virtual counseling access to clinicians for cognitive behavioral therapy, and providing enhanced medical management of mental health issues. This means employers now have options to bridge gaps that have traditionally existed between support, prevention and treatment, enabling a truly holistic approach."
Although only 29% of respondents currently have a companywide mental health strategy, 85% expect to have an action plan in place by 2020. Other improvements that survey respondents expect to implement include measuring and monitoring workforce stress and its causes (66% up from 27%), and offering training and coaching to managers specifically to identify emotional health issues, stress and life events that impact work performance (77% up from 32%). Over two-thirds of respondents (69%) plan to include wellbeing as part of their organization's corporate social responsibility strategy and mission.
However, the survey findings also show that employee engagement in wellbeing remains a challenge. "Three-quarters of employees do not take advantage of financial incentives, where they exist," said Noordam. "One potential avenue to encourage participation is through the use of new technologies. A promising indicator is nearly a third (31%) of the organizations we surveyed are willing to launch technology pilots to support health and wellbeing programs." Using technology to assist decision making and health and wellbeing choices will continue to increase. Close to 80% of respondents say they will offer access to online wellness platforms or apps by 2020.
Overall, the Best Practices survey results demonstrate that Canadian employers' commitment to wellbeing has never been stronger," said Poirier. "The findings show that the overwhelming majority of plan sponsors are re-evaluating their programs with an eye towards design effectiveness and value for money, as they look to enhance their employee's physical, emotional, financial and social wellbeing between now and 2020.