Bloomberg BNA: At Employers With Wellness Programs, Over Half of HR Heads Say They Don’t Work

Reproduced with permission from Human Resources Report, Vol. 31, No. 42 (Nov. 4, 2013). Copyright 2013 by The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. (800-372-1033) http://www.bna.com

Originally Published in Bloomberg BNA | November 4, 2013 | By Martin Berman-Gorvine

More than half of chief HR officers at Fortune 1000 companies with wellness programs think these systems meant to make employees healthier are ineffective, according to a survey released Oct. 21.

At a forum held earlier this year by Consero Group LLC, a Bethesda, Md.-based conference planning company, 85 percent of 47 HR officials said their employer had a wellness program. Some 55 percent of those HR officers offered a disparaging view of the programs.

‘‘A lot of why the wellness programs are perceived not to be having the optimal effect is a question of resources,’’ Consero CEO Paul Mandell told Bloomberg BNA in an Oct. 24 interview. ‘‘In a challenging economy, they have not been a top priority.’’

The benefits to the company of wellness programs may not be readily apparent to top management, and so it is up to HR to be ‘‘zealous advocates to get these programs the necessary resources,’’ Mandell added. They should do this by pointing out the bottom-line benefits such as lower employee health insurance premiums, and by getting backing from other departments that may have competing priorities, he said.

Health Care Exchanges, Social Media. Consero also surveyed the HR officials on other topics, finding that 85 percent do not expect the health care exchanges set up under the Affordable Care Act to significantly affect their benefits planning.

Another headline result of the survey, that only 53 percent of the HR heads said their companies have social media policies, may be less significant than it might at first appear. Since both the legal and technological landscape is constantly changing, instead of developing a comprehensive social media policy, ‘‘some companies have made incremental changes over time to the employee handbook and company policies,’’ Mandell said. ‘‘HR officers need to have an open line of communication with the legal department’’ to keep up with new laws and regulations, he added.

Finally, 57 percent of the surveyed HR officials said they do not have the budget and 43 percent said they do not have the talent for their departments to achieve their goals, 54 percent said they have not identified a successor and only one in five is ‘‘involved in selecting and coaching members of the board.’’

To contact the reporter on this story: Martin Berman-Gorvine in Washington at mbermangorvine@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Simon Nadel at snadel@bna.com