Ep. 12: What You Can Learn from the Healthiest Employers in America

Healthiest Employers is the trusted awards program that recognizes people-first organizations that are taking a more proactive approach to employee health. Since its inception in 2009, the Healthiest Employers corporate wellness program has attracted over 10,000 employers representing more than 60 million employees from all across the United States.

Haley Elmore, Healthiest Employers program coordinator, joined Jennifer and Mike to share several of the attributes found in organizations that were named in the Healthiest 100 Workplaces in America. She also explains why companies choose to apply for the program and the value they take away from participating, even if they don’t receive a regional or national award. HINT:  it’s learning from the best of the best.

Listen as Haley provides recommendations for both employers and their employees. You can also read the full transcript below.

Have feedback, questions, or suggestions for show ideas? Send them to us at podcast@springbuk.com.

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Produced by David Pittman

Theme music: "Overboard" by Stay Outside

Episode Transcript:

[00:00:00] Mike Pattengale: Hello, and welcome to Healthcare on the Rocks – Employee Benefits with a Twist, where we talk with experts and leaders in benefits management and health data analytics. I'm Mike Pattengale, senior account executive for channel sales.

[00:00:15] Jennifer Jones: And I'm Jennifer Jones, population health practice leader. We're excited to be talking today with a woman who manages the nation's leading corporate well-being award. Haley Elmore is the program coordinator for Healthiest Employers, the trusted awards program that recognizes people-first organizations taking a more proactive approach to employee health.

Healthiest Employers has attracted over 10,000 employers representing more than 60 million employees from all across the United States.

We know this is an extremely busy time of year for the program, so Haley, thanks so much for taking the time to join us today.

[00:00:49] Haley Elmore: Thank you for having me, excited to be here.

[00:00:52] Mike: Jen told us a little bit about Healthiest Employers but would you mind sharing a little bit more and diving a little deeper into what exactly that is and what your role is within it?

[00:01:02] Haley: Sure. So, my name is Haley Elmore, and I currently serve as the Healthiest Employers program coordinator here at Springbuk. This program is a corporate wellness award that highlights employers who are prioritizing employee health. So we currently operate in about 45 different cities or regions across the country, and then at the end of each nomination period, we also have our national award, which we call the Healthiest 100 Workplaces in America. So this award takes the highest scoring organizations from all of these regions. And then we promote and highlight some of the great things that these companies are doing.

So we also serve as a research organization. So we're working to analyze workplace health trends and hosting webinars or creating content and resources for members of the human resources and benefits communities.

[00:01:58] Mike: Great. And I know Jen and I have been at Springbuk long enough to know that there's some interesting history between Healthiest Employers and Springbuk. Can you explain that a little more for our listeners?

[00:02:09] Haley: Absolutely. So the Healthiest Employers program began in 2009 by our co-founders Rod Reasen and Phil Daniels. So the two of them had worked together to come up with this idea as a way to honor employers across the nation, through these various event partnerships. So while traveling around to these events and hosting all of these award ceremonies, they began to notice a trend.

And that was that several of these employers did not have insights into their medical and prescription claims data, or didn't really have like the ability to make informed decisions in regards to this information. So because of that, they created this idea for Springbuk, with the goal to kind of arm their employers with this data to make these informed decisions and really manage their population's health. So Springbuk kind of came into market in 2015 as a result of this program, which is a very unique experience and a really unique inception story for us here at Springbuk.

[00:03:18] Jennifer: And with that history, and I know you get this question a lot because we get this question a lot. Many people think that you have to be a Springbuk customer in order to apply for Healthiest Employers, but can you just set the record straight here and under and help everyone understand the difference.

[00:03:34] Haley: So no, not at all. The purpose of Healthiest Employers is truly to recognize any organization that is committed to the health of their workforce. So when you think about it in 2009, obviously there were no Springbuk customers to apply. So this survey was created by a panel of non-biased individuals and we update our application each year in order to keep up with the trends that we are seeing in the workplace and in population health.

So we actually also even accept suggestions from some of our applicants on questions that they think might be important or relevant to health and wellness programming. So it really truly is an effort to highlight the healthiest companies across the country.

[00:04:24] Jennifer: Thanks for further explaining that. And I think, you know, we've talked a little bit about as far as it's, you know, a unique program that really highlights holistic wellbeing types of programs, but can you explain a little bit more as far as why you see, you know, employers really applying for this award and what do they really get or what, what does it mean to them? As far as when they see their name on the list?

[00:04:47] Haley: Sure. So there are several reasons why employers will apply to this award. So I've seen several companies using it as a benchmarking tool. So we actually sent out a survey to our newsletter subscribers last month and 89% of the respondents said that they apply to this award to validate their wellness programs initiatives, and then 83% are also applying to kind of learn how to expand programming ideas.

So simply by filling out the survey, they took a lot of these ideas back to management, filled it out again the next year, and then raised their score 30 points to score a 90, which in only one year is huge. And this earned them a spot on the healthiest 100 workplaces in America. So this really helped validate their programming decisions and their benefits plan.

And they even helped to build an onsite wellness facility and clinic because of the survey. But then also we see, you know, 65% of respondents then said that they like to apply in order to get ideas from some of the Healthiest Employers. So they're attending webinars or reading the blog pieces, or really just looking for additional ways to help their workforce.

And then also one more stat here is 63% want to use this award as an employee retention tool. So I don't think to anyone's surprise right now the U.S. faces a major problem with labor shortages across all industries. So I've read several articles recently that claim, you know, a big reason for this is due to employee unhappiness with either compensation or benefits or working conditions even. So I think having this nationally accredited and recognized organization saying this is a top company helps these companies attract these top candidates for their open positions. So there really are tons of benefits to applying to this program. And it's been really great to see a community form around this application process.

[00:07:29] Mike: Yeah. I always love when I'm reaching out to folks on behalf of Springbuk and they'll respond back and they'll have that badge on their email that says like Healthiest Employer or like top 100 2017 or something like that. Like still clinging on it. It might've been five years ago, but just seeing how much that means to an employer from a retention or attraction standpoint. It just kind of puts it all into perspective and kind of reminds me why we're doing what we're doing.

[00:07:55] Haley: Yeah, absolutely.

[00:07:56] Mike: So you know, a lot has happened in the last few years. No shock to any of our listeners here, but I'm curious if you can elaborate or share some of the interesting trends that you've seen out of this most recent year's survey.

[00:08:11] Haley: Yeah. So I find it so interesting honestly, to dive into what workforces look like now. So as someone who works a hundred percent remote it's just interesting to see how different industries and different companies are returning to the workforce. So through the survey, we've kind of learned that about 25% of our applicants are fully remote.

22% have the option to come in as needed or as wanted, but there's no like set schedule with about 3% being fully remote, meaning that they don't even have an office space to really go into. 56% are then on a hybrid schedule. And about 21% have moved back to full time. So, like I said, I find that just very, very interesting to kind of look at what industries are having to go back because of course there's jobs that can't be flexible and work a hundred percent remote. Of course, you know, doctors and nurses and things like that. They have to be in their office for their jobs.

But aside from that, we're also just seeing a higher percentage of companies being creative in their benefits. So for example, 76% are offering tuition reimbursement which is great to help their employees expand their education, go back to school, try something new even. And then, we are also seeing an increase in paid maternity and paternity leave, which is fantastic because when I first started this program, I can honestly say I was shocked to see how many companies did not offer paid leave for parents. Which is like I said, baffling to me.

So this year we see 75% are offering paid maternity leave, and then 65% are offering paid paternity leave, so for fathers as well. This is up from last year where last year we only saw about 70% offering maternity leave and 60% offering paternity leave. So, I think this is a huge step in the right direction and also comes from this flexibility around COVID.

So it could be a positive that's come out of this global pandemic as well. We did a webinar back in February that discussed a lot about the trends that we saw in 2021. So through this webinar, we chatted about how the American psychological association reported that about 61% of Americans feel stressed about money which is kind of fair to think about.

And because of this about 94% of our applicants are offering financial well-being components, which again is huge. So 401k matching, additional like PTO opportunities, if they may need to care for a sick individual in their family. And really they're building on all of these financial components, but it's great to see opportunities like that being involved because if you know, 61% of your workforce is stressed over their next paycheck, they may not be performing well at work. I've always said, I think that you bring your best self to work and a lot of how your life is at home is going to affect how your life is at work.

So, there's been lots and lots of data kind of collected over the past couple of years that we like to highlight on our website as well. So I could talk about this for hours. But if you are interested in more of our trends and resources, I highly suggest checking us out online. And like I said, I can talk about this for hours.

[00:11:52] Mike: Yeah, no, this is great. And totally agree. I think just kind of between this and the employee health trends, which we spend a lot of time in our previous episodes on, there's just so much data to comb through. I'm curious, have these trends changed over the past few years? You know, I would assume that COVID has impacted participation like it has most other aspects of our lives, but I'm just curious around some of those different trends and looking back, you know, maybe over the last three years.

[00:12:20] Haley: Sure. So the past, yeah, three years have definitely been different. I think everyone can kind of adhere to that. But what I've noticed from a lot of this data is this need for flexibility is important. Yes, there's going to be some jobs that can't be remote, but the ability to have flexibility in those work schedules has been huge.

We have a question on our survey this year that talks about COVID programming that's still in place. And 89% of respondents said they still have flexible scheduling in place, which is great. But then also like I've pointed out earlier with the labor shortage, I think I read somewhere that the average tenure at companies might be between like four and five years, which is kind of crazy to think about.

We have a question on our survey that asks what is the average tenure among your population? And only about 48% have a, an average tenure that's greater than seven years. So I kind of went through a lot of this data and looked into what are these companies doing that is putting them above the rest of their peers.

93% of these companies have actually had a formal wellness program in place for more than five years with about a third of them being in place for more than 15. This kind of tells us that these companies were leading the way for. Wellness programming and wellness initiatives and their employees appreciate that.

That's what's helping keep them there. We are also seeing where, you know, 96% of these companies are offering mental health resources. And back to that creativity piece, 41% are offering dependent scholarship opportunities, which I think is awesome. That also helps with the financial piece of wellness, whereas only 34% of our total applicants are offering scholarship programs.

We're also seeing that 66% of these longer tenured companies have access to a data warehouse so they can track their medical claims, their prescription claims data. They're able to really focus in on these gaps in care populations and really improve the overall health of their population. I also also think it's worth pointing out that 79% of these companies are also utilizing social determinants of health when creating their program. So 71% might focus more on like available healthcare resources. We're seeing a bigger increase in individual behavior as well as demographics, such as biology and the genetics of their population.

A huge piece is also the social environment. Where do my employees live? Is that having an effect on their ability to work? Honestly, if I have employees that live more in a rural area, are they having trouble getting to work? Are they having trouble seeing the appropriate healthcare physicians? Are they having trouble with access to healthy and quality foods? What does that mean for my population? Long story short there, they are now able to put programming in place to address these issues that they're seeing.

 I've talked with companies before that have even broken down all of their employees by ZIP code to identify, you know, are these safe neighborhoods, are these unsafe neighborhoods and one even offers free home security systems to those employees in those neighborhoods that may be quote unquote unsafe compared to others which they said they received just a huge wave of appreciation from their employees for just taking the time to do something that honestly seems so simple. But it had a major impact on how they were working and how they were able to come to work.

[00:16:15] Jennifer: I remember being a part of that round table and hearing that. And I was like, oh yeah, that seems like so logical. I think oftentimes we overthink the smaller things that, like you said, can have a tremendous impact. Not only just on the morale of employees, but then obviously their, their overall safety too, so that I always loved telling that story.

[00:16:35] Haley: Absolutely.

[00:16:36] Jennifer: Well, I'm sure you have generated much interest with everyone that's listening. So tell us about how someone could apply for next year's survey, and then I know you do have a few other special programs out there as far as the Healthiest 100 and then the all-stars as well, or the Hall of Fame. So if you can just shed some light on those two programs as well.

[00:16:55] Haley: Yeah, absolutely. So you can apply by heading over to www.healthiestemployers.com. There's also a way to subscribe to the newsletter so that you can be up to date on all deadlines and information. We also are on LinkedIn at Healthiest Employers – a lot of very interesting information gets posted there.

You can see all the regional deadlines on the website as well. And then the Healthiest 100 Workplaces in America deadline is July 31st. So after that we'll be scoring all of our applicants across the country and then announcing the list this fall. And then all of our applicants also have the ability to earn recognition on our Hall of Fame.

 This year was our first round of Hall of Fame winners. There were about 20 companies that were inducted and all of them have been repeat applicants placing on the Healthiest 100 Workplaces multiple times over the past 10, 15 years.

[00:18:00] Mike: Awesome. Well, Haley, thank you so much for joining us. We here at Springbuk are all about helping employers improve the health of their employee population, so this was a great conversation to connect some dots. But before we let you go, can you share what the biggest twist you've seen in employee benefits and wellness programs?

[00:18:20] Haley: Yeah, that's always a tough one. I've been actually sitting here thinking about what I was going to say to this question for a couple of weeks. So I mean, of course COVID really threw a wrench in so many plans, but the after effects of COVID, I think have been the biggest twist for me. So like I said, we still are seeing several companies working from home.

We are still seeing several companies you know, offering these additional PTO and these benefits that came from COVID. So I think the biggest twist is honestly seeing such a negative global pandemic really turn our workforce into something positive. Continuing to kind of keep up on our population health and working through a lot of these eye-opening experiences, I think will continue to be a twist in the workplace and healthcare for awhile.

[00:19:14] Jennifer: Agreed. And as Haley mentioned, you can learn more about the Healthiest Employers program at healthiestemployers.com. Be sure to check that out cause Haley publishes some really great blogs. There's a monthly newsletter, as she mentioned, there's quarterly webinars. You can go back and rewatch those and those are, you know, I think just so important for everyone to listen to, to hear, you know, various industries and how people are taking approaches to wellness, well-being programs. We had one last week, there was a ton of talk around mental health as far as in construction and manufacturing industry. So just great, great knowledge to learn.

 And with that, we thank you for listening to Healthcare on the Rocks – Employee Benefits with a Twist. Please take a moment to rate us or leave us a review on your favorite podcast platform. You'll be helping other people find the show and letting us know what you enjoy until next time – Cheers!