10 trends that will shape HR in 2019

An increase of attention on HR-related topics, such as discrimination, harassment, diversity, etc., made workplaces some of the biggest storylines last year. Read this blog post for 10 trends that will help shape HR this year.


As HR executives turn the page on a new year some will pause to reflect on just how much — and how little — has changed in the span of 12 months.

Increased attention on topics traditionally considered the realm of HR — discrimination, harassment, diversity, workplace culture — made workplaces the convergence point for some of the biggest storylines in 2018. Calls for equal pay, worker protections and better solutions for harassment and discrimination swirled through the boardrooms and shop floors of Google, Tesla, Amazon and CBS, among others.

In the U.S., political figures debated the historic number of people finding work and the policies driving that trend. Experts warned about the opportunities and consequences of artificial intelligence, robotics and other technologies. HR wasn't just an observer in all these developments — it had a lead role, both when things went wrong and when experts searched for success stories.

And through all that turbulence, some elements of the industry remain unchanged. "We're still the stewards of information and our people," Jewell Parkinson, senior vice president and head of human resources at SAP, told HR Dive in an interview. "That is going to be our role."

HR executives and teams across many industries have common challenges to face in 2019. Below, we've recapped what real HR practitioners and industry observers seeing on the horizon.

  1. The talent acquisition panic

    For Ceridian's Chief People and Culture Officer Lisa Sterling, this year's challenging recruiting scene will haunt her into the new year. "The thing … that literally keeps me up at night continues to be the focus on attracting world-class talent to our organization," she told HR Dive in an interview. Sterling isn't the only one vexed by the talent acquisition panic.

    "I've been in the industry 22 years, and I've had the most interesting year in 2018," said Scott Waletzke, head of enterprise recruitment strategy at Adecco Staffing, USA. "The utilization of technology is going to make it that much better."

    Applications and resumes flooded recruiters' inboxes at alarming rates last year and technology has emerged as a much-needed solution to the deluge. "Tech is allowing our recruiters to have more valuable conversations with those candidates," Waletzke said. With these tools, hiring managers can place candidates in the positions where they are the best fit, according to Waletzke.

    Of course, with hordes of candidates and low unemployment comes heavy turnover. And, as Sterling said, organizations need to find and lock down not just any workers, but the best talent for their business. This means companies need to provide a top-notch employee experience, starting with the application process.

    "People are sharing on social media what those experiences are like, and in a tight labor market, retention is top of mind," said Jodi Chavez, group president, Randstad Professionals, Randstad Life Sciences, Tatum. Organizations can improve retention rates by amping up company cultures, offering training and creating a robust HR department to manage such initiatives, Chavez said.

  2. AI as a partner, not a threat

    As Waletzke monitored conversations about tech throughout the last two years, he observed a radical shift. "The overall temperature of conversations completely changed. 2017 was robots are going to steal our jobs … now there is starting to be this embrace of technology," he said.

    For HR, technology has transformed recruitment, in particular. "We're really looking at ways we can use AI or machine learning to automate the talent acquisition experience so we can dive deeply into the one-on-one relationships," Sterling said. Job search platform CareerBuilder has used machine learning to add a touch of personalization, CEO Irina Novoselsky said in an interview. Those searching on CareerBuilder for jobs at Disney might see the word "client" replaced with the term "guest," a standard swap of lingo for the entertainment company.

    "It really is early in that curve of HR users having to become technologists," Novoselsky said. "That really shifts the conversation they're having and what they're looking for."

    While these developments may speed up what can be slow, painstaking work, Triplebyte Co-founder and CEO Harj Taggar pointed out that the tech may make the process more efficient, but it does not address everything. "It doesn't help with bias — and in fact, it exacerbates [it]," he told HR Dive in an interview.

    That's perhaps why some practitioners endorse a more steady, careful approach to new technologies. "It takes time to figure it out, so I think as recruiters and HR professionals we have to really embrace this change, go with it, try things, fail at times, figure it out, but be comfortable with it," Larry Nash, director of recruiting at EY, told HR Dive.

  3. Data insights continue to evolve

    HR is by now familiar with the calls for data-driven insights — but those insights have to keep people at their core and can't just focus on financial or other success measures.

    "It's not good enough to just reduce cost anymore," Art Mazor, human capital practice digital leader and the global leader for HR strategy and employee experience at Deloitte, told HR Dive in an interview. "That's old-school thinking."

    Employers have learned the hard way that while working toward a metric may feel modern and effective, the results can be anything but if the focus is solely on improving the number and not on making real, substantive improvements or addressing the underlying issues.

    More employers have opted to use data in an effort to better track their workforces, Sam Stern, principal at Forrester, told HR Dive in an interview. "But the problem is, usually the shortest path to success on that metric is to game the system. And to me, to be surprised by that is to be delusional. That's human nature."

    Data has its limits, too. An employer can only slice and dice the numbers so many ways, and insights alone don't lead to a lot of change, Jim Barnett, CEO at Glint, told HR Dive in an interview. It's about what HR leaders do with those insights; change happens at the manager and individual team levels. For example, employers can monitor the employee lifecycle from onboarding to exit to get a clear view of why people leave — but without a deeper understanding of who is leaving and why, HR could miss key insights.

    "Fundamentally, it comes back to understanding how your team is doing," Barnett said. "These fundamental things haven't changed over the decades."

    The pendulum will likely swing back toward qualitative analysis partly to avoid the "paralysis by analysis" that some companies are experiencing, Chavez said.

    "You could have all the data in the world and still have high turnover," she added. "There's still a human element. Do exit interviews. You won't see that on a data point."

  4. More pressure to become 'agile'

    Organizations are increasingly being asked to shape internal operations in a way that mirrors external business trends. To that end, executives have taken to terms like "agile," with more than 80% of C-level executives in one survey calling agility the most important characteristic of a successful organization. But what exactly does that mean?

    The term can lend itself to many definitions, but Cecile Alper-Leroux, vice president of HCM innovation for HR technology company Ultimate Software, said in an interview with HR Dive that in an HR context it's closely related to another idea that became popular in the HR world last year: flexibility. Agile organizations embrace contingent work forms, like contracting, to cover particular gaps that employee models may not be able to address. Ultimate Software has experimented with "flex teams," for example, that address business problems as they come up rather than focusing on one specific task.

    There's an element of the gig economy in these arrangements; "People want to control their own destiny," Alper-Leroux said, explaining that an agile organization allows workers to do that to some extent, which means it also points to a new way to measure worker satisfaction. "We have to embrace a new set of metrics other than traditional results."

    But teams don't always form organically. "There's a push to ensure the work can get done with the fewest barriers and how best to onboard people alongside their new counterparts in the workplace," Mazor said. Those "counterparts" won't always be people, either. "What can we do to influence positively that drive to productivity of the enterprise?"

  5. The role of culture in employer brand

    Consumers are value-driven — meaning employees are now, too, Stern said. Employees and applicants are aware not only of an employer's advertising campaigns and brand communications, but the charitable giving an employer does, the messages it sends and the way it treats its partners and contractors. That info is simply more available now, Stern added, and people want to align with companies that share their values.

    Societal shifts have partly enabled the rise of the employer as an "institution of trust," as well, Stern said. Some institutions have betrayed that trust in high-profile incidents, meaning employees are looking to companies to be less passive and to "show up" to certain moral events.

    "The contract used to be an employer gives a job for life and a pension, so employees give their heart and soul and expect nothing else. And employers broke that contract," he said. "And employees have wised up. 'I need you to support my lifestyle because who knows how long we will have this relationship.'"

  6. A new focus on where the work is being done

    As employers turn their focus to employee experience, more are considering exactly how and where employees do the work that needs doing, Mazor said. Do workers gather on a campus or at multiple, scattered locations? Do people use virtual tools, like video, to connect and collaborate? HR pros must keep these questions in mind as they design culture.

    "It's no longer about redesigning process. It's really around reimagining the work," Mazor said. "How do we blend this mix of workers from so many different sources and blend those with the varieties of tech that are available to us in the HR space and more broadly?"

    But that means HR may be held accountable for more aspects of the employee experience than it may have been in the past, including a functional tech experience — something more traditionally the purview of IT.

    "Is it needed for the day to day and is it current? Is it glitchy? Does it shut down every three days?" Chavez said of employee tech. "Those are things people are leaving their organizations for." In other words, HR would be remiss to overlook the day-to-day tasks of the frontline employee.

    And more employers are keeping an eye on the challenges facing their frontliners, from the work environment, to the tools used and beyond. HR managers will put themselves in workers' shoes in 2019 to ensure no part of the experience is overlooked. Because for all the fancy tech a company can employ — "if it doesn't work right, it won't matter," Chavez said.

  7. Potential for wage growth, but recession fears loom

    The wage conversation will continue into 2019, Waletzke said. While employers may remain conservative concerning wage increases, some industries may “flex their wages up” because they are heavily competing for talent; either way it will be a topic of discussion in 2019.

    "I think ultimately the focus then will shift to creating potentially other ways to attract talent, be it through different benefit packages or vacation time — alternative benefits to help attract people to the workforce," Waletzke added.

    But as more outlets begin to speculate about a potential coming recession, that instinct to keep wages steady in the face of upheaval may feel justified, especially as automation and tech adoption enable some industries to phase out certain jobs entirely. Recession remains speculation, especially for 2019. The real question for employers is how they will approach the talent market in a potential economic downturn.

    Some organizations will double-down on ensuring their employees will be more resilient and productive, Stern said, but "I think that will be a minority." A large cohort may instead go after automation and incorporate AI to streamline the work — and reduce the need to hire at all.

    "It's less about people losing their jobs to robots and more people never getting jobs because robots already have them," he said.

  8. Leveling the playing field for women and minorities

    Certainly, the push for gender equality was a dominating theme within the overall employment conversation of 2018. As that dialogue continues in 2019, that theme will likely extend, but may take on different forms. "I think you're going to see more on that," Sterling said. "Not so much on the #MeToo piece, but in neutralizing, leveling the playing field."

    With this may come the continued examination of the C-suite. In 2018, the number of female Fortune 500 CEOs plummeted by 25%, according to Fortune. Addressing this disparity may cue the change Sterling predicted. Many experts have recommended that organizations with systemic gender bias or ongoing incidences of sexual harassment trigger a cultural revamp starting at the top. The theory goes like this: If the board of a company features a diverse set of executives who are compensated fairly, teams are more likely to imitate the example.

    Even as the #MeToo movement fades, the impetus it gave to issues surrounding sexual harassment and gender parity will likely continue to spark discussions and change. One report found that closing the worldwide gender gap will take 108 years, but initiatives like equal pay laws, better parental leave policies and stricter sexual harassment laws may zip up that gap more speedily.

  9. Empowering managers to help employees

    In 2019, HR execs can't afford to overlook one of their biggest tools in building an engaging culture: front-line managers. Employers will be looking for ways to put insights in managers' hands so they can lead to their teams to greatness. This shift in perspective is one reason why performance reviews have moved away from annual affairs and toward consistent, forward-looking talks, Barnett said.

    "Now companies have really realized, it isn't about surveys or getting the number up. What this is really about is empowering managers to have thoughtful conversations with their teams," he added.

    To ensure success, managers must be trained to have the right conversations. It's easy to tell employees they are doing well; it's considerably harder to get a problematic employee to change their ways, Barnett said. HR has an opportunity to educate and create real transformation in an organization through management personnel.

    In turn, businesses are "really shifting [their] approach to workforce experience and how HR runs to drive those business outcomes. Not to support. To drive."

  10. Development and training to fill important gaps

    Skills gaps have spurred employers, non-profits, universities and even local governments to enter the business of upskilling talent. Such efforts are essential to keeping demand in check and may even involve bringing those who once left certain areas of the job market back into the fold.

    "What we are also seeing, too, is this idea of what we would call 'encore careers' — people who exited and want back in," Waletzke said, "those individuals will also need to be reskilled, and I think that is a huge topic that we need to stay at the forefront of. Those jobs can't be left vacant."

    The focus on employee development has also changed the way managers talk to workers, Taggar said. Those in charge are pressured to provide increasingly continuous and structured feedback. "I think in general everyone wants that, but people aren't happy getting a standard review anymore. People want access to coaching… and all these things to develop their skills more than ever."

    But skills deficits also mean recruiters can't rely on the same criteria to fill out their payrolls in 2019. That's a lesson Nash believes has been crucial to staying competitive."In addition to having some of these hard, technical backgrounds, it's really important [candidates] have certain mindsets that will enable to them to grow and change," Nash said. "Just having a growth mindset that things aren't static — they constantly change, and you have to embrace that change."

SOURCE: Moody, K. Golden, R. Clarey, K.  (27 August 2019) "10 trends that will shape HR in 2019" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.hrdive.com/news/10-trends-that-will-shape-hr-in-2019/545343/


Top 10 Workplace Trends for 2019

The importance of looking forward three to six months or even a few years for new and emerging trends was discussed during this year's SHRM's Annual Conference & Exposition. Factors such as technological developments, economic changes, globalization and automation, all affect how companies do business and attract top talent. Read this blog post to learn more.


LAS VEGAS — HR professionals and organization leaders have a lot to keep up with: technological developments, economic changes, globalization and automation. All of these factors affect how companies do business and attract and retain talented workers.

"If we don't keep up with all the changes going on around us in terms of the tasks we do every day, we become obsolete," said Dan Schawbel, partner and research director at New York City-based Future Workplace, an executive development firm dedicated to rethinking and reimagining the workplace.

It's more important now than ever for business professionals to look forward three or six months or even a few years, he said during a mega session at the Society for Human Resource Management 2019 Annual Conference & Exposition.

Conference attendee Jessica Whitney said she hoped to learn about any new trends for the workplace so she could compare what's discussed to what her company is currently doing—to see what it's doing right and if there are any new ideas she can take back to the office. Whitney is a people partner at Unum Therapeutics in Massachusetts.

These are the top 10 trends that will impact HR departments in 2019, according to Schawbel's research.

1. Fostering the relationship between workers and robots.

One of the biggest trends of 2019 is the partnership between robots and humans. "The human element will never go away," Schawbel said. HR will continue to manage the human workforce, and information technology (IT) teams will manage the robots. "The big opportunity moving forward is for HR to partner with IT and even other departments … in order to collaborate and manage the human experience," he said.

2. Creating flexible work schedules.

"Flexibility is something that we want because we're working more hours than ever before," he said. Regardless of age or generation, employees want to have a life outside of work.

3. Taking a stand on social issues.

Younger workers, especially, want to work for companies that are making a positive difference in the world, Schawbel said. Companies that take a stand on social issues will be unpopular with some people, he noted, but if they want to attract the right talent, they have almost no choice.

4. Improving gender diversity.

Compared to men, few women hold executive positions. The New York Times reported that "fewer women run big companies than men named John." That's the bad news. "The great news," Schawbel said, "is that countries are getting involved, companies are getting involved, and it looks like changes are on the horizon."

5. Investing in mental health.

Many people either have mental disorders or interact with someone who does, and mental health is becoming less stigmatized as more people speak publicly on the topic. Britain's Prince Harry, for example, is partnering with Oprah Winfrey and Apple on a series about mental health and has also asked employers in the United Kingdom to sign a pledge to take a stand on this issue. Schawbel noted that employers who sign the pledge signal to employees that they take mental health seriously.

6. Addressing the loneliness of remote workers.

Many employees today can work from wherever they want. Remote work is great—and employers need to promote flexibility—but there is a cost, Schawbel said. The isolation employees feel when they don't interact enough with co-workers may cause them to check out. Investing in offsite and team-building events can help. Connecting with remote workers in person even once a year can make a huge difference and build trust, he noted.

7. Upskilling the workforce.

There are 7.4 million open jobs in the U.S., and the unemployment rate is 3.6 percent. So employers need to find creative ways to close the skills gap. Companies are starting to hire more older workers, workers with disabilities, workers who were formerly incarcerated and veterans. "The [talent] pool is getting wider and wider, which is great," Schawbel said. "It's great because talent can come from anywhere." Companies are less focused on age, gender and other factors and more concerned with whether the person can do the joband work well with others, he added.

8. Focusing on soft skills.

"Soft skills are the new hard skills," Schawbel said. Ninety-one percent of HR professionals surveyed by LinkedIn believe soft skills are very important for the future of recruiting. "You can train for hard skills, but soft skills take a long time to learn," Schawbel noted. "If you hire someone who has a positive attitude, good organizational skills, is able to delegate work … they're going to be incredibly valuable in today's world."

9. Preparing for Generation Z.

Employers need to understand Generation Z, the demographic born between the mid-1990s and mid-2000s. Many in this cohort identify anxiety as a major issue that gets in the way of their workplace success, which relates to addressing mental health, Schawbel said. And even though Generation Z workers self-identify as the digital generation, they say they want more face-to-face interaction at work. Additionally, they tend to expect quick promotions, so employers should set realistic expectations, he noted.

10. Preventing burnout.

Employees must grapple with an "always on" work culture, and many employees leave their companies as a result of being overworked. Employers should recognize what causes burnout and aim to fix it, because it may cost them more over time if they don't, Schawbel said.

"We have to think about work differently," he added. "The future is uncertain … but we can make changes today that will give us a better tomorrow."

SOURCE: Nagele-Piazza, L., J.D., SHRM-SCP (27 June 2019) "Top 10 Workplace Trends for 2019" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/hr-today/news/hr-news/Pages/Top-10-Workplace-Trends-for-2019.aspx


Adulting’ benefits: Employers’ new solution to burned-out employees

According to this article from Employee Benefit News, "adulting" benefits could be the next big trend. Generation Z and Millennials are expected to make up 50 percent of the workforce by 2020. Continue reading to learn more.


In a time when globetrotting Gen Z and Postmates-loving millennials are expected to make up 50% of the workforce by 2020, could benefits that help with “adulting” be the next big trend?

Adulting is defined as “the practice of behaving in a way characteristic of a responsible adult, especially the accomplishment of mundane but necessary tasks.” Although millennials and Gen Z are well into adulthood, the struggle for them to accomplish day-to-day life management tasks is very real.

Many bemoan feeling busy all the time, tired and even burned out. In her Buzzfeed post, “How millennials became the burnout generation,” author Anne Helen Peterson strikes a chord with her “errand paralysis” reference. Pants going unhemmed for over a year, packages sitting in the corner waiting to be mailed for months, a car that desperately needs vacuuming — all part of a long list of never-ending low-priority, mundane tasks that get chronically avoided, yet still add to mental stress and anxiety.

Peterson blames underlying burnout as the culprit, even calls burnout the “millennial condition” affecting everyone, from the “people patching together a retail job with unpredictable scheduling while driving Uber and arranging child care to the startup workers with fancy catered lunches, free laundry service, and 70-minute commutes.”

So can convenience benefits — such as onsite errand runners — help with this problem?

There’s no denying those benefits might take aim at a big problem: employee stress. According to the American Psychological Association’s annual Stress in America report, members of Gen Z report the worst mental health of any generation. Only 45% of those in Gen Z reported “excellent” or “very good” mental health, compared to 56% of millennials, 51% of Gen X individuals, 70% of baby boomers and 74% of adults older than 73. Additionally, 27% of Gen Z respondents called their mental health “fair” or “poor,” and 91% said they had felt physical or emotional symptoms, such as depression or anxiety, associated with stress.

While employers cannot solve all employee problems, they can go beyond the basics of competitive pay, comprehensive health insurance and career advancement opportunities. Forward-thinking employers can look to new convenience benefits to help simplify the mundane and incessant responsibilities of life, alleviate errand paralysis and give their employees back valuable time to actually live.

For instance, a number of companies—including a major law firm in Atlanta has an onsite errand runner who helps employees do everything from plan exotic vacation getaways, shop for Christmas presents and go on weekly Costco runs. The onsite errand runner is on call all day to take care of employees’ personal tasks so they can focus on work and clients. The reaction has been very positive, with employees saying the service helps them stay focused and physically present at work knowing that other things in their life are being handled capably. An added bonus: It helps employees better achieve work-life balance because errands are not cutting into their home life like it did before.

As more and more companies look to prioritize the employee experience and get creative with nontraditional benefits, it makes sense to consider growing trends in convenience and lifestyle benefits. For instance, providing an errand running benefit to pick up groceries for an employee or drop off that mailing package saves the employee countless hours, not to mention stress, and speaks to the challenges of the modern world.

SOURCE: Clark, A. (8 April 2019) "Adulting’ benefits: Employers’ new solution to burned-out employees" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/opinion/employers-address-burnout-through-adulting-employee-benefits


Artificial intelligence enthusiasm outpacing adoption

Is your business utilizing artificial intelligence and machine learning? According to new survey findings, adoption of both is lagging among key decision makers. Read this blog post to learn more.


Artificial intelligence and machine learning have become essential for organizations to stay competitive. But adoption is lagging even among key decision-makers championing change.

That is the finding of a new survey by the RELX Group, a global provider of information and analytics. The company surveyed 1,000 U.S.-based senior executives across government, healthcare, insurance, legal, science/medical and banking in September 2018, and found that 88% agree that AI and machine learning will help their businesses be more competitive.

While the value of the technologies is clear to executives, only 56% of organizations use machine learning or AI. In addition, only 18% of those surveyed plan to increase investment in these technologies.

“Organizations [that] can successfully use emerging technologies such as AI and machine learning to provide their customers with better products and advanced analytics can emerge as the leaders of the future,” said Kumsal Bayazit, chairman of RELX Group’s Technology Forum.

“While awareness of these technologies and their benefits is higher than ever before, endorsement from key decision makers has not been enough to spark matching levels of adoption,” Bayazit said.

The study showed that AI and machine learning are making their mark, with 69% of those surveyed saying the technologies have had a positive impact on their industry. Machine learning and AI are helping solve challenges by automating decision processes (cited by 40%); improving customer retention (36 percent); and detecting fraud, waste and abuse (33%).

SOURCE: Violino, B. (2 January 2019) "Artificial intelligence enthusiasm outpacing adoption" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/news/artificial-intelligence-enthusiasm-outpacing-adoption?feed=00000152-a2fb-d118-ab57-b3ff6e310000


Why it might be time to say goodbye to exit interviews

Have you ever taken part in an exit interview? While the concept seems sound, many companies, large and small, are ending the practice of exit interviews. Read this blog post to learn more.


The exit interview is a long-time staple of HR departments. But an increasing number of companies large and small are ending the practice of asking departing workers to sit down for a final interview.

The concept seems sound. You can take the opportunity to hear unvarnished opinions about what your company or team does well and what it needs to improve on, and then take that back to management and implement changes that’ll help attract and retain great talent.

In practice, however, the process is often uncomfortable and many HR pros report that the folks who are interested in talking are often the ones who complained the most while on the payroll. The litany of gripes and rehashed personality clashes rarely adds much to the organization’s insight into building a better workplace.

If you can’t say anything nice…

Most of the rest, if they even will agree to an exit interview – and you can’t make them do that, of course – are going to be very careful to say only positive or neutral things about their experience at your organization. That helps to prevent bridge burning for them, in case they ever want to come back or they run into a colleague at a job interview later in their career. But for your team, the result is likely the same as with the complainer in the first example: A one-sided, probably inaccurate picture of what you are doing right and how you can improve in areas that need work.

Finally, much of the work your HR team does to schedule an interview as workers are packing up their personal stuff is likely to be wasted. Advice on employee-focused employment websites and other social media leans heavily towards “How to Avoid the Exit Interview.” Suggested tactics range from saying you can’t spare the time because you don’t want to leave your soon-to-be-ex colleagues hanging to asking to schedule after the leave date and then just ghosting the phone call altogether.

It’s still worthwhile to do a formal review to close out individual projects and to debrief contractors as they wrap up, but it’s probably time to say goodbye to the “tell us what you really think” sessions with employees who have decided to move on.

SOURCE: McElgunn, T. (27 December 2018) "Why it might be time to say goodbye to exit interviews" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from http://www.hrmorning.com/why-it-might-be-time-to-say-goodbye-to-exit-interviews/


4 trends in employee wellness programs for 2019

According to a white paper by MediKeeper, employee wellness programs will be impacted by intelligent personalization, social recognition, virtual wellness and smarter analytics. Continue reading to learn more.


Employee wellness programs will likely be transformed in the coming year by intelligent personalization, social recognition, virtual wellness and smarter analytics, according to MediKeeper’s white paper, “Four Emerging Employee Wellness Trends for 2019.”

“Embracing change and knowing what organizations need to keep driving wellness offerings forward in the next few years will help them lay the groundwork for building stronger employee wellness programs and increasing employee engagement,” says MediKeeper’s CEO David Ashworth. “With health care costs on the rise, companies that pay attention to these key trends will have the greatest success investing in their employees’ overall well-being.”

Intelligent Personalization

Intelligent personalization allows companies to make more informed decisions based on understanding risks and their causes and identifying what is driving present and future cost, according to the white paper.

“Every person is different, so it only makes sense that everyone’s wellness portal experience should also be different — this includes personalization, targeted messages and offerings.,” the authors write. “Adding business intelligence/data mining capabilities delivers the ability to take data captured within the portal, manipulate it, segment it and merge with other sets of data to perform complex associations all within each population groups’ administration portal will be the key to truly managing the population’s health.”

Social Recognition

In the coming year, workplace wellness programs will also implement a multitude of ways to include social recognition that fosters a team-oriented atmosphere intended to encourage people to perform to the best of their abilities, according to the white paper.

“Through social recognition, which can include posting, sharing, commenting and other virtual interactions, employees can help motivate each other to reach their goals,” the authors write. “These interactions foster both a competitive and team-oriented atmosphere that encourages people to perform to the best of their abilities.”

In addition to support from coworkers, managers can also promote their employees’ achievements by offering praise in an online public forum or even further boost morale by handing out incentive points that can be redeemed for tangible rewards.

Virtual Wellness Programming

In 2019, the importance of offering virtual wellness programming will grow as more employees work remotely or set flexible hours, according to the white paper.

“Since employees may work variable hours or work in several locations around the world, it simply doesn’t make sense to solely rely on lunchtime health seminars that may not be accessible to much of the workforce,” the authors write. “Instead of providing physical classes, consider hosting virtual programs that can be viewed at any time or any place. By making your wellness program available online, you’re able to reach a broader audience and make more of an impact within the entire working population.”

Smarter Analytics

Smarter analytics will also be at the forefront in 2019, according to the white paper.

“Now you can generate reports targeted specifically to the information that you are seeking, as well as layering various reports including biometrics, incentives, health risk assessments and challenges, to see what is working and what is not,” the authors write. “You can use these results to inform and better customize the intelligent personalization side of your wellness program. You’ll also be able to send messages from the reports, making them actionable instead of just informative.”

As employers continue to evaluate the effectiveness of their wellness programs, they should keep these four emerging trends in mind in order to ensure that their business is providing all the tools necessary to keep their employees both happy and healthy, according to the white paper.

“Remember that just because you’ve seen success in the past, you can’t just sit back and relax now,” the authors write. “Continual advances in wellness technology mean that you need to stay on top of the trends and adjust frequently in order to remain relevant in an increasingly competitive workplace environment.”

SOURCE: Kuehner-Hebert, K. (28 November 2018) "4 trends in employee wellness programs for 2019" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitspro.com/2018/11/28/4-trends-in-employee-wellness-programs-for-2019/


Resisting Popular Healthcare Trends and Getting Creative

In this article, experts explore the idea that companies need to use the many tools at their disposal, as opposed to relying specifically on one popular trend.

A recent study found that substantial wellness incentives and high-deductible health plans are not the quick fix to improving health care costs they were originally thought to be.

Employers pinned their hopes on high-deductible health plans, but HDHPs only represent 30 percent of medical plans offered by employers, according to the “2018 Medical Trends and Observations Report” released in early March by DirectPath and research and advisory company Gartner.

“Increasingly, employers are realizing that true, long-term cost management will come from a combination of tools and that they need to enlist employees in the effort in a meaningful way,” said Kim Buckey, vice president of client services at employee engagement firm DirectPath.

Employers have explored different options starting with managed care plans and health maintenance organizations the past several decades, moving toward consumer directed health plans years later and considering wellness programs and private exchanges after that, according to Buckey. These solutions could provide short-term relief but not singlehandedly solve the problem, she said.

The logic behind HDHPs was that if employees had skin in the game, they’d be more conscientious about looking for lower-cost options in medical care and become smarter health care consumers, Buckey said. But what this idea did not address the larger issue: employees’ lack of health literacy and little understanding of health insurance comprehension.

“Employees historically just hadn’t had the knowledge or the tools to truly become educated consumers,” she said.

The report, based on an analysis of 900 employee benefit health plans, also found that fewer companies are offering wellness incentives. Some 31 percent of employers offer them today, according to the 2018 report. This number is considerably lower than the 2017 report, which found that 58 percent of employers offered incentives, and the 2016 report, which found that 50 percent did.

“That was surprising because using incentives to drive employee behavior was a big component of most companies’ strategies across the past couple years,” said Brian Kropp, HR practice leader at Gartner. “What companies are finding in a lot of cases is that the incentives were most likely used by healthiest people whose health care costs were already quite low.”

For many companies, incentives have been cutting health care costs for employees who were already spending less rather than making prices more reasonable for people with higher expenses, he said.

This is not the ideal result since the idea behind incentives was, for example, to convince unhealthy people to get an annual physical. This would supposedly help them find health problems before they became serious and more expensive to treat.

“The idea that incentives as currently structured at most companies are becoming of less interest because they’re not as effective as we thought,” Kropp said.

The decline in incentive use may also have to do with concerns about the future legality of these plans, according to the report. A federal judge ruled in December 2017 that the EEOC’s incentive rules — which deem a wellness program voluntary if the incentive or penalty was no more than 30 percent of the cost of the health plan — will only continue until the end of 2018.

Other reports have found different data on wellness incentives. Jessica Grossmeier, vice president of research for the think tank Health Enhancement Research Organization, shared that a Mercer report in 2016 found that two-thirds of employers were using incentives to encourage employee to participate in wellness programs and that 29 percent provided incentives for achieving, maintaining or showing progress toward specific health status targets.

Whether employers will maintain their commitment to using financial wellness incentives will depend on the individual employer and what happens with the EEOC incentive rule. For the time being, employers can take the conservative approach and offer no incentives, take the middle-ground approach and offer modest incentives, or take the aggressive approach and offer up to 30 percent incentives as usual, according to law firm K&L Gates.

Privacy is another concern with wellness programs, Buckey said. Despite generous incentives, some employees may hesitate to participate in these programs because of privacy concerns. Some wellness programs provide employers with aggregate data about the current health status and health risks of their employee population. “With financial and health data breaches increasingly in the news, I think we will see a leveling off or even a lack of interest in participating in programs whether data — even in aggregate — is collected about an employee’s health,” Buckey said.

While strategies such as relying on wellness programs to lower health care costs or using HDHPs to make employees smarter health care consumers have not become the ultimate fix, there are some ways employers can get more creative with their strategy, according to Buckey. She suggested several ways for employers to take a multi-pronged approach to health care cost management.

Employers can offer transparency services, which allow employees to compare pricing for the same service near their home, when they are planning an elective high-cost service like diagnostic tests or surgeries. Employers can also provide better enrollment support in open enrollment so that employees choose the right plan and more carefully manage pharmacy costs by adding measures like mandatary generics or step therapy.

Buckey also mentioned that some of her company’s clients provide patient-advocacy services.

“[It] helps employees identify billing errors and resolve disputes with providers and insurance companies,” she said. “This frees up the employees to focus on their work, rather than financial and medical concerns.”

It’s important for companies to get creative with their health care benefits more than ever before, Kropp said. In the past, employees knew that the health insurance they received at one company was comparable to what they’d receive at many other companies. What the insurance was exactly didn’t matter because most employees felt the plans were more or less the same, he said.

Now companies are starting to realize that better health care plans are a significant differentiator for attracting talent in a competitive labor market, he added. As information for employees and candidates became more transparent and accessible, it became easier as a candidate to understand what health plan offerings looked like at other companies.

“It is a relatively new phenomenon of companies becoming much more vocal about their benefits offerings as a way to compete in a tight labor market,” Kropp said.

This article is from Workforce written by Andie Burjek on April 10, 2018.