Rethink Employee Health – Archetype Advisor Thoughts
ARCHETYPE’S ADVISOR THOUGHTS
an Interview with Steve Youso, Former President and Chief Executive Officer at Geisinger Health Plan
Published June 3, 2021 by Archetype Solutions Group
10 minute read
RETHINK EMPLOYEE HEALTH: ARCHETYPE ADVISOR THOUGHTS
As we move forward, whether that is back to the office now, later, or not at all, this pandemic has put health and well-being support to the front of every employee’s mind. Employers have numerous options to choose from when it comes to supporting employee health and well-being. Many of them chose to expand existing benefits this past year. Two-third of employers, in fact, made changes to their benefits strategy because of the pandemic, but what happens when the pandemic is over?
Workers now have an inside view into how a company reacts when presented with the real concerns of health and well-being, and just how much responsibility companies can take on. Employees expect more now and know they can ask for resources. We tapped into our advisor network to get the perspective of a leader with more than 40 years of experience in the healthcare space, Steve Youso. He shared his thoughts on what employers should focus on to best retain their talent and support their employees’ real health and well-being needs.
EMPLOYEE HEALTH IS STILL IMPORTANT
The ‘great resignation‘ is a threat looming on the horizon for every company. Employee expectations and interests have shifted dramatically in the last year, and they aren’t afraid to find an employer who will meet those interests. Health resources are one of the priorities on employees’ list. Former CEO and President of Geisinger Health Plan, Steve Youso, says “if you help employees be healthy, they perform at a higher level, and the engagement they’re going to have as part of that team is going to be tremendous.” Responding to the health needs of your people is the first step to keeping employees engaged, but you must first understand the unique needs of your workforce.
EACH EMPLOYEE IS UNIQUE
“A smart employer is going to understand that if they can align their interests as an employer with those interests of their team, they’re going to get better results in the end,” says Steve.
Companies have shifted focus from things like bonuses or vacation time over to things like childcare and mental health services. Customized health and well-being plans for the reality of a diverse workforce are now the norm. It would behoove employers not to be left behind in this trend.
Just as employees have welcomed their coworkers and bosses into their homes, they have also invited them further into their lives. We have glimpsed the reality of what our employees’ lives are like and done away with the myth of work/life separation. A recent study by McKinsey showed that our satisfaction with our life at work impacts every level of our lives. To really address what employees need, we first have to take an entirely new point of view of what benefits should be provided.
GET A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE ON WELL-BEING
More traditional well-being resources like nutrition counseling and weight-loss management are still a great benefit to provide. However, employers need to be considering factors much further upstream than they ever have before. There are the social determinants of health that limit how engaged an employee can be with their health and health programs.
How can someone change the way they eat if they live in a food desert? How can employees be expected to get regular check-ups if your office is located in a primary care desert?
Steve asserts that good employers not only create incentive programs but provide coaching and resources that can uniquely address each person’s needs and experience. That is the only way to keep employees engaged.
In addition to traditional offerings, there are broad upstream issues like lower back pain that impact every age group, cost employers millions in presenteeism, and is one of the leading causes for disability claims. Chronic pain like this has been directly attributed to sitting for extended periods of time and can cause long-term mental health impacts. Addressing upstream problems doesn’t need to be complicated though, sometimes it’s just about focusing on the things where “it’s not only the right thing to do. It’s the only thing to do,” according to Iain Fitzpatrick, CSO of Archetype Solutions Group. These are things you don’t need a report or survey to tell you what to do.
Learning to listen, to see the issues your employees are facing is critical. Simple things like hearing that your employees don’t have time to get a flu shot or seeing that a majority of your employees sit for hours on zoom calls can result in solutions that transform their well-being and health.
IMPACT NEEDS LEADERSHIP PARTICIPATION
Once you’ve implemented resources and changed benefit strategies, the work can’t stop there.
It’s the responsibility of leaders at every level to be the eyes and ears, and champions of the solutions put in place. We asked Steve if he had any thoughts on how leaders can make a difference once plans have been set and programs are in place. He shared that it’s important to be transparent as a leader and a person so that you can create a safe space for people to share how they are doing. “Nobody wants to be in a situation where the coach of the team makes it sound like they are, you know, perfect in every way.”
He shared that Geisinger’s approach to improving the well-being of its employees was a kind of “shot to the nose” when he first got there. Their program was simple, depending on your BMI, they would offer to cover more of the health insurance benefit if you reached a certain BMI within a period of time. For Steve to meet that milestone he had to lose 12 pounds in five weeks. They provided nutrition counseling and coaches to support employees if they wanted to participate, and every effort was made to ensure it was fair and equitable. For Steve, he said it was a wake-up call because they helped him identify what he needed to do in his behavior to reach that goal.
He felt like the company truly cared about him and his health from day one. He carried that responsibility on in his role as an executive leading his team. “I made sure they knew that I’m challenged with making sure that I do the right things to take care of my health. I exercise, I take care of myself, but I also like sweets. I have my foibles.” His approach of transparency helped build positive communication within his team and support the efforts of the HR team’s well-being resources. His team led in engagement with the well-being programs. Knowing that your manager is dealing with similar issues or is understanding of the unique challenges that you face can make just as much of a difference to employees as a robust benefits plan.
The dynamic has truly shifted in the workplace. Employers are responsible for employee health and well-being more than ever before. Not only do we need to design plans that meet the unique needs of our people, but we must train leaders at all levels to be receptors, coaches, and champions to truly create a great place where employees want to work.