keys-452889_1280Employers are always looking for ways to engage employees, improve workplace wellness, and increase participation in the benefits they offer. And, over the years, many businesses have gotten quite creative with the incentives they’ve used to reach these goals. But a recent study has revealed a surprising motivator that many employers may never have thought of before.

The 2016 Benefit Analytics and Benchmarking Study (BABS), conducted by Wells Fargo Insurance, determined that the involvement of company leadership plays a key role in encouraging employee participation, even more so than financial incentives. Whether challenging employees to be healthier, showing support of wellness plans, or just narrowing their provider network, employer actions and decisions can do much to impact the bottom line when it comes to benefit spending.


Among its findings, the study found that employer contributions to health savings accounts (HSAs) do surprisingly little to encourage participation in plans that offer these accounts. Likewise, financial incentives weren’t likely to cause employees to opt out or waive their medical plan coverage, which conflicts with trends in the industry over the past decade.

What does work? Senior executives who encourage employees to take long lunches in order to exercise or who give them time off to have an annual physical. When upper management sends a strong message that it cares about employee health, it not only boosts morale. It also has a positive financial impact. Companies with more wellness initiatives, like walking trails and smoke-free environments, spent less on medical premiums. Even so, less than 20 percent of employers currently has a wellness plan in place.

The impact of support from senior leadership on employee engagement is clear. However, only 45 percent of respondents surveyed said they’ve seen this kind of encouragement. Here are a few examples of how your management team can send a strong message to your employees:

  • Actively participate in benefits programs.
  • Endorse your benefits to your employees and board members.
  • Directly communicate with your employees about benefits.
  • Include employee health and well-being in your company’s goals and value statements.

Just wait until you see the impact this involvement will have.