Attracting And Keeping Skilled Labor:

The continuing shortage of skilled labor in the western world is leaving human resources (HR) professionals scrambling to find ways to attract and retain employees. One way HR is dealing with the increasing competition for workers is by offering employee health benefits that go beyond the traditional staples of medical, dental and life insurance.

After a recent study of over 500 US companies, Jim Winkler, leader of Hewitt Associates health management consulting practice, says, “…companies are moving beyond their traditional role as a provider of healthcare benefits to develop holistic programs that pinpoint the specific health needs of their employee populations, drive employee behavior change and eliminate barriers to healthcare.”

Companies that help employees live well are viewed as favorable employers: socially responsible, progressive and employee-centred. For employees, living well involves not just physical health, but also emotional, psychological and relationship health, healthy eating and lifestyle choices, work/life balance and community involvement.

Exan Wellness is one of a growing number of corporate wellness product and service suppliers offering more than a fitness program. Through in-house and web-based delivered programs such as Health Tracker, as well as the corporate wellness report card, Exan is delivering what employers and, increasingly, employees are looking for.

“Companies are really looking at the full spectrum of their workforce health needs now, not just high risk individuals,” says Vic Lebouthillier, president of Exan Wellness, “…wanting to provide support for workers that need help with a fitness program, information about eating better, and generally being more proactive in order to anticipate chronic disease or reliance on health benefits.”

Not surprisingly, with employees looking for more from their benefits packages, the popularity of health, wellness and lifestyle programs such as Exan’s has exploded. With the new employee health programs comes a variety of options for workers. They might look at hiring personal trainers to help them get in shape. Nutritional counselors could be at their disposal to provide advice and customize a diet that works for them. They might even have the option of pampering themselves with spa services.

There are also secondary benefits to employers in offering these health services to employees. Workers develop a greater sense of loyalty to the company, work better when they are healthier and happier, and, in the long run, cost less when you consider the price of lost productivity due to absenteeism, disability claims and unhealthy workers.

With health as a focus, employers are also offering incentives that include cash and wellness dollars for employees who take part in health risk assessments. The idea here being if employers can find out what health factors need attention for a given employee, they can offer products or services to meet those needs. Keeping workers healthy is good business for everyone involved.