The Importance of Communication

Effective communication is the biggest difference-maker for organizations aiming to improve their employees' engagement, health, and productivity. Keep these timeless truths in mind as you design and implement your wellness program.

Offering health-related programs that align with corporate strategies and employee goals is smart, but those programs should be considered the icing. The cake - the foundation for behavior change and real progress - is creative, persuasive communication that gets people to notice the programs in the first place. But rather than receive spotlight treatment, communication is often an afterthought.  

A better strategy is to embrace a basic tenet of communication: No information can be absorbed, learned, used, or shared without a connection between two sides - a sender and a receiver. Organizations typically spend time thinking about the sender (their own wellness strategies) and about the receiver (what employees need to hear).

But they generally don't consider ways to maximize links between the two - how, when, and where to deliver targeted messages that resonate with each employee. The primary axiom to effective communication is Less is more. Think "telegraph message."

Our average attention span is roughly the time it has taken you to read this sentence. "You only have a minute to gain their attention" is an incorrect maxim. You have about 2.7 seconds. And then you have to keep their interest so they can act upon your communication? That's not easy, to say the least.  

You're trying to reach employees at the same time they're updating some files while instant messaging with co-workers while straightening up their desks while listening to a conference call. Do they have a minute? Actually, no. So how can you get employees to view - let alone read - your workplace communication?

Many employees turn a deaf ear to anything involving topics they don't understand fully. So when they see an email about important changes to the company's healthcare plan, for example, their tendency is to delay reading it until they absolutely must. (Example of a teaser that would get attention:  "Are your prescription prices changing next month?")

More companies and communities are realizing the antidote is a one-two combination - brevity and clarity. Think teasers. Think billboard. Make your messages easy and scannable.  Cut your articles to 100 words. Get your videos down to one minute, max. Stick to one concept.

Of course there are more ways in which to maximize on employee communications. Using plain language, being creative up front, and clarity help design an effective strategy.

Wellness: Evolved

I recently read a couple of articles stating that Workplace Wellness is dead.  Both authors then went on to discuss the new trend, Employee Well-Being, which is a collaborative approach to creating Engaged, Energetic, Enthusiastic and Effective employees that uses components of Workplace Wellness programs in ways that are effective for the specific needs of your employees.

I’m glad that what HCG has been doing for the last 4 years is finally catching on.

Call it what you want, an effective Wellness Program has to be designed for the needs of the group.  Often, we find that management has great ideas, but doesn’t know what programming will work best and how to properly engage employees.  Sometimes, the best way to figure this out is just to ask.

Several industry studies as well as employee surveys conduced for our clients consistently show Wellness resources and programs are increasingly important to employees.  Using this data, we have helped our clients enhance programs that are important to employees while adding new programming that will have the highest levels of engagement and impact.  For clients that conduct employee surveys, we have also shown increased employee satisfaction and regard for the quality of their Wellness Programming.

Whether you have a Wellness Program, or otherwise support Employee Well-Being, a targeted and data informed program will provide the most value for your employees. 

One thing is certain.  If you’re not working to retain your most effective employees, your competitors are working to attract them.

Brian Hansell


Hansell Consulting Group Inc.

Genetic Testing

The idea that a small sample of my saliva can tell someone how I will handle certain drugs or even determine my risk for developing some conditions seems like something from science fiction.  However, it is now science fact.

As genetic testing becomes more accurate and less expensive, it is already becoming financially feasible to include these tests on a limited basis in benefit plans.  Insurers are currently involved in pilot programs to explore the use of these test for:

·         Increasing the safety of Heart Medication

·         Ensuring the proper dosage of Depression drugs

·         Shortening Disability claims

There are still some issues to work out including privacy concerns and portability of information, but overall, insurers are confident that these can be worked out and that Genetic Testing will start to become a normal part of benefits programs in the future.

Brian Reynolds


Hansell Consulting Group Inc.

New Webinar Series Announced

Interested in delivering Employee Wellness programming that has a lasting impact on your work culture?  HCG is excited to be hosting a Webinar Series on Innovation in Employee Wellness, focusing on programs and delivery. Our series provides you with industry knowledge as well as insight into new and innovative ways that providers are helping companies deliver employee Wellness Programs that support Physical, Mental or Financial well-being.

Our first webinar will take place on January 15th, 2019, and features Mr. Matthew Butters from RBC Insurance speaking on Benefits Innovation in Response to Wellness.

Claim your free spot today while they last:

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Healthcare Spending Accounts

Traditional Benefits plans were designed to work well for 90% of employees.  This statement was true 20 years ago, but today, employees have diverse needs that differ greatly depending on their age, income, location and lifestyle.  As a result, a completely traditional plan no longer meets the needs of most employees.  Health Care Spending Accounts can help to provide employee choice and customization when paired with a properly designed traditional plan.  The proper design can increase employee appreciation of benefits, control costs and help to retain key talent.

Emotional Intelligence

The role of managers has always been important to organizations.  As more attention is given to Psychological Health and Safety, the responsibilities of managers are evolving, and the need for them to identify and assist employees in distress has changed from an attribute of good managers, to a necessary skill.  Emotional Intelligence training can help managers empathize with employees and identify the proper resources that may be helpful to them.  Further to this, emotional intelligence training for employees themselves help strengthen group empathy and understanding for the entire company.


HRA - Health Risk Assessments

Everyone knows that eating well, exercising, sleeping 8 hours a night and drinking plenty of water are important components of living a healthy lifestyle.  Most people try to do these things, but the reality for most people is that their lifestyle doesn’t always align.  Health Risk Assessments help employees understand how the choices that they have made impact their current and future health.  Well designed assessments also consider heredity and environmental factors when presenting employees with their most significant risks and the impact of their choices.  Everyone knows that there is more they can do to help live a healthy life.  These tools provide them with a wake-up call and appropriate actions and resources that can help them improve their lifestyle and health choices.


Incentive Programs

The way that Wellness Incentives are managed is changing.  Tracking and administering programs have been a time consuming or expensive endeavor, but Group Insurance providers are finding ways to provide and track programs that incent positive employee behaviours and health outcomes.  The type and scope of these offerings is becoming a major differentiator for insurers, many of which are offering these programs at no additional cost.


The Fitness App Incentive

Fitness Apps are no longer a new fad. Whether it’s for personal training, diet, or sleep cycle analysis, these digital tools have the potential to motivate and inspire wellness. Employers are finding new and inventive ways to encourage the use of these apps and providing employees with strategies to connect with each other while providing employees with incentives for positive behavior.  It is up to employers to determine how these apps can best be used to encourage positive employee behaviours and provide incentives.  Though they may not appeal to everyone, its hard to deny that fitness apps are powerful allies in our pursuit of wellness.

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Medicinal Marijuana in 2019

Medical cannabis is a chosen avenue for medical treatment by over 300,000 Canadians. In January 2019, medical cannabis will become an optional benefit offered by many insurers.

As it is with many treatments, the costs of medical cannabis can vary quite a bit.  To keep plans sustainable, we recommend implementing a maximum benefit amount if you choose to add this coverage.  Amounts could include:

  • $1000

  • $2500

  • $5000

Comprehensive access controls such as pre-determined medical conditions, annual maximums, coverage criteria and eligibility guidelines will ensure appropriate use.  These controls help to support members who need medical cannabis, while also acting responsibly.

Medical cannabis can be helpful for some serious medical conditions, and coverage will only apply to certain conditions and symptoms met by specific criteria:

  • Spasticity or neuropathic pain associated with multiple sclerosis

  • Chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting or neuropathic pain associated with cancer

  • Anorexia or neuropathic pain associated with HIV/AIDS

  • Symptoms associated with palliative care