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4 essential employee health empowerment strategies for HR staff

Regardless of your industry or company size, prioritizing the health and well-being of your employees is crucial for the success of your business. As an HR professional, you know that the performance of vital enterprise functions, such as customer experience, service quality, productivity and innovation, relies heavily on the people within your organization. But are you focusing on employee health empowerment as much as you should be?

Why you should invest in organizational health literacy

An unhealthy workforce can lead to a decline in overall company performance. Empowering your employees to make informed health care decisions not only benefits them and their families, but also contributes to cost savings for your company. But true empowerment is not achieved overnight; it requires continuous engagement and effort over time. While employee engagement is a multifaceted topic, focusing on health empowerment is a wise investment of your organization's time and resources.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that nine out of 10 adults struggle to understand and effectively use health information when it is presented in an unfamiliar, complex or jargon-filled manner. Limited health literacy contributes to increased costs and poor health outcomes within our health care system – and impacts your business's bottom line.

4 tips to create employee health empowerment

Providing regular and simple health education trainings for your workforce is key to enhancing health literacy, lowering costs, and setting your employees up to thrive inside and outside of work. To empower your employees to make confident health care decisions, we've identified four fundamental concepts that HR staff should focus on. These strategies will help build your employees' self-efficacy and active ownership in their own health care.

1. Simplify access

Bridge the digital divide by offering self-service online tools for broad reach. However, it's important to note that a digital-only approach may not be suitable for all employees, as some may prefer alternative modes of engagement. To ensure accessibility, make sure that the health information provided is easy to understand and accompanied by clear, step-by-step directions where applicable.

2. Share relevant information

Cover the full spectrum of health, from general well-being to chronic and complex conditions. Each employee has unique needs, so it's important to identify any educational gaps that need to be addressed. Additionally, educate your employees on how to effectively utilize their health plan and benefits. Navigating the health care system can be confusing, and lack of awareness may lead to underutilization of available benefits.

3. Choose the right communication channels

Employ a combination of human interaction and technology to deliver health education. Leverage various platforms including mobile, web-based, telephone and face-to-face interactions to educate employees. And consider the source when disseminating health information. For broad worksite campaigns, it can help to leverage your company's leaders and HR staff to raise awareness and engagement. In other types of cases, employees may feel more comfortable receiving outreach directly from their health plan, especially when it pertains to sensitive health topics.

4. Consider the ideal timing

Adapt to today's on-demand world by providing health literacy education and support in convenient ways. Whether you're offering concierge customer service or recorded webinars, ensure that the information and resources are readily available to employees when they need them the most.

It's also a good idea to use data-driven insights to guide your conversations. Collaborate with your health plan to develop campaigns that are tailored from claims data or other relevant triggers. For instance, consider implementing onboarding programs to help employees understand their health plan as soon as a new coverage period begins.

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