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Jamie Lawrence


Insights Director

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News: employers show increasing appetite for tech to improve staff health engagement


Employers are committed to using new technologies to promote health engagement and encourage positive behaviour among employees.

The study, Emerging Technology in Health Engagement, was released by employee benefits firm Buck Consultants and WorldatWork. It examined the current use and future potential for three major technologies: gamification, social media and mobile applications.

Of the three, gamification is most prevalent (62 percent) and ranks highest among employers on effectiveness. Just under a third of companies (31 percent) plan to adopt one or more new gamification elements in the coming year.

Half (50 percent) of respondents use social networking in some way, though it ranks highest on privacy concerns over personal information. Mobile technology is the least implemented (36 percent) but is the highest priority for future adoption/expansion (40 percent).

Forty percent of respondents think mobile technology will be the most frequently adopted technology by employers during the next two years, but just 11 percent measure ROI on mobile apps and social media initiatives. This rises to 21 percent for gamification.

Barry Hall, principal and innovation leader, talent and HR solutions at Buck Consultants, said: “The effect of poor health and unhealthy lifestyles is a major concern in many parts of the world, not only due to the direct costs of medical care, but also due to indirect costs linked to absenteeism and productivity. Enhanced health also is integral to overall wellbeing, and many employers view their efforts as contributing to their employee value proposition.

“Concurrent with these dynamics, the explosion of social media, mobile technology and gamification has created a new landscape in the daily lives of most people. Just as many organisations are exploring how to harness these emerging channels to engage with customers in new ways, many also are intrigued by the opportunity to use similar approaches to better engage employees in ways to improve their health.”

Lenny Sanicola, CBP, senior benefits practice leader, WorldatWork, commented: “The lack of measurement is due, in part, to the fact that many companies are using third parties, such as health insurers and wellness program vendors, to handle various aspects of their wellness programs. These companies should direct their vendors to better engage employees and to collaborate on measuring effectiveness.”

By far the greatest barrier preventing organisations from using these new technologies is competition from higher-priority issues in their budgets (71 percent for gamification, 73 percent for mobile technology and 68 percent for social networking). Lack of support from senior management and the absence of a technique for measuring effectiveness were also identified as barriers across all categories. In addition, 43 percent of respondents said they blocked some or all social networking or social media websites from their organization’s computers.

This is an interesting study that draws attention to the increased use of new technologies. Gamification in particular is emerging strongly, partly because it is extremely diverse – the sales team can use it to drive efficiences, while at the same time the HR team can use it to increase awareness of health issues and also increase eco-friendly action, such as recycling, in the workplace.

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Jamie Lawrence

Insights Director

Read more from Jamie Lawrence