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Trends, Product and Industry Insights to Help Create Your HR Tomorrow, Today.

Connecting With Employee Wellness

Rick O'herron
Director CX Product Marketing

Two HR practitioners discuss the evolving enterprise responsibility for employee well-being.

Populations around the world are getting older as fertility rates decline and people live longer lives. According to the Harvard Initiative for Global Health, between 2005 and 2050, the share of the population aged 60 and over is projected to increase in nearly every country in the world. The number of people over the age of 60 is projected to reach 1 billion by 2020 and almost 2 billion by 2050, representing 22 percent of the world's population.

With the elderly living healthier lives, they can work longer and save more for retirement, reducing the burden on pensions and public resources. As labor markets get squeezed with fewer young workers available to support retiring workers, businesses can play a big role by investing in their workers' health. Wellness programs can produce healthier employees of all ages, boosting productivity and reducing costs as workers age.

Companies that seek to compete and win in the marketplace by creating great employee experiences can provide their employees with wellness benefits that leverage games, competition, social media, and mobile apps. These programs will help build corporate brand experiences that promote healthy behaviors and nurture employee loyalty. But, company leaders will need sophisticated, easy-to-use tools to implement these programs.

Oracle product strategists anticipated this need and created an application that addresses that challenge by providing companies with a way to engage employees, bring balance to their lives, and reward them for their participation. At the same time, it is helping those companies address a ticking demographic time bomb while shifting the emphasis of health maintenance from expensive, post-symptom intervention to positive lifestyle changes.

Profit interviewed two luminaries in this field to understand how wellness technology is being developed and how it's being used: John Kluchka, senior director of Population Health Solution Design for Optum, and Oracle's Nigel King, vice president for applications development at Oracle.

Profit: Where does wellness fit into Oracle's product footprint?

King: We have an application called Oracle Employee Wellness, a work/life feature within the Oracle HCM Cloud that can be used by benefits professionals and benefits providers. The application collects feedback on employees' progress toward their wellness goals and recommends behaviors that can improve their health, well-being, and work life. Games and friendly competitions increase participation rates in health and welfare programs and encourage employees to take ownership of their well-being. It allows the benefits of wellness management to be shared among employees and employers.

Profit: What's driving the HR department's interest in wellness?

King: There are three parts to that answer. First, it's the law. Part U of the Affordable Care Act encourages employer-based wellness programs. This is a big driver in the United States.

Second, there's the demographic imperative. Our customers in industrialized countries operate in aging societies. So, we have to help them find ways to promote wellness and improve the health span of their employees.

Third, there's broad consensus for this. Ninety percent of employers offer some level of incentives to employees who participate in a wellness program. Serving these benefits through an HR app seems like a very natural thing for us to provide.

Profit: What is Optum's role in employee wellness?

Kluchka: Optum is a global team of approximately 85,000 people, working collaboratively across the health system to improve the delivery, quality, and cost-effectiveness of health care. We focus on three key drivers of transformative change: engaging the consumer, aligning care delivery, and modernizing the health system infrastructure. In the area of health and wellness, we work with half the Fortune 500, including the development of population health strategies and the creation and evolution of their wellness programs. As part of UnitedHealth Group, our company is also an Oracle client of multiple Oracle solutions.

Optum sees technology as a core component of a Population Health Management strategy. This is where we generate the health, productivity, and quality-of-life outcomes for segments of individuals for which an organization is at-risk for health and financial measures and liabilities. This ?health care continuum? framework focuses on behavior and leverages technology wherever possible, especially sophisticated data analytics to identify patterns and trends. We help companies create broad strategies that align with their health management efforts.

Since we focus on segments of individuals, it's vital that the technology components of a wellness solution revolve around the person. A simple, human-centered digital experience is essential. The services included in that experience can vary by employer, location, or individual, based on their readiness to engage and where they exist in our behavior change model. It can include just a few basics like a health survey, biometric screenings, wellness coaching, and rewards. But a long-term goal for any population is a comprehensive suite of health ownership support that spans benefits management, health, well-being, and financial management. To a person, it's still one experience. So, at the end of the day, it must be simple, personalized, and relevant to each person every time.

It's vital that these services operate across smartphones, tablets, and laptops. We engage a person with a basic health survey where their results connect with calls to action. A person states their personal mission and tracks their progress. Their experience includes online support, social outlets like communities and challenges, and integrates with devices, rewards, and health data that's securely shared across available services.

Profit: What features do you have in Oracle Fusion Employee Wellness that align with Optum's population health management strategy?

King: We break functionality down into three features: employee-centric, for the enterprise, and some foundational pieces.

Employees can create wellness goals, track activities, participate in contests, and get prompts and notifications that help them achieve those wellness goals. They can use the devices they already wear to track activities and bring those activities into Oracle Employee Wellness.

For the enterprise, a benefits manager can set up the wellness program, state the goals of the overall program, measure participation rates and progress toward the program goals.

At its foundation, Oracle Employee Wellness leverages employee data gleaned from its competition and gaming capabilities and uses strong security features to anonymize any individual's wellness information. From this information, the system provides feedback and recommendations to the employee on how to reach their goals and improve their health and wellness.

Profit: In Optum's experience, are companies using this kind of functionality?

Kluchka: There is a high demand for digital experiences and new technologies that support population health results. In fact, Optum's 2015 ?Wellness in the Workplace? survey confirms that digital is the most popular delivery channel, offered by 86 percent of employers. Additionally, we also know that our other delivery methods, like on-site fitness centers, wellness coaching, and health savings accounts have a powerful impact when combined in a single personal experience.

Profit: How would you characterize Oracle Employee Wellness in relation to the other features that we see in the new release of Oracle HCM?

King: What we demonstrate with the new release of HCM is that we can really help you engage and take care of your employees and give people the information they need to be effective. We are demonstrating how to innovate to bring value to the enterprise and its employees through technologies that we see emerge in the workplace, such as wearable devices. This is just the beginning.

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