NOTEBOOK: Attraction, Retention, and Employee Health
copyright © 2017 Leo Wolfert

NOTEBOOK: Attraction, Retention, and Employee Health

Every employer has been trying to solve the Rubik's Cube that is employee attraction and retention, and recent research of human resource professionals suggests a focus on employee health may be key to keeping workers on the job.

As millions of U.S. employees voluntarily resign and employers -- like snow and ice management professionals -- desperately scramble to find workers, recent research conducted by Quest Diagnostics involving nearly 450 HR pros sheds light onto the unprecedented employer-employee dynamics taking shape in a competitive labor market and the unique challenges employers face to deliver quality, cost-effective health benefits that meet workers' heightened expectations in a post-pandemic world.

"While there has been significant attention on low pay, lack of flexibility, and disrespect at work as main reasons driving the 'Great Resignation,' our findings suggest employee health programs play a major role as well," said Jay G. Wohlgemuth, M.D., Quest Diagnostics' Senior Vice President, R&D and Medical, and Chief Medical Officer. "Employers are taking extraordinary measures to attract and retain talent, and healthcare benefits, access and affordability are areas of focus they can't afford to overlook to compete for workers."

Here are some of the key findings worthy of note:

  • Two-thirds of employees (66%) say they are thinking about changing jobs next year or have begun or recently completed a job change.
  • More than 3 in 4 (78%) of human resources leaders say their organization has been impacted by the "Great Resignation," and 90% believe they will have to improve benefit packages and increase wages. And yet, over seven in ten (72%) human resource pros surveyed also anticipate a recession that will impact hiring in the next year.
  • There was strong agreement --87% of human resource pros and 89% of employees-- that health insurance is too expensive, and that the pandemic's effects on health will drive costs even higher. And while large majorities believe that companies should pay for most healthcare costs, just over one third of employees (35%) and almost half of human resource managers (46%) believe employees need to pay more.
  • More than three quarters (77%) of human resource execs want to lower the financial burden of healthcare costs borne by employees but say they don't have the tools they need to do that. In fact, 63% feel "overwhelmed about making the best choices for our employees."
  • Throughout the worst of the COVID pandemic, more than half (56%) of human resources execs had to manage sick workers, implement safety policies and manage hybrid/remote work transitions, among other challenges. Now, the prospect that employees are beset by other illnesses is a point of concern for human resource managers. Nearly three quarters (73%) express worry that their employees may be sick with chronic illnesses because they haven't had wellness checks during the pandemic.
  • These concerns appear warranted. Three in five (63%) of employees say they put off routine medical appointments and/or screening over the past two years and about three-quarters (77%) say preventive healthcare is hard to perform during the pandemic.
  • The report also suggests employers are increasingly prioritizing mental health, with 84% of HR execs expressing concern about their employees' mental health, nearly the same proportion, 85%, who express concern about employees' physical health.
  • Employee health screening is seen as a must-have benefit to be an employer of choice, even by those who question its ability to lower medical costs. Ninety percent of human resource pros and 89% of employees believe health screening programs are essential for a company to be considered an employer of choice that attracts and keeps talent–despite more than 68% of both groups questioning if these programs lower medical costs. 
  • The survey also suggests at-home screenings and telehealth can expand access to healthcare. Eighty-seven percent of both groups are comfortable with at-home biometric testing, and 76% of employees said if they could do it at-home they would have more screenings. However, 66% of HR execs and 74% of employees believe that such measures can only complement, but not replace, in-person screenings.
  • Despite largely favorable perspectives of employer-based health services, more than half of employees (55%) are concerned about their employers being too involved in their healthcare and more than two thirds (67%) don't want their employers to know the results of their screenings or tests.

Mike Zawacki is editor of Snow Magazine.