Employers to add more financial Well-Being programmes

19 May 2016 Consultancy.uk

The total costs of non-communicable chronic diseases between 2012 and 2030 has been estimated at $47 trillion in lost economic output, on top of the individual misery the conditions bring with them. For employer-sponsored medical programmes, the costs from NCDs are projected to continue to push up rates. A new report considers the continued rate hikes and the kinds of conditions affecting different global regions, as well as explores further moves towards promoting prevention.

Employer linked health insurance remains a key benefit for many employees across the globe. For employers it means additional costs, but also coverage against loss of productivity from protracted illnesses. The cost of employer-sponsored medical plans globally has been on the increase in recent years, with a range of non-communicable chronic diseases (NCD) on the rise as societies embrace habits that promote long term negative health consequences, such as overweight and obesity through poor quality food and a lack of exercise, and their resulting health conditions, such as diabetes and cancer. These trends are compounded by an aging population, with the consequence of poor habits exacerbated by later life.

In a recently released report from Aon Hewitt, titled ‘2016 Global Medical Trend Rates’, the consultancy explores the employer-sponsored medical plan landscape, highlighting the costs as well as the moves employers can make to encourage employees to improve their lifestyles in ways that promote long term health – thereby also improving productivity and lowering medical costs. The research itself involves a survey conducted among Aon Hewitt offices that broker, administer, or otherwise advise on medical plans that are established and managed by employers in each of the 90 countries covered in the report.

Average Medical Trend Rates

Medical Trend Rates
Average trend rates for all regions are expected to exceed average regional inflation levels by at least 4%. The report finds that the average medical trend for coverage rates will increase at the same inflation adjusted rate in 2016 as in 2015, with a net 5.5% increase. Considerable variation exists between regions however, with North America seeing a net 0.7% bigger increase in 2016 than in 2015, while Europe sees only a 0.1% increase between the two years. The largest net decrease is in the Middle East & Africa, where rate hikes are down from a net increase of 6.7% in 2015 to a net increase of 5.3% in 2016. Latin America & Caribbean will too see a net decrease from last years’ 9.8% hike to a hike of 9% this year. 

Global causes for medical rates

Global Factors Impacting Medical Trend Rates
The biggest prevalent health conditions driving health care claims globally are, according to respondents, cardiovascular at 67%, cancer at 53%, Gastrointestinal at 43% and Diabetes at 42%. In terms of conditions indicated as a contributing factor to adverse claims in different regions, Asia Pacific and Europe both cite cardiovascular issues as the number one issue, at 76%, and cancer at number two with 65% and 59% respectively. Cancer is the most indicated condition in Latin America at 67%, followed by Cardiovascular at 62% and Respiratory 62%.

Top risk factors in healthcare

Future conditions
As the world’s population ages, and as poor quality food and a lack of exercise due in part to urbanisation and digitalisation continues, a range of conditions and their co-morbidities are expected to increase. Particularly high blood pressure (64% of respondents cited), obesity (44%), high-cholesterol (41%). Physical inactivity (38%) and poor stress management (38%) are cited as long term concerns that may come to place further pressure on employer-sponsored medical plan, as well as the organisation as a whole due to lower productivity and increased sick days. 

"We expect medical costs to continue to escalate around the world due to global population aging, overall declining health, poor lifestyle habits particularly in emerging countries, continued cost shifting from social programs and an increase in utilisation of employer-sponsored health plans," says Wil Gaitan, Senior Vice-President and Global Consulting Actuary at Aon Hewitt. "Regardless of the underlying medical insurance system, employers around the world are continuing to experience added organisational cost and lost workforce productivity as a result of these factors."

Wellness programmes

Future wellness
While a number of employers have started taking a proactive approach to health issues, by creating conditions in which NCDs are prevented by supporting a change towards healthier lifestyles, a considerable mismatch between forerunners and common provisions among all employers exist. Differences emerge between employers: progressive employers seek to take a preventative approach through a range of programmes, while common employers see the cure rather than the prevention as key. Programmes such as detection are offered by 80% of progressive employers, education programmes by 71%, coaching programmes by 69%, wellness interventions by 66% and advanced assessment programmes by 66%.

In a recent WEF and Bain & Company report the importance of creating an holistic approach to healthy lifestyles as prevention was highlighted, in part due to bring about an improvement in the productivity of employees. As it stands the total costs, between 2012 and 2030, because of the impact of NCDs and mental disorders are estimated by WEF and the Harvard School of Public Health at $47 trillion of cumulative output. Reducing this figure has been cited as a key priority for a wide range of stakeholders, including business. Bringing a wide range of wellness programmes offered by common coverage offerings in line with progressive employers may be one of the wider aspects of encouraging a healthy society and all the benefits that come therewith for individuals as well as organisations.

"Many of the factors driving global cost increases are directly linked to modern lifestyles and their incidence can be significantly reduced if individuals modify their behaviours," says Francois Choquette, Global Benefits Practice Leader at Aon Hewitt. "Employers in every country need to accelerate their efforts at helping employees both understand their own health risks and motivate them to take steps to improve their health."

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Why leaders must balance technical expertise with soft skills

17 April 2019 Consultancy.uk

Soft skills matter in the workplace just as much as technical expertise, writes Samantha Caine, Managing Director of Business Linked Teams.

For too long technical expertise has been seen as the marker of a strong candidate for development into a sales or leadership position. Sales and leadership candidates are tasked with demonstrating a diverse and wide-ranging set of technical skills, yet their aptitude in these technical skills or ‘hard skills’ cannot signify great leadership potential. This is why a healthy balance of soft skills and technical ability is required. 

So what exactly is the difference between technical skills and soft skills? In engineering, it’s crucial to demonstrate knowledge of physics as well as a strong grasp on mathematical equations. Yet, in any industry, it’s important for leaders to be able to interact with other people effectively with soft skills like communication, empathy and adaptability. 

Business Linked Team’s 2018 study into internal leadership development revealed that 69% of large organisations are prioritising the identification and development of future leaders from within the workforce. As more and more organisations begin to invest in sales or leadership development within their existing workforces, more focus needs to be placed on ensuring the right soft skills are in place. 

With those soft skills in place throughout the workforce, the business will benefit from a wider pool of potential leaders developing under their noses, and it should be the same where sales candidates are concerned. 

It’s not just about easier access to ideal candidates for these positions without the rigmarole of recruiting from outside of the organisation. The leadership development study also found that 89% of HR decision makers say succession planning has become a top priority. Those currently serving in leadership positions can’t lead forever and the same goes for those generating sales for the business.

Why leaders must balance technical expertise with soft skills

From people leaving for new opportunities or retirement, to people simply stepping aside to focus on other areas of the business, successful leaders and salespeople require experienced and capable successors that will be ready and able to confidently step into their shoes and pick up the mantle without the business experiencing any lapse in performance.

Soft skills make stronger candidates

When it comes to the soft skills required, a strong leader must be able to manage through clear communication and effective time management, coaching and goal setting. They must be able to demonstrate empathy and empower their teams to be successful, productive and fully engaged. And beyond simply giving direction, they must also be able to take direction from those above them and cascade the business strategy down through their teams. 

A strong sales candidate must possess the ability to communicate value to the customer, negotiate well and protect margin or the ability to increase the scope of a particular sales opportunity. 

With the relevant soft skills in place, the business will benefit from increased productivity, greater agility against changing market conditions and greater transparency. In turn, this will provide visibility on issues and inefficiencies while removing opportunity for miscommunication. All of this can transform the culture of a department, improving employee satisfaction and reducing staff turnover. 

Ultimately, developing leadership or sales candidates will require the business to strike the right balance between technical skills and soft skills, and this requires an effective and sustained learning journey.

A balanced learning journey

Facilitating and supporting the development of leadership and sales is best achieved by establishing training groups. By cultivating training groups, businesses are creating talent pools that will inspire and support each other on the learning journey. However, personal goals and learning objectives must be defined for each individual based on their own existing skillsets and the skills that each individual needs to develop. 

With the emergence of e-learning, businesses recognise the value of online-based learning activities, yet many make the mistake of opting for one-size-fits-all solutions which are solely focused on self-study. A development solution will only deliver true return on investment if it combines e-learning activities with group learning activities that provide opportunity for shared experiences and support.

A blended learning solution that combines self-study and face-to-face group learning activities will aid strong development of the talent pool through shared experiences. Through these shared experiences, those undergoing the training will organically develop a support network that supports the development of the group as much as it supports the development of each individual. 

The blended learning approach is supported by one of the seven principles of human learning that socially supported interactions aid the individual development of expertise, metacognitive skills, and formation of the learner’s sense of self. The strongest opportunities for development can be unlocked by blending workshops with online activities such as virtual sessions, peer coaching, self-study, online games and business simulations. But it’s crucial to provide a blend of one-to-one and group sessions too.

Beyond delivering a better learning outcome for the employee, the blended learning approach allows organisations to adapt their training quickly and easily to shifting business demands in an ever-changing landscape.