- Honeywell employee engagement in its Surgery Decision Support program jumped from 10% to a participation rating of "90 plus" after the company adopted a $1,000 penalty for workers who did not participate, according to Vice President of Global Benefits Michael Ventrone. Ventrone spoke on Honeywell's approach to integrating centers of excellence into its health offerings at a panel discussion titled Virtual Care: Same Partners, New Approach – Innovation in Second Opinion and COE Solutions at the National Business Group on Health's Business Health Agenda 2019 conference.
- Ventrone said that the Surgery Decision program has a 98% satisfaction rating. "This is the only program where we do get a thank-you letter," he said, addressing attendees. Workers who use the program elect not to have surgery a quarter of the time, and 100% of workers who do choose surgery move on to a center of excellence, Ventrone said. The program's penalty fee does not apply to emergency situations, Ventrone noted.
- Before adopting the penalty fee, Honeywell offered an incentive equal to $500 to program participants, Ventrone said, but the engagement rate only reached 25%. The rate then dropped to 10% when Honeywell later removed this incentive, he continued. "We talk about incentives, and at Honeywell, the only incentives that have worked for us is the stick approach," Ventrone said.
Employers often tinker with their healthcare offerings before settling on a set of services that provide for employees' needs while minimizing waste and cost. Many integrate centers of excellence and other second opinion programs or telemedicine and wellness programs to control cost and, ideally, give workers more options and better care. However, the final mix doesn't always inspire high worker participation, leaving benefits professionals to diagnose the source of the engagement problem.
"This isn't 'Field of Dreams.' Just because you build it doesn't mean they will come," said Ventrone in his presentation.
While some employers take a "stick" approach as Honeywell does with its Surgery Decision Support program, there are other approaches to consider. Providing workers with freedom of choice can be powerful, with 97% of workers surveyed by Willis Towers Watson last year reporting they preferred to choose their own benefits. Though some employers have said workers become overwhelmed by choice when it comes to benefits, taking the time to explain benefits thoroughly and clearly can increase the likelihood of participation.
Moreover, autonomy is important to workers' sense of well-being and job satisfaction overall. With this in mind, HR departments should consider how and when penalties would be appropriate to encourage engagement overall. It could be helpful to consult the data to see what programs workers find truly useful. In addition to spotting trends in the numbers, HR leaders and managers may consider having in-person conversations with employees to better understand the benefits they want — informing their approach from the bottom up.