Santé organisationnelle : les essentiels d’un programme réussi (anglais seulement)



Adam Hudson: [00:00:05] Hi, I'm Adam Hudson. I'm a partner and senior consultant with Clear Health Benefits. The best part of my job is really working day to day with my clients, learning more about their organization, and how we can bring cost effective, sustainable solutions to their organization and their employees. Ultimately, listening to what their needs are and working closely with them to address those needs, wants concerns going forward.

Jeff Bremner: [00:00:31] Hi, my name is Jeff Bremner. I'm the national vice president, MGA Distribution for the partner solutions division of People Corporation. The best part about my job is spending time in the field with my team and getting to know these amazing advisors that we partner with across the country, what's really important to them, and what's important to their clients.

Voice-over: [00:00:54] You have questions?

Question: [00:00:57] I'm wondering, what are my employees’ top well-being needs?

Question: [00:01:02] How to implement a good organizational health in my company.

Question: [00:01:06] How can I ensure our group coverage meets the needs of all of our employees?

Catherine Duranceau: [00:01:12] We're here to answer them. Hi, welcome to the Beneva podcast Ask the Experts. I'm your host, Catherine Duranceau. In this episode, we'll talk about how to establish organizational health that is adapted to everyone's needs in a company. What are employees really looking for in a group insurance plan? Also, how to inform and educate employees about the resources available within a group coverage. Hi, Adam and Jeff. It's a pleasure to talk to you both. Now, for the past years, you've witnessed the significant changes in the industry, especially since COVID-19, of course. Tell us, what important insights should organizations consider when they're working on a solid organizational health framework?

Jeff Bremner: [00:01:57] I think there's lots of ways that you can build a strong organizational health framework, but it doesn't really matter how great it is unless you've got buy-in from leadership and the governance to support it. If I think about leadership working 80-hour work weeks and sending out emails at midnight and sending out emails all day Saturday and Sunday as an example, it's not a really great message to send to the rest of the organization. So I think that often, employees sort of mirror the behavior and the values of their leaders. And so if that's what's being put out there as a value to the organization, you're likely going to end up with a lot of unproductive and burnt-out employees. Conversely, when an organization promotes a healthy workplace, healthy employee well-being, chances are, you're going to end up with very productive employees, very engaged employees.

Catherine: [00:02:56] Not encouraging people to do 80 hours a week?

Jeff Bremner: [00:02:58] Yeah, absolutely. Because, I mean, ultimately we know how that's going to end up, right? It's going to be okay for a while, and then things are going to fall apart.

Adam Hudson: [00:03:06] Yeah, to Jeff's point, I mean, I think that everything starts at the top and it rolls its way down from there. And I think you've got to have that buy-in from leadership. You have to have the commitment from leadership as well, because at the end of the day, the employees are looking up to those leaders, and in a lot of cases, they're trying to follow what they're doing. And if you've got leaders that are engaged, well communicated, I think your organizational framework from there will have a buy-in all the way from top to bottom. And I think your employees, again, there's a lot of communication that goes on within the employee group itself. They're looking to their leaders for guidance. They're looking for commitment. They're looking for engagement. They're looking for transparency. And I think that all comes from the top. And I think when they see that on multiple levels within the leadership group, they themselves are there to follow and work towards a more productive workplace. I think that's something that we all have to understand, that we have to try and maybe reconfigure our train of thought in the workplace with that approach, and we have to have that work-life balance. And that work-life balance comes with access to a multitude of tools that plan sponsors have access to these days.

Catherine: [00:04:15] But Adam, is it a bigger challenge to understand and accommodate the needs of different generations within a company?

Adam Hudson: [00:04:21] I believe it is. I think it still comes from an actual understanding of what the culture of an organization is. An organization has to take a step back, take a look at the culture that they have within, look at the generational kind of demographic mix that they have within, because there's going to come with different level of demands, wants, needs. You've got younger employees that are coming into the workforce and they're not as set up in their lifestyle. They're looking to save for purchasing a house, which we know is extremely difficult these days. They have a different level of demands, concerns, young families. You have your older demographic that maybe they're a little bit sedentary in what their lifestyle is. They already know they've already planned for their retirement. They've paid off a majority of their mortgage. So I think those challenges do come into play, and I think an organization has to be aware of that, but be able to communicate what resources are available to all levels.

Catherine: [00:05:12] And for mental health, maybe different generations are more open to talk about it also.

Adam Hudson: [00:05:17] Absolutely. I think it's hard to say. I think when you look at the older demographic, they hold their cards a little closer to home, whereas when we start looking at the younger demographic, they’re a lot more open. I think social media has triggered a lot of that. I think you've got to look at the resources through EAP programs, additional kind of wellness initiatives that an organization might put out there, different communication avenues that an organization can use to promote mental health wellness. So I think there's a lot of tools and information that can be extremely beneficial for organizations out there.

And going back to the very first point is that leadership has to be committed to that. It's only going to have a stronghold and success if you have that leadership commitment so that.

Catherine: [00:06:03] They could look up to someone and try to be good in their job, but without being burnt out either, because that's not the point.

Adam Hudson: [00:06:11] Exactly.

Catherine: [00:06:12] I believe it must be also a top priority to equally consider diversity within a group?

Adam Hudson: [00:06:15] Absolutely. As we talk about demographics within a group, we're looking at diversity. I mean, people are coming from all different cultures, all walks of life. They have different commitments within an organization. So we have to embrace diversity within an organization because again, by embracing diversity within an organization, it helps to the ultimate success and cohesiveness of that organization and ultimately, the success, the growth, and productivity as a whole.

Catherine: [00:06:43] Absolutely. And if you tell us a little bit about those practical steps employers can take to address mental health effectively.

Jeff Bremner: [00:06:50] I think it really starts with promoting awareness and, back to Adam's point, reducing stigma around mental health. And so this can all be achieved through education, right? Things like workshops, seminars, could be timely articles that are being sent to employees; could be a wellness newsletter that the organization creates to send out to employees. You know, ultimately, when employees are well informed, they're better able to understand their own mental health. Creating that supportive culture is going to be ultimately really, really important for employers to their employees. Fostering a culture of empathy, inclusivity, and open communication where employees actually feel safe, comfortable expressing mental health concerns that they're having. And you can only do that when it's a trusted environment, right?

Catherine: [00:07:44] You need to feel confident to be like, “I'm not going to be judged if I ask this question.”

Jeff Bremner: [00:07:49] Absolutely. I mean, I think, again, creating an environment where you're talking about these things together as a group, ultimately it's going to make people feel a heck of a lot more comfortable about being able to bring it up with their leader when they are having some challenges. And then equally, it's really important to make sure that managers and supervisors are trained to be able to identify where somebody who works for them may be having a mental health challenge, sort of be equipped to be able to manage that conversation, or at least get them in touch with the right people, the right resources.

Catherine: [00:08:24] Mental health is taking so much space in our lives. But to talk about it is, I think, one of the ways to make it better.

Jeff Bremner: [00:08:32] Yeah.

Catherine: [00:08:33] Can we say that group coverage evolved during the years? What changed?

Jeff Bremner: [00:08:36] I would say that there's a growing emphasis on having more personalized solutions available for plan members and their dependents. I think things like an employee assistance plan – while great and covers a broad spectrum of physical, mental, financial, emotional health – I think that as things progress in the coming years, we're going to see a lot more targeted solutions, right? So solutions that are very, very specific to mental health; solutions that are very, very specific to chronic disease. And ideally, I hope we get to a point where instead of putting an EAP as an example in place for all employees and thinking that's going to work for everybody, that we start moving towards a position where we've got a platform that has access to a whole number of different solutions and allows employees and their dependents to choose what it is that works for them. Because I think ultimately, that's what's going to improve employee well-being and ultimately reduce costs for the benefits plan.

But specific to solutions, I think as an example, like, wellness accounts or personal spending accounts are probably going to become even more relevant. I say that because you saw that 2023 Benefits Canada survey, what employees are saying is most important to them is exercise and sleep. And I can't think, off the top of my head, how many providers have really gone down the path of solutions that are dedicated to sleep, but we all recognize how important that is. If we can help employees sleep better, that has a positive, trickle-down impact on the rest of their health.

Now, things like exercise, obviously really, really important as well to employees. You know, you can provide some flexibility there through personal spending accounts where there's funds that are set aside for things like gym memberships and exercise equipment to work out at home. So I think that we're moving in the right direction. But I think that's what we're going to see as the next wave. Personalized solutions and a lot more focus on exercise and sleep.

Adam Hudson: [00:10:55] To Jeff’s point, the younger demographic are more connected. I think they're more informed of what's out there, what is potentially available to them. They're more connected in and in tune with their own health. I think when we look at some of the older demographic, they didn't have access to some of the information that's out there now.

Catherine: [00:11:14] They didn't have TikTok.

Jeff Bremner: [00:11:16] WebMD.

Adam Hudson: [00:11:17] Yeah, yeah. And I think there's a lot of stresses right now in our world, right, you know, with regards to our own health care. So, access to virtual health care is a significant one. We've got a lot of young families out there. And if we can avoid those long trips to the walk-in clinic, the emergency room, or trying to get an appointment with your own doctor, and you can access that in 15 minutes to half an hour. I think that's critical, right?

Going back to Jeff's point on personal spending accounts or wellness accounts. I think ultimately, with the changing in the demographic, as you know, baby boomers are now exiting the workforce or soon to be over the next coming years, and with the younger demographic; they're all looking for choice. They're looking for flexibility. You know, we have to lean on the insurance carriers at this point in time for them to start understanding that and putting together greater tools and program availability to support what these demands are. Certain organizations or certain insurance carriers that do have nice, flexible products for small, midsize groups right now, but not all insurance carriers do. And in the Canadian marketplace, the majority of organizations are under 100 employees and even more so under 50, I guess. So I think it's just critical from that standpoint that the insurance carriers have to look in a little bit deeper and try and find solutions that are going to be a lot more relevant to the employee demographic that we're going to be witnessing in the years to come.

Catherine: [00:12:39] And it should be top priority.

Jeff Bremner: [00:12:40] I think we're also going to see a trend towards higher maximums for psychologists and social worker benefits, as an example.

Catherine: [00:12:48] Oh, to upgrade, alright.

Jeff Bremner: [00:12:49] Well, it's a little disturbing in the sense that mental health topped the list last year of highest out-of-pocket expenditure. And so if we think about a traditional benefits plan that's got a $300 per practitioner maximum or $500 per practitioner maximum, the cost of going to a psychologist or a social worker is $200 an hour. Somebody's going to get one and a half to two and a half sessions out of their benefits plan. But we know that it's going to take a lot more than one and a half to two and a half sessions for people to get where they need to be. And so there's a lot of additional cost that's coming out of the employee's pocket. So when we think about what are the top three stressors for employees right now? Well, it's personal finances, it's workload; and it's work life balance.

Catherine: [00:13:38] Work is there a lot.

Jeff Bremner: [00:13:39] Work is there a lot. But personal finance is being number one. And if people are stressed out about personal finances, and then they don't have a psychologist and social worker benefit that gives them the coverage that they need, then it's not going to go well. And so we've seen a lot of companies, like I think Starbucks was the first one that I can remember. You know, they went to a $5,000 maximum on psychologists and social workers. You know, maybe that's on the high end for sure. But certainly, some organizations are going to $1,500 maximums on psychologists and social workers and then leaving all of the other paramedical benefits at a $500 maximum. If we can get employees using more non-pharmacological avenues like therapy, maybe that then contributes to a reduction in drug costs; not only a reduction in drug costs, but then maybe less employees also going on disability, which then takes some of the financial pressure off the benefits plan.

Catherine: [00:14:33] I understand it must be tricky trying to give that personalized solution. But at least if the employers are trying, we're getting there even more so. But if you tell us, what are the benefits of promoting employee well-being?

Jeff Bremner: [00:14:45] Yeah, I think from my perspective, I think a lot of employers have come to realize that there's a really strong ROI that's associated with having happy and healthy employees. There's a lot of really amazing statistics out there. Like, mentally healthy employees working in a supportive environment are up to 12 times more productive, up to 8 times more engaged than their less healthy counterparts. And obviously, that's going to have a positive impact on performance for the organization. You've got reduced presenteeism, reduced absenteeism unhealthy employees, they take up to nine times more sick leave than their healthy counterparts. That's going to disrupt workflow; that's going to have a negative impact on the organization. I think unhealthy employees have greater health care costs. Right? I think that there's sort of the compassionate benefit, but there's also a bit of a strategic benefit here as well for employers to really focus in on employee well-being.

Adam Hudson: [00:15:44] Jeff makes a great point. I like the strategic benefit of it all, because at the end of the day, when you take a look at all the benefits of providing a very comprehensive, robust, health and wellness program, to that strategic side, I think what we're looking at is, it's a small investment on the front end to incorporate some of these benefits and communications and resources to your employees that we can now maybe step away from that presenteeism and absenteeism and reduce short-term disabilities, long-term disabilities. And if we can reduce even the level of medications individuals are taking, or we can isolate the proper medications for mental health related illnesses. They have those resources out there.

Jeff Bremner: [00:16:27] There's pharmacogenetics.

Adam Hudson: [00:16:28] Pharmacogenetics. And that's exactly it. So when organizations can start kind of accepting and engaging with some of these resources to provide a better kind of healthy landscape for their employees, I think ultimately for them, from even a cost standpoint, it’s significant. Your ROI on that just from productive employees and an organization culture, I think is significant, through it all.

Jeff Bremner: [00:16:52] But I also think that it's really important right now for employers to start thinking ahead. And I say that because we go back to the different generations that are in the workforce right now. So currently, I think it's about 54% of the Canadian workforce is made up of baby boomers and Gen X. It's still a lot. But over the next 5 to 7 years, that number is expected to drop to 25%. And you're going to have an influx of millennial and Gen Z employees in the workforce. And what do we know about millennials and Gen Z employees? They're very, very comfortable talking about mental health. They're very comfortable talking about their well-being. And they place a really strong emphasis on that. So I've heard that currently, Gen Z employees on average stay with an employer for two years and three months.

Catherine: [00:17:49] Two years and three months? That’s not a lot.

Jeff Bremner: [00:17:52] It's not a lot. And millennials are two years and nine months. And that's relative to Gen X that's over five years. And baby boomers are typically over eight years on average. And so when we start thinking about what's going to happen over the next 5 to 7 years, I think that there's a lot of investment that goes into training and developing new employees.

Catherine: [00:18:16] To retain them, you want to keep them.

Jeff Bremner: [00:18:18] You want to retain them, you want to make sure that they're engaged. And we know that Gen Z millennial population, wellness is really important to them. So in order to keep them engaged, it's going to be really, really important for organizations to put a lot of emphasis on organizational health so that they're able to retain those employees long term.

Catherine: [00:18:36] Absolutely. When it comes to group coverage benefits, what's important for the employees, what are their key considerations?

Adam Hudson: [00:18:42] Well, I guess it goes back to having that conversation about having a multi-generational workforce, right? There's different demands depending on the demographic of a group. So I think that the older demographic within an organization are somewhat still traditional in nature. I think they still kind of put a key focus on prescription drugs and dental and vision care. Some of them are looking at flexibility in their benefits, depending on what kind of cost contributions are with their employer. But when we look at a younger demographic, they want absolute flexibility, they want sheer choice in their benefits.

Catherine: [00:19:22] If you want me there, I want my flexibility.

Adam Hudson: [00:19:24] That's right. And I think that's what an organization has to understand. I think they need employee engagement, but I think ultimately, they need to listen to the employees and they need to gain the feedback from the employees to try and understand what's going on within their environment. And then again, trying to draft a program that is going to hit as many of their employees in a positive way as possible.

Jeff Bremner: [00:19:49] And it's not a set-it-and-forget-it type of mentality either. It's something that needs to be addressed on at least on an annual basis, because the makeup of an organization changes so much over time, where you've got younger employees come in. I've seen a lot of benefit plans over the years where the benefits have not changed for 10, 15 years, but the demographics certainly have.

Adam Hudson: [00:20:10] Absolutely. Yeah. And I think what COVID has actually done through all of this, as much as it's caused us to take a step back, adapt. Organizations are now looking at flexible work schedules and working from home and now trying to reengage some of those employees back into the workforce on a more regular basis.

Catherine: [00:20:29] Is it working well, bringing everyone back to work, maybe not five days, but…?

Adam Hudson: [00:20:32] Well, it's not back to a five-day model, but you know, we're still working in a hybrid, but now, it's not as cohesive of a setup as what was. Essentially, asking our employees to come back on set days during a week so that everybody is in the office at one point in time. So you've got greater cohesiveness and you've got greater conversation, greater productivity, because now everybody's there together.

Catherine: [00:20:56] And it's fun to be at the coffee machine, everyone together. “How was your night? Did you sleep well with your kid?” 

Adam Hudson: [00:21:03] Yeah, absolutely. It's all building that culture, that bonding experience. Work is also a social setting, right? It's not just…

Catherine: [00:21:11] Jeff tell us, employees are not always aware of what is included in their group coverage, like telemedicine, employee assistance programs. How can you make sure they're actually well informed?

Jeff Bremner: [00:21:25] Effective communication.

Catherine: [00:21:26] Seems like the basics.

Jeff Bremner: [00:21:27] Yeah, I mean, that's paramount. Employees want to know what's available to them and their dependents as part of their benefits plan. I think it's really critical for organizations to make information accessible and to make it easily digestible for employees. So accessible, meaning like from a digital perspective, it could be an intranet site, it could be a wellness hub, it could be an HR platform, as an example. In more of a physical environment, it's having posters and information in high-traffic areas like lunchrooms or printer rooms or wellness rooms as an example, in order for employees to feel comfortable. We have to understand, I guess, that not everybody's an expert in insurance, right? So making sure that that information is accessible to them, but again, breaking it down into smaller chunks, making it digestible, making it really, really, really easy to understand, ultimately is how I feel that employees are going to really have a strong understanding of what it is that they're covered for.

Adam Hudson: [00:22:33] And I think with organizations, and again, to Jeff's point, it's about just communication. That is the ultimate. But there's multiple avenues of communication. Jeff touched on a number of them. You know, there's some additional ways that you can engage those employees. You can have wellness fairs. And even a wellness fair is a public forum of accessing all of the services and resources that are available within your employee benefits network, essentially, or at least showing them what else is out there and what's available. And from that, you get further employee engagement and feedback as a result. We've done these with our clients in addition to employee education sessions, and one thing I find with employee education sessions – and Jeff will speak to this too, I'm sure – is that when it comes from a third party, so when we have these employee sessions, employees want to come up and talk to us about a personal situation because we still now have to bring it back to reducing stigma in the workplace. And it does go beyond even the mental health side of it. But they might have a personal medical issue. And they want to ask us on a personal front. They don't want to bring that forward to their employer because they don't know how that's going to be taken in.

Catherine: [00:23:46] Received.

Adam Hudson: [00:23:47] Exactly. So I think that there's other avenues that employers can explore for that communication. And at the end of the day, that is the ultimate, though, is how do we communicate it? How do we simplify what's out there and what's available to the plan members?

Jeff Bremner: [00:24:00] And you could also tie it into national health observances as well. So tying in information to World Mental Health Day or Diabetes Awareness Month, which happens to be the month of November. Communicating what's available to employees and tying it into one of those types of observances can be a really sort of beneficial way to get information across.

Catherine: [00:24:22] And it feels like you're very connected to the world today. By doing those themed days, you probably feel it even more in the employees. And I'm curious, when it comes to insurances included in the group coverage, such as life insurance, disability, and critical illness coverage, what steps can be done to improve their comprehension and awareness?

Adam Hudson: [00:24:43] I think it touches upon what we were just discussing. I think it's just clear communication. And how do you go about doing that? I think an organization has to understand how their employees are going to receive the information, how they're going to digest that information. What is the best avenue of communication or mode of communication for them? You know, is it intranet? Is it emails? Is it employee education sessions? Is it smaller employee education sessions where people have a greater comfort? Because the tendency is that if you're part of a large group through an education session, certain plan members are probably less likely to stand up and ask a question.

Catherine: [00:25:19] It's intimidating.

Adam Hudson: [00:25:20] Exactly. So maybe you kind of shrink what those employee sessions look like. But ultimately, it goes to that same kind of mode of, communication is key. And I think an organization knows the culture that they have in place and how to best engage their employees so that they do understand what they have included in their employee benefits program, the value that brings to not just themselves, but in some cases, more importantly, their family members.

Jeff Bremner: [00:25:48] Do you ever get into personalized consultations with plan members?

Adam Hudson: [00:25:54] Yes. From an organizational standpoint, you have to pick an advisor partner that is going to another level of services to not just your organization, but your plan members, and have, if it is one-on-one sessions with plan members, or have that open door that they can reach out to you at any time. Because unfortunately, I think that organizations take a lot of this on their own.

Catherine: [00:26:15] Their shoulders.

Adam Hudson: [00:26:16] Yeah.

Jeff Bremner: [00:26:18] And not the experts.

Adam Hudson: [00:26:19] And they're not the experts. And so they're now burdened trying to answer questions or researching when you have that level of expertise with you and your consultant, or we hope they do in the right partner.

Catherine: [00:26:31] Absolutely. Adam and Jeff, thank you so much for this great conversation. And we remember vacation time is important to think about ourselves. Thank you so much.

[00:26:43 TRANSITION]

Catherine: Jeff, is there a moving or funny story you'd like to share with us today?

Jeff Bremner: [00:26:57] Yeah, I can tell a quick story. Well, it's not necessarily specific to, I guess, organizational health per se. It comes back to the need for communication and education with employees. My wife and I got married in Mexico back in 2008. Likely as a result of it being an all-inclusive and open bar, I had a couple of really close friends of mine have to go to the hospital on consecutive days with the need for stitches. Probably not either of their finest moments. But at least when that happened, they both had employers that did a really great job of effectively communicating what was available to them through the benefits plan, out-of-country emergency coverage being one of those things. So they knew exactly what needed to happen when the injury occurred, and made the call that they needed to make. It probably could have gone a bit of a different way if they weren't prepared in the event something like that happened.

So another great example would be something like a medical second opinion, right? When somebody that's a dependent of yours is diagnosed with something like cancer as an example, knowing that you've got a benefit like that in your back pocket is incredibly valuable. But the only way that employees are really going to understand that is if the employer is communicating effectively with them, making it really easy for them to access that information and make sure that it's digestible for employees.

[00:28:35 TRANSITION]

Catherine: [00:28:44] So, Adam, can you summarize our conversation and remind us what should be done to really prioritize the employees’ well-being?

Adam Hudson: [00:28:51] It goes back to our initial point with leadership. I think the leadership within an organization has to have a thorough understanding of the culture of their organization, the employees within their organization, the generational gap within their organization. And I think they have to work closely with an advisor that's going to be well versed in the landscape of employee benefits, health, wellness. I think they have to be proactive in nature instead of reactionary. And I think if they are ahead of the curve to address some of the immediate concerns that we have right now in the employee landscape, such as mental health, I think they will ultimately be ahead of the curve in their own organizational growth.

Jeff had mentioned some of the statistics, with how long employees remain with an organization, it’s critical to understand that and to see how that's going to change in the years to come. Right now, going back to the mental health side of it all, again, is that to be proactive in nature, but have clear communication to channel some of the resources to their employees and make them aware of what is out there, what's available to themselves, you have to do a really good job in communicating it. Collectively, I think organizations starting from the top can do a really good job on a proactive side of communicating in a very clear, transparent and digestible manner, but at the same time get employee feedback and input on what is available and what they would like to see available to them in the years to come.

Catherine: [00:30:22] To personalize it, as you've been saying.

Adam Hudson: [00:30:26] Correct.

Catherine: [00:30:32] Thank you, Jeff and Adam, for sharing all those valuable insights about prioritizing the health and well-being of employees in an organization. Thank you for listening. If you have any questions, please don't hesitate and contact us at [email protected]. If you would like to have more information about this topic and discover other episodes, we invite you to go on Beneva’s website in the podcast section. Stay tuned for another conversation that will guide you for future insurance and business needs. Until next time!


Aujourd’hui, Parole d’experts se penche sur la santé organisationnelle. Quelles sont les attentes réelles des employés concernant leur régime d’assurance collective? Et comment leur faire découvrir les ressources disponibles? Adam Hudson, associé et consultant principal chez Clear Health Benefits, explore ces questions avec Jeff Bremner, vice-président national, MGA Distribution, pour la division Partner Solutions de la People Corporation. Sont abordées aussi l’importance de l’adhésion de la direction et celle d’une solide gestion. Suivez cet échange éclairant!

Animation : Catherine Duranceau

Invités : Adam Hudson et Jeff Bremner

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