Tax advisers may be the only people smiling during tax season. For those of us who simply want the season behind us, we leave taxes to the experts.

Your clients may have a similar need for wellness and productivity initiatives. They know a corporate wellness program is necessary, but they prefer to leave the details to the experts. You can help your clients take a less taxing road to wellness and productivity by borrowing a few ideas from tax professionals.

The requirement to file a tax return depends on income and filing status. Your clients want a return on their wellness investment; however, like taxes, the type of return is going to be different for each client.

If you want to deliver happy returns on wellness programs, you first need to understand what your clients consider return success. For some clients, success is reigning in run-away health care costs. For others, it is decreasing turnover and improving productivity.

Tax advisers may recommend adjustments to a client's business structure or investments to meet financial goals. As your clients' employee benefit adviser, you may need to suggest adjustments to your clients' wellness strategies.

For example, for the CFO focused solely on cost savings, you need to present a realistic approach to achieving cost-savings success. More than likely, that is not going to happen in the first few years of the wellness program. If the CFO is not onboard with long-term strategy, he or she will dismiss early year returns as failure.

By developing reasonable expectations for your clients' wellness returns, you help them achieve their definition of success.

 

Adjustments on return

In tax returns, adjustments to income include deductions and tax credits. When assessing your clients' return on their wellness investment, quantifiable results are deductions and qualifiable adjustments are the credits.

Quantifiable adjustments measure numbers - total claims, health screening results or the number of health risks in your clients' employee population. Similar to tax returns, you can use standard or itemized deductions in evaluating quantifiable results.

Standard deductions are a fixed amount in a tax return. You can elect standard benchmarking for measuring your clients' wellness program success by using a fixed amount. For example, you define success as a 10% increase in enrollment in your client's employee assistance program.

Itemized tax deductions vary by client and require more work; however, they can deliver a much better return. You may want to itemize your clients' benchmarking in areas that are important to their success. Clients with a thriving wellness program develop a competitive edge. They have a more productive workforce, and the supportive environment makes it a place where others want to work.

Develop benchmarking that compares your clients' wellness returns against peers or industry competitors. You can use your own book of business or other resources for benchmark reports, such as Johnson & Johnson's Wellness & Prevention, Inc. or the Health Enhancement Research Organization (HERO).

Qualifiable adjustments credit intangible results - improved employee morale, increased employee engagement.

Gallup's Q12 survey analyzed the relationship between employee engagement and performance. Through a series of 12 questions, researchers discovered the higher the Q12 score (meaning highly engaged employees), the better the performance. High scorers had lower turnover, greater productivity, and higher sales growth.

Use quantifiable and qualifiable returns as measurements of success.

 

Household adjustments

Exemptions are another form of income adjustment that applies to members of a household. In your clients' wellness program, show your clients the benefit of extending wellness benefits to household members.

If clients want a positive outcome on employee wellness initiatives, they must include the family household in strategic planning. The home environment has tremendous influence over the healthy behavior of your clients' employees - and on family members.

A study by researchers at Stanford University of Medicine revealed the "halo effect" on family members of gastric bypass patients. A year after the patient's surgery, family members from the study weighed on average eight pounds less. Additionally, many of the patients' children exhibited a lower body mass index than expected for their growth curve.

Leaving household members out of wellness program is an exemption your clients cannot afford.

 

Happy returns

Creating effective wellness programs is difficult. Rising health care costs, an increasingly unhealthy workforce, and changing health care legislation tax the limits of your clients. They look to you for expert advice.

Preparation is critical in taxes and in the design and management of your clients' wellness and productivity strategy. Start by defining what success means to your clients. Help them identify key metrics and the adjustments they need to succeed.

Tie returns to your clients' definition of success. For the cost-savings CFO, that's easy to do with quantifiable adjustments, like claim reports from workers' compensation carriers and other insurers. On the other hand, the CFO may not see the value of qualifiable or household adjustments. If you can illustrate a correlation between improved employee morale and quantifiable lower absenteeism results, you tie cost-savings to your clients' wellness returns.

By defining return success and making the right adjustments, you can deliver many happy returns, and that is bound to make your clients smile.

Taylor, CWPM, is director of health and productivity at Alliant Insurance Services in Newport Beach, Calif. She can be reached atbtaylor@alliantinsurance.com.

 

 


 

CONNECTING THE MILLENIAL GENERATION, STRESS AND EAPS

Millennials are loosely defined as the 75 million young adults born between 1980 and 2000 and make up about one-third of today's U.S. workforce. Although this generation has been called everything from 'innovative' to 'entitled,' the recent Stress in America study from the American Psychological Association has different label for them: stressed.

According to this survey, which has measured the stress of Americans since 2007, stress levels decreased across the board in 2012 except for those between the ages of 18 and 33.

On the survey's 10-point scale, where a 10 indicates 'a great deal of stress,' the average stress level of all Americans was 4.9. For Millennials, it was 5.4. Millennials reported their top stressors as work (cited by 76%), money (73%) and relationships (59%).

An employee assistance program - through short-term counseling and work-life benefits, such as financial consultation - can have a positive impact on the aforementioned stressors.

After reading this survey, I wanted to determine if there was any correlation between the study's results and CuraLinc's book of business EAP utilization data for 2012. What I found was interesting, to say the least.

Millennials do have job stress. Despite only representing 29% of all EAP users, those between 18 and 33 years old constituted almost half (48%) of EAP cases where the primary presenting concern was 'job stress.'

Millennials are resolution-focused. Case resolution within the EAP was higher with Millennial employees (95%) than it was among all other age groups (87%).

Millennials have personal financial concerns. Two in five cases (41%) involving financial consultation through the EAP were provided to Millennials, even though those between 18 and 33 years old made up only 29% of EAP users.

Promoting benefits to Millennials requires a multi-pronged approach. Employees between the ages of 18 and 33 were twice as likely to learn about the EAP through electronic promotion (email messaging, a client's Web portal, eFlyers, etc.) than other generations.

In a nutshell, the trends across CuraLinc's book of business are consistent with the findings in the APA's Stress in America survey. Millennials will seek assistance from an EAP for their job stress - and will maximize their time with the program by focusing on resolution.

The key to creating an actionable plan for Millennials is to combine traditional EAP promotional vehicles with technology-based marketing.

- Sean Fogarty, CuraLinc Healthcare

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