Becoming a true partner in the creation of a company's business strategy is a goal that many human resources managers aspire to achieve.  For Alicia Wadsworth, Human Resources Director with HUB California client Plaza Home Mortgage (PHM), headquartered in San Diego, California, that goal is a reality, thanks to her commitment to strategic benefits planning and building a culture of employee engagement.  Founded in late 2000, PHM manages an extensive system of regional loan centers from its corporate headquarters and is licensed to fund loans in most states.

Alicia committed to changing the traditional view of HR functions when she joined the company in August 2013. Wadsworth's quest to shift perception of HR functions did not end with her own role, according to Joel Davidowski Executive Vice President, HUB Employee Benefits and PHM's strategic advisor.  "She immediately launched a campaign to get PHM employees to see themselves as a vital part of [the company's] overall business goals. As assets to the company, employees were encouraged to take an active part in their own health and wellness."

That distinction is important. When employees are part of a larger culture that views them as critical to success, rather than just replaceable labor, every aspect of the business experiences a lift in engagement. But, says Davidowski, "Alicia understood that simple consumerism via health savings accounts (HSAs) or high-deductible PPOs would not be enough."

As part of encouraging PHM's shift toward a new paradigm, Wadsworth believed that health and wellness had to be a component of her employees' daily lives. But many companies fall short of achieving improved wellness outcomes because they neglect to tailor the program to meet employee needs.

Wadsworth avoided that pitfall by deploying the Patient Activation Measure (PAM), which generated self-reported employee health and wellness data that she evaluated with PHM's benefits consultant, HUB International. PAM is a voluntary Internet survey tool that measures employee confidence levels in tackling their respective health issues. Answers remain strictly confidential, which invites participation.  According to Davidowski, "PHM encouraged all employees to take the PAM so that a wellness program could be created that actually helped them achieve their personal wellness goals."

Allowing data to dictate the direction of wellness programs eliminates much of the guesswork involved in developing the right solutions and tools. At the same time, leveraging data in plan design also creates opportunities to simplify enrollment and reporting to make the process and outcome review easier for all stakeholders. In Wadsworth's case, she used the Patient Activation Measure data, as Davidowski explains, "to introduce an integrated enrollment solution that would streamline the process, thereby saving time and resources, as well as reinforce the value of an employee benefits and wellness program through clear and concise benefits statements."

In fact data now reigns supreme at every stage of the PHM benefits management process, as newly conceived and implemented by Alicia Wadsworth. The information aggregated during enrollment is used to produce financial modeling and enrollment variation comparisons.  These models "talk" to Wadsworth and her team so that they may work proactively to assist employees in making better and more informed plan elections. At the same time, PHM leadership reviews the incoming data to develop targeted programs aimed at achieving annual financial goals. Employee engagement, data, feedback and planning now work in one harmonious loop.

Wadsworth and her partners at HUB worked together to convince the company's medical carrier of PHM's commitment to building a wellness culture through the use of tools such as PAM, a web-based health and wellness portal, employee orientation and training. The carrier was impressed with the overall culture change and as a result, according to Davidowski, an initially proposed annual benefits cost increase of 15.1% was reduced to 5.6% - a savings of nearly $500,000. Furthermore, PHM's medical carrier agreed to give them a $25,000 fund that could be used toward health and wellness initiatives.

While the culture change initiated by Wadsworth is well underway, she recognizes that benefit plan development is a living, year-round process. The key to her ongoing success, as Davidowski observes, "is recognition that objectives should remain flexible: open to future changes in market conditions as well as augmentation of PHM's financial and budgetary goals."

Alicia's success can be attributed to a data-driven strategic approach to employee benefits and engagement. Contact a HUB Benefits Advisor today to start writing your company's 3-5 year strategic benefits planning success story.