Building an employee engagement plan to meet the business goals of your clients

In a recent survey, 87 percent of executives said that increasing employee engagement in their health plan is “very important” over the next 3 years.1

Why does employee engagement matter?

Engagement is critical because the more employees are engaged with their health plans, the healthier they are, the more productive they are at work and the more they and their employers might be able to save in health care costs.2 Engaged employees may be more likely to participate in wellness programs, get annual physicals, better manage their chronic conditions, and make more informed decisions about where to go for health care. Employee engagement may help manage some of the top cost drivers of health care, such as high-cost claimants, specific diseases or conditions, and inappropriate use of the health care system.3

The science of engagement: Measuring a firm’s Consumer Activation Index®

Increasing employee engagement in their health may translate directly into savings for employers. UnitedHealthcare developed the Consumer Activation Index (CAI) to measure a member’s ability to make more informed health care decisions and take appropriate health actions, such as going to network and UnitedHealth Premium® doctors, following evidence-based treatment guidelines for care of chronic conditions, and effectively using resources. The employer’s population is analyzed with 58 evidence-based points, such as health care decisions, life stage, demographics and socioeconomic factors, to ultimately come up with an engagement score.

Every 1 percent increase in the CAI score is associated with a 0.25 percent reduction in health care costs, said Beth McGuire, vice president, engagement solutions, national accounts for UnitedHealthcare.

“If we can establish the relevance of the health plan with the members, they may better utilize the benefits provided by their employer, use it wisely, and the employer gets what they desired when they bought it,” McGuire said. “Relevance may beget engagement. You have to figure out how to appeal to people to take plan performance to the next level.”

But increasing employee engagement has been a challenge for many employers. The same survey that found executives prioritizing increased employee engagement also found that only 32 percent of them thought they had made progress in increasing employee engagement over the last three years.4

So how can your clients increase employee engagement?

Developing an engagement campaign: The culture of health

A good example of how to help improve engagement is the process of building, sustaining and measuring a culture of health. Many executives see wellness as a way to promote a more productive workforce, improve employee morale and help attract or retain talent.5 A 2017 survey shows that employees are four times more likely to be engaged at work if a company has a strong culture of health.6 Over time, a culture of health should drive better decisions and higher engagement.

There are 6 steps clients can consider to help build, sustain and measure a culture of health.

  1. Establish a baseline, or the starting point, by conducting an employee survey, assembling the population data, and scoring engagement through the CAI. “It starts with data – claims, population trends, clinical cost drivers,” McGuire said. “Then we talk to the client about their priorities, take that input and work together to come up with a strategy.”
  2. Create a wellness strategy based on the baseline information, business goals, workplace culture, that set broad aspirations and define success. “We really want to understand the client’s culture,” said Sarah Haverkamp, director, engagement solutions, national accounts at UnitedHealthcare.  “Clients that are successful are usually those who also invest the time to make sure the strategy reflects their organization’s culture.”
  3. Leverage employer leadership, critical to organizational transformation, to help effect the coming change in culture. It is important that an organization’s executives introduce and encourage the proposed changes.  This is the number one factor in success in a successful culture initiative.
  4. Develop a wellness brand and communication plan that defines the audiences and sets the activities and tactics to implement the wellness strategy. For one major client of UnitedHealthcare, this involved using multi-channel communications, including email, targeted home mail, text messaging, sent to employees and their families. Sample results included a 17 percent higher CAI, 17 percent higher diabetic compliance, 14 percent lower ER use and 14 percent lower cost per member.
  5. Sustain momentum through, among other things, targeting communications to specific audiences and adding digital tools to help connect with them in new and engaging ways. For instance, appealing to millennial members might involve gamifying microsites, e-learning and texting. For UnitedHealthcare clients, digital solutions have been shown to achieve sample results such as a 21 percent increase in Rally® registration, a 70 percent increase in Rally Health Survey completions and a 113 percent increase in Rally Mission check-ins.
  6. Measure success by measuring CAI change and other data, and use advanced analytics to help identify additional targeted opportunities. An analytics team can look at the demographics, medical claims, program participation and biometrics-based health assessment to help them better understand what is going on, said Jen Brklacich, client analytic manager at Optum.

Creating effective communications to support client strategies

UnitedHealthcare clients have seen some significant improvements resulting from successful engagement efforts.

For instance, targeted communications to UnitedHealthcare members with musculoskeletal claims has resulted in sample results such as an 8.1 percent decrease in cost, a 23 percent decrease in members moving from acute to chronic status, and an average annual savings of $14,420 per member.

In another UnitedHealthcare case study, targeted mailers to members with diabetes promoting regular A1C testing led to increased A1C screening ranging from 12.1 percent to 24.1 percent and average annual savings of $4,030 per member.

By developing a thoughtful strategy in collaboration with Engagement Solutions Consultants, executives may achieve their goal of improving employee engagement in their health over time.

For more information, please contact your UnitedHealthcare representative.

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  1. 2017 22nd Annual Willis Towers Watson Best Practices in Health Care Employer Survey, Jan 2018.
  2. Hibbard JH, Greene J, What The Evidence Shows About Patient Activation: Better Health Outcomes And Care Experiences; Fewer Data On Costs. Health Affairs (2013)32, 2.
  3. 2018 Large Employers’ Health Care Strategy and Plan Design, NBGH, Aug. 2017.
  4. 2017 22nd Annual Willis Towers Watson Best Practices in Health Care Employer Survey, Jan 2018.
  5. 9th Annual Wellness in the Workplace Study, Optum, Apr. 2018.
  6. 2017 Consumer Health Mindset Survey, Aon Hewitt, NBGH, Kantar Futures.

These case studies are true but identifying characteristics have been changed to preserve confidentiality. Savings calculated on book-of-business case rate savings for these programs. Savings for enrolled members are case specific. Results will vary based on client specific demographics and plan design.

The UnitedHealth Premium® designation program is a resource for informational purposes only. Designations are displayed in UnitedHealthcare online physician directories at®. You should always visit for the most current information. Premium designations are a guide to choosing a physician and may be used as one of many factors you consider when choosing a physician. If you already have a physician, you may also wish to confer with him or her for advice on selecting other physicians. You should also discuss designations with a physician before choosing him or her. Physician evaluations have a risk of error and should not be the sole basis for selecting a physician. Please visit for detailed program information and methodologies.

Rally Health provides health and well-being information and support as part of your health plan. It does not provide medical advice or other health services, and is not a substitute for your doctor's care. If you have specific health care needs, consult an appropriate health care professional. Participation in the health survey is voluntary. Your responses will be kept confidential in accordance with the law and will only be used to provide health and wellness recommendations or conduct other plan activities.