The Redesigning Wellness Podcast

042: Advancing Health & Well-being through Employer Leadership with Jessica Grossmeier

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Dr. Jessica Grossmeier is the vice president of research at HERO (Health Enhancement Research Organization), where she oversees the direction and execution of the HERO research agenda.

Jessica loves research and has a lot of publications to her name to prove it. In this conversation, Jessica and I talk about what drew her into research, the evolution of the wellness field, and a bit more about HERO. With all the talk about throwing ROI out of the wellness conversation, Jessica makes some great points about it and what to consider when measuring ROI successfully. We talk VOI and something she said really stands out to me – identify your stakeholders and identify what they care about. What they want to see as a result of your wellness efforts.

Jessica also tells us what ½ of the companies who fill out the HERO scorecard are missing (and her advice for fixing it).

The Interview:

From practitioner to researcher: Jessica’s path

Jessica started as a program developer and creator but eventually got burnt out trying to change one person at a time. Her desire to address population health brought her back to school, where she discovered evaluation. She hasn’t looked back since.

I ask her how the wellness field has evolved. Jessica feels it’s more strategic now, there’s a better research base, with more end user focus. This is definitely different from my experience. Jessica typically works with large, national employers who are seeking best practice approaches.

HERO & the HERO Scorecard:

Of those that complete the HERO scorecard, only about half say they have a written strategic plan. Jessica encourages employers to ask these questions:

  • What are you trying to accomplish?
  • What do the stakeholders want as outcomes?

She tells a story about an employer that has less than 600 employees that had the highest score she’s ever seen. They started with executive leadership who had the desire to take care of their employees.

HERO’s vision – all workplaces will positively influence the well-being of their employees, family members and the community. They convene thought leaders who work together to understand what works well and doesn’t work well across the globe.

We expand the conversation to getting to dependent and spouses involved through the employer. HERO tends to see higher participation and better outcomes when you get family involvement. Each organization should take their own unique approach that fits their population.

ROI vs VOI: Jessica’s advice on these two topics

Jessica addresses the myth that ROI is no longer relevant. ROI is a specific mathematical concept. If you’re in an organization where every initiative is held to a standard where they expect an outcome, it’s going to be difficult for you to say you’re not going to measure ROI.

ROI needs to be measured effectively and can include other measures outside of healthcare costs., such as absence, disability, worker’s comp and turnover costs.

Jessica’s advice: Don’t throw out ROI if it’s relevant to your organization.

We talk VOI (Value on Investment). Jessica recommends identifying your stakeholders (can include all levels of employees) and ask them “what do you value when it comes to health and well-being”. Then measure against those outcomes.

How long does it take to see ROI? It depends. You have to have high participation, employees liking the wellness offerings and behavior change to see health outcomes. All of these need to happen before seeing cost savings. Also, employers need to be smart about the investment they are putting in.

When I ask Jessica if wellness is held to unfair expectations given the resources wellness gets, she makes a great point. Wellness was brought into some organizations specifically to do something about healthcare costs (cost containment). Health care costs were a pain point that wellness was brought in to ameliorate. She compares wellness to employee training, which servers as a way to develop employees.

#1 mistake employers make: not having a written plan for what they are trying to achieve. You don’t build a house without having a plan and leadership checking in regularly with the plan.

If you don’t know where you’re going you’ll probably succeed in getting nowhere.

She offers other ways to measure value, such as employee attraction and retention, perceived organizational support and employee performance.

Jessica sees the future of the wellness industry using data to personalize information and meet employee where they’re at.

We know a lot of what works in wellness. Positively moving the wellness industry forward means:

  • Calling out what is working, where is it working and doing more of it
  • Exploring and evaluating innovations to determine how and if they work.

Finally, Jessica leaves us with her one tangible tip.

Jessica Grossmeier, PhD, MPH

Dr. Grossmeier is a workplace health promotion thought leader with 25 years of experience advancing individual and population health. Serving the industry for the past 15 years as an outcomes researcher, she has executed numerous studies on the health and financial outcomes of health promotion programs sponsored by large, national employers and presented at numerous national industry conferences.

As vice president of research at HERO, she oversees the direction and execution of the HERO research agenda. This includes providing research expertise and consultation to HERO study committees, serving as HERO’s research liaison to external contractors and study collaborators, and serving as Principal Investigator for HERO-sponsored research studies.

Prior to joining HERO, Dr. Grossmeier served a variety of research roles which included oversight of research on best practices and outcomes associated with workplace health and well-being programs. She also has served in academic research and teaching roles at the University of Minnesota and the University of Phoenix.