Holistically Understanding Employee Needs: An Opportunity to Save Money

For Employers
Published
Jan 10, 2022
Understanding your employee

Douglas Conant, longtime CEO and President of the Campbell Soup Company, once said, “To win in the marketplace, you must first win in the workplace.” Nothing rings more true as companies all over the world feel the brutal sting of “The Great Resignation” and are pivoting to fill the many vacant positions left behind in an effort to keep their competitive advantage. And as employers turn inward for answers - it boils down to the fact that companies just don’t understand their employees' needs and it’s costing them money.

If you were to ask the lead HR manager at a Top Fortune 500 company with over 2 million employees, how well they know their employees, it wouldn’t shock you if they responded with, “A little bit, though there are millions of employees after all.” But, ask that same HR manager if they knew that the average cost of a new hire is $4,000, plus lost productivity and time that it takes to get a new employee fully up to speed, which can be up to 213% of the employee’s salary, you may hear a less flippant response. 

A Costly Health Condition That Employers Must Understand

Employees are struggling for a variety of reasons, among them, the deep blending of work and life that comes with remote working, toxic work culture, micromanagement, and lack of control in the workplace. But, none of these are quite as costly as addictions. Addictions are among the most common, most costly health conditions affecting Americans and the cost burden to employers continues to rise. In fact, 78 percent of adults with an alcohol use disorder and 68 percent of people who misuse pain medication are in the workforce. And, despite estimates of national costs exceeding $400 billion annually for employees with addictions, many business leaders have no idea how addiction impacts their organizations.

Percentage of Adults with Substance Use Disorder in the Workforce

*A Substance Use Cost Calculator for US Employers with an Emphasis on Prescription Pain Medication Misuse, Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Nov 2017; Opioid Crisis Statistics, HHS.gov, 2019

**A Substance Use Cost Calculator for US Employers with an Emphasis on Prescription Pain Medication Misuse, Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Nov 2017; Alcohol Facts and Statistics, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism

***Adult Smoking Rates Differ Among Occupations, WebMD, Sep 2011; Current Cigarette Smoking, CDC.gov

Employers who provide individual coverage pay an average of $1,729 per employee with no substance use disorder as opposed to those with a substance use disorder costing upwards of $2,100 if they use healthcare services. But, it’s an issue that is extremely personal - and most companies aren’t investing in solutions to get personal and understand their employees on that level and it’s costing them.

While the US Surgeon General reported that collectively, roughly $85 billion is spent to treat injuries, infections and illnesses associated with risky and dependent substance use, and if we break substance use disorder down granularly, the numbers per employee are staggering.

  • $3,500 of that is in medical expenses alone
  • 72% of that is the result of loss in workplace productivity
  • 11% are healthcare costs associated with excessive drinking
  • An employee with an opioid use disorder is very costly for employers with annual spend of $14,724
  • Workers with pain medication use disorder cost employers more than twice as much per year than those with no substance use disorders. 

Outside of healthcare costs for substance use disorders, employers can expect to see costs associated with low morale, missed work days, disability and worker’s compensation, lost productivity as a result of substance use disorders which costs employers $25.5 billion annually, and the aforementioned cost to replace an employee who leaves the company.

When you consider the substantial financial and operational burden imposed on employers by substance use disorders, it’s hard to not want to alleviate the issue. But, some employers are unaware that they have these issues to begin with, so step one is understanding employees holistically. 

Understanding Employees: Ask Questions and be available

Pulse surveys, employee forums, one on ones, resource groups and even all hands meetings keep the channels of communication open and employees comfortable telling you what kind of support they may need before it gets to a point where their addiction, plus other stressors of the job, become too much to handle and they resign - causing a ripple that circles back, driving the costs of finding and retaining new talent.  

Opening up these forms of communication will give you great insight and help you understand your employees holistically, outside of day-to-day responsibilities, giving you an opportunity to help them progress through personal struggles - providing real, valuable support in order to keep themselves, and the company moving forward. 

Offering the Support They Need

A solid benefit strategy that meets employees where they are in life will keep companies progressing forward. As most companies feel the resignation burn, there’s an opportunity for  reflection - and recognition - that the workplace has shifted and companies need to offer more to their employees. More understanding, more benefits, more flexibility and more ways that allow employees to be the best version of themselves.

If the pandemic has taught us one thing, it’s that employees need their employers to know they aren’t robots. Employees are real people, with real problems and real needs. If they aren’t met - they’ll go elsewhere in search of solutions. Any forward-thinking company will find ways to meet employees where they are. Invest to gain a true understanding of employee wants and needs, and in turn, offer solutions that actually address those needs. Without that understanding, benefit offerings will be irrelevant and companies will continue to see the loss of great talent and rising costs. 

Are you a forward-thinking company that needs an invaluable, personal benefit to help your struggling employees? Get in touch with us today. 


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