3 Trends That Are Transforming Wellbeing

HBLC presenter discusses latest research that shows a shift to sophisticated cost-containment models.
By: | April 15, 2019 • 3 min read
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The results are in from the 4th annual Shortlister Well-being Prospectus Report and they aren’t promising for employers and vendors who have yet to substantively evolve their models.

The report is an aggregation of views from the top minds in employee-benefits consulting.  In all, Shortlister — a consulting firm that evaluates vendors in the benefits, wellness and HR tech spaces — surveyed over 100 subject matter experts (SMEs) responsible for consulting with employers on wellbeing programs for their clients. Each of the top 10 employee-benefits consultants in the U.S. were represented, with those 10 firms making up 74% of the total respondents.

In advance of the report’s release, HRE received an early copy. Shortlister President Joe Miller, who will be sharing some of the  findings during the Health & Benefits Leadership Conference, April 24 through 26, recently highlighted three of the more significant takeaways from the research. His insights follow:

Wellness exuberance is waning

Throughout the 2000s and into the mid-2010s, wellness (now wellbeing) programs were hot.  Everyone needed one and, as a result, there was record investment in the space.


In Shortlister’s 2017 prospectus, 81% of respondents indicated that more of their clients were adding niche/point solutions than in the past and 73% were prioritizing wellness as a business objective more than in the past. In 2019, these numbers have trended down to 57% and 68% respectively—and that is coming from the SMEs whose job it is to help find and implement these programs.

Commentary provided by the respondents indicates that employers are beginning to get vendor fatigue. Just too many options, changing too often. What’s more, many cited a lack of data for objectively measuring program impact. Absent this information, HR and benefits teams are reallocating time and budget to other priorities, including HR technologies aimed at recruiting and retaining top talent.

This trend is especially prevalent in the mid-market, where respondents were five times more likely to indicate that they were implementing fewer third-party wellbeing programs than they did in years past, compared to their large-market counterparts.

Outcomes-based programs and carrier programs are on life support

In 2017, consultants indicated that more of their clients were moving toward outcomes-based wellness programs (programs that provide an incentive for achieving a specific health outcome) than were moving away. This trend has seen a 180-degree shift, with the latest numbers revealing that six in 10 (61%) of consultants saying their clients are now moving away from outcomes-based programs. (Only 11% of them said they were moving towards them.)

Similarly, employers seemingly are growing tired of wellbeing programs offered by their carrier. Many reportedly cite the lack of customization as a concern. Overall, 44% of survey respondents said that more of their clients are moving away from these programs, compared to 13% moving towards them.

These were not the only traditional wellness programs seeing a decline in popularity. Other product categories included biometric screenings, health-risk assessments and wearables.

New trends emerge as the market evolves

There was a silver-lining for those with a rooting interest in the wellbeing space. While some air seems to be leaking out of the traditional wellness balloon, you can begin to see the foundation being erected for the next set of challengers.