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The 4 basics your HR staff should know for creating employee health empowerment

By Stephanie Sobol | December 15, 2020 | 4 min read | Life at Blue Cross NC

Woman in mask holds her toddler on her lap at the doctor's office

No matter your industry or company size, optimizing the health and wellbeing of your employees is a critical business need. Customer experience, service quality, productivity, innovation — vital enterprise functions rely on people to drive performance. That’s one reason why an unhealthy workforce can lead to an ailing company.

Empowered employees make better health care choices — saving money for their families as well as your company. True empowerment does not sprout up overnight, however. It requires sustained engagement to grow over time. And while employee engagement is a multi-faceted topic, focusing on health empowerment is a wise investment of any organization’s time and resources. Why?

Nine out of 10 adults struggle to understand and use health information when it is unfamiliar, complex or jargon-filled.1 This matters because limited health literacy increases costs, morbidity and mortality in our health care system.1 In fact, one study estimates it drives between 7% and 17% of all personal health care expenses.2  Put that in real numbers, and that’s a chunk of your budget.

There are 4 basic constructs that empower your employees to make health care decisions with confidence. These fundamentals help to build their self-efficacy and active ownership in their care.

To help create employee health empowerment, your HR staff should start with these 4 tips:

What is health literacy?

Supporting health education improves personal health literacy among your employees. It also helps boost your company’s organizational health literacy. This is defined in Healthy People 2030 as “the degree to which organizations equitably enable individuals to find, understand, and use information and services to inform health-related decisions and actions for themselves and others.”3

In fact, 84% of large employers reported that health care literacy/access would be part of their 2020 health and wellbeing strategy.4

1. Make it Easy to Access

Bridge the digital divide. Self-service online tools are great for broad reach. But be wary of a digital-only approach since some employees may prefer a different mode of engagement.

Make it simple. Access means little if the information isn’t actionable. Ensure materials are easy to understand and have clear step-by-step directions (if applicable).

2. Share the Right Info

Cover the full health spectrum, from well to chronic and complex. Each employee has different needs, so watch for any education gaps that need to be filled.

Educate employees on using their health plan and benefits, too. Confusion when navigating the health care system is a common roadblock on the path to empowerment. And low awareness can artificially depress utilization of benefits.

 3. Find the Right Channel

Include the right mix of human touch and technology. Mobile, web-based, telephonic, face-to-face — you can (and should) leverage all of these platforms to educate employees.

Consider the source. Leverage your company’s leaders to raise awareness and engagement for broad worksite campaigns. For more sensitive health topics, employees may only feel comfortable responding to outreach directly from their health plan.

 4. Find the Right Time

Address today’s on-demand world. From concierge customer service to recorded webinars, look for convenient ways to provide the education or support employees need in the moment they need it.

Let data drive the conversation. Talk to your health plan about campaigns that are sent based on claims data or other relevant triggers. One example is onboarding — helping employees learn about their health plan as soon as a new coverage period begins.


To learn more about these basics and how they provide a critical foundation to your company’s health and wellbeing strategy, download our Engagement Blueprint.


1 Talking Points About Health Literacy.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): October 17, 2019. Online: (Accessed October 2020).

2 “Health Literacy.” National Library of Medicine. Online: (Accessed October 2020).

3 “What Is Health Literacy?” CDC: September 19, 2019. Online: (Accessed October 2020).

4 2020 Large Employers Health Care Strategy and Plan Design Survey. National Business Group on Health: January 12, 2020. Online: (Accessed October 2020).