Looking Ahead: Integrating Weight Loss and Diabetes Medications for a Healthier Workforce

BY Wanly Chen | December 06, 2023

With the recent increase in demands for new drugs like Wegovy and Ozempic, 43% of employers are now considering covering GLP-1s next year, nearly double today’s number. Since its first FDA approval in 2005, GLP-1s have proven effective for health conditions like obesity and diabetes.

However, with a steep price tag and concerns about misusage, leaders may find adding GLP-1s to their benefits offerings to be challenging. In a recent From Day One webinar, physicians from Accolade joined moderator Katie Miller Blakemore, senior manager of events at Accolade, to discuss the trends around GLP-1s.

Understanding Cost Benefits

On average, medication like Ozempic can cost more than $1,000 per month, a deterrent for some leaders considering proving it in their benefits. However, there may be greater healthcare costs if employers choose not to offer these drugs, says James Wantuck, MD, associate chief medical officer at Accolade and co-founder of Plush.

“There are two sides to this equation: the cost of the drugs and the cost of not using the drugs,” Wantuck said. “Employers need to consider the costs for not using the drugs which may include things like absence from work or inability to do as much at work.”

Wantuck points to the cost of obesity as one example. Chronic diseases caused by obesity and excess weight cost 1.72 trillion dollars in the U.S. alone in 2016.

With a direct effect on one’s cardiovascular system, GLP-1s can reduce the severity of these diseases by reducing the chances of heart failure and strokes. Having healthier employees is an invaluable asset to any company, Wantuck said. “It’s harder to dismiss and not cover a drug that prevents a heart attack,” Wantuck said. “The price decreases as employees get less sick.”

In comparison to similar countries, GLP-1s cost five to ten times more in the U.S. and the prices are not expected to change anytime soon, says Connie Hwang, MD, Accolade’s chief medical officer.

“The FDA approved GLP-1s almost two decades ago, and yet there are no generic competitors in this class of drugs,” Hwang said. “The patents and regulatory exclusivity granted show a median of 18.3 years of market protection and so putting this into perspective, the earliest date for a possible generic Ozempic is guaranteed for December 2031. Employers need a GLP-1s strategy now as there is likely no pricing relief in sight.”

Dr. Connie Hwang, chief medical officer at Accolade spoke with Dr. James Wantuck and Katie Miller Blakemore during the webinar (company photo)

Giving Access to the Right People

Not everybody qualifies for GLP-1s but high costs and the spike in popularity of some drugs from mainstream media have caused employers to enforce restrictions and in some cases, outright bans.

Qualifying for GLP-1s states individuals need to have a BMI greater than 30 along with medical problems such as hypertension, type two diabetes, or cardiovascular disease.

“Some large employers have eliminated coverage for GLP-1s for the weight loss indication, and many have done so pointing to the greater than 200% total cost increases that they’ve been seeing,” Hwang said.

Eliminating GLP-1 options negatively affects people who need the medications, bringing the strategy back to the need for employers to evaluate cost benefits. In a study of how members receiving GLP-1s meet the protocol criteria, researchers discovered that 94% of Accolade Care members did meet the criteria.

Offering GLP-1s is only the beginning of the journey for employers, Wantuck says. Employers need to provide employees with resources to continue the momentum of their lifestyle change for a successful exit from these drugs.

“You have to be open to a lifestyle change to change your habits, diet, and exercise routine to make these drugs the most effective that they can be,” Wantuck said. “These drugs facilitate this weight loss and allow people to reach the goals they’ve never been able to reach before, and I think that inspires them to change their habits.”

Editor’s note: From Day One thanks our partner, Accolade, for sponsoring this webinar.

Wanly Chen is a writer and poet based in New York City.


Retention is the New Recruiting: Strategies to Build and Keep a High-performing Workforce

The hiring environment is on the cusp of change, with rates of decline beginning to slow down, according to monitoring done by Workday. “We might be at a kind of inflection point where hiring starts to stabilize,” said Greg Anderson, Workday’s principal product marketing manager. Anderson spoke at a From Day One webinar titled, “Retention Is the New Recruiting: Strategies to Build and Keep a High Performing Workforce.”Voluntary turnover decreased dramatically in 2023, with employees staying longer in their given roles, says Anderson. “This is driving a lot of value to their position and to the organization. But also resulting in a lot of pent-up demand, particularly from your high performers who are being asked to do more,” he said.Decreased internal mobility means companies and employees “haven’t seen some of the internal growth that they’ve been looking for,” Anderson said. This could lead employees to leave a company for another employer, but it could also be “a really great opportunity for your organization, depending on how you choose to navigate some of these challenges,” he added.“There is a lot of bottled-up employee energy, knowledge and experience in your workforce, and that’s a huge asset,” Anderson said. “This is a real opportunity to take advantage of this window and really invest in talent.”How to Make Retention the New RecruitingGreg Anderson, pictured, led the webinar with colleague Phil Willburn (company photo)The Workday platform allows employers to solve the challenge of quickly finding and matching talent to potential opportunities. Around 70-75% of job openings can be filled with internal talent, Anderson says.Phil Willburn, VP of people analytics at Workday, says tuning up your internal mobility engine is a key to turning retention into the new recruiting. “If you haven’t put any love or attention on this, especially when it comes to using automated tools, and streamlining the match, matching with skills, there’s a lot of opportunities there to make it much easier for your employees to find great opportunities and retain the best employees,” he said.Listening is also crucial, says Willburn. During the pandemic, “we were concerned about our employees’ needs, we were reaching out, we were caring for them, we were trying to see what they need to be productive,” he said. “And then after the pandemic, companies stopped listening as intently.”Employees respond well when employers listen deeply to their needs and take action to improve their on-the-job experience, says Willburn.How Workday Boosted Internal MobilityWorkday employers were looking for growth during the Great Resignation several years ago, but “they did feel like they were stuck a little bit,” Willburn said. Company leaders decided to make it easier to advance within the organization. Still, they had to address some pain points along the way.Some team members felt lost trying to navigate the promotion process and wanted more transparency and the company achieved this by posting every available role on a Workday Talent Marketplace and Career Hub that all employees could access.Some Workday employees “wanted opportunities to stretch themselves and get exposed to new things without necessarily taking a new role internally,” Willburn said. And so, in 2019 the company introduced gigs for workers to learn new skills. This was a massive pipeline for internal mobility because team members were 42% more likely to get a new role if they did a gig first.Workday's efforts to boost internal mobility resulted in a significant increase in the number of employees applying for new roles inside the company. “We’ve seen about 30% of all our roles filled by internal candidates, which is good because we did the research and found that internal hires consistently performed and ramped up faster than external hires,” Willburn said.When employees move up within the company, "that gives them that sense of growth," Willburn said. We saw a 26% increase in overall retention. If we’re making internal moves, we are keeping employees longer.”Editor’s note: From Day One thanks our partner, Workday, for sponsoring this webinar.Mary Pieper is a freelance writer based in Mason City, Iowa.

Mary Pieper | July 12, 2024

High-Performance Culture: Creating a Workplace Where People and Productivity Thrive

Some years ago, when Cameron Cozzens, CRO of the Arbinger Institute, met with a group of leaders at NASA, one of them described the challenges of getting human spaceflight to Mars. “He said, ‘It’s not the science that’s getting in our way. It’s the people stuff,’” Cozzens said during a recent From Day One webinar.  The issues didn’t have anything to do with the ability of the NASA team, which was composed of the best astrophysicists and engineers in the world.“What it really comes down to, and what a lot of leaders don’t get, is it’s not a performance problem, or a no communication problem or a workload problem,” said Lisa Sharapata, chief marketing officer of the Arbinger Institute. “It’s typically a culture problem.” There are many different definitions of workplace culture, but the Arbinger Institute defines it as “how people work together every day,” Sharapata said. So, when we really start to look at how you would fix these problems, how you would make these kinds of changes, we want to change how employees are approaching their work in relation to each other.”Developing Leaders Who Empower OthersThe Arbinger Institute, which provides leadership and professional development solutions that transform business culture for better performance and lasting results, has found that employees in organizations that prioritize leadership development are 4.5 times more satisfied with their culture, says Sharapata.“On the flip side, they’re also experiencing fewer negative effects,” she said. “There’s fewer staff shortages and issues with morale or communication.”Leadership development also prevents turnover, says Cozzens. “People don’t quit their jobs,” he said. “They quit their leader, they quit their boss, they quit their first line supervisor. And conversely, the more mature that employees become in the workforce, the more they understand the importance of finding a place where they feel seen and heard, and where their opinions matter.”Developing self-awareness within the leadership team and fostering a culture of collaboration where people are open and receptive to each other’s ideas “will start to enhance productivity and create less friction and stress,” Sharapata said. “It’s a mindset that’s going to create more of that outwardness rather than inwardness.”The Importance of Team Performance TrainingCameron C. Cozzens of the Arbinger Institute led the webinar (company photo)Employees who are encouraged to participate in team performance training are twice as likely than others to work for companies that saw a significant revenue increase over the past year and three times more likely to describe their company as highly adaptable in times of change, says Cozzens.Bridging the performance perception gap is a key component of team performance training. The Arbinger Institute’s research shows a gap between how employees see their own performance and behaviors and how they would rank the performance and behaviors of those on their teams.“Everybody is waking up in the morning, thinking that the problem in their organization is not with them,” he said. “The challenge is how do you invite change in these people?”“Really being aware of others’ goals, objectives, challenges, what they're trying to accomplish every day starts to impact the ultimate objectives of the organization and what you're working towards,” she said.Fostering a Culture of InclusionAn inclusive culture with a strong sense of psychological safety sparks collaboration and creativity, says Cozzens. According to the Arbinger Institute's research, 97% of employees encouraged to participate in inclusion training feel more comfortable taking on new challenges.However, when inclusion training is “calling people out, focusing on their behavior and how they should modify their behavior and telling people what to do, or having them memorize definitions of things, it’s highly ineffective.”Instead, it should be about “inviting people to participate in dialogue and getting to these authentic, real, vulnerable stories where you can really start to unpack what you're bringing to the table and understand the person next to you.”Editor's note: From Day One thanks our partner, the Arbinger Institute, for sponsoring this webinar.Mary Pieper is a freelance writer based in Mason City, Iowa.

Mary Pieper | July 10, 2024

Boosting Financial Wellness by Helping Employees Meet Their Everyday Needs

An auto repair, sick schoolkid, sudden medical or vet bill, or a home maintenance headache can wreak havoc on many employees’ budgets and stress levels. It’s not that working adults can’t manage the money they earn, but sometimes they can’t access it fast enough. When surprise expenses strike, workers on tight budgets often pay high fees to banks, credit card companies, or “payday” lenders to access quick cash for ordinary emergencies.Employers have become increasingly cognizant of workers’ financial vulnerabilities, especially as inflation has hiked prices on necessities such as gas, food, rent, and utilities. Some research indicates that as many as 72% of employees don’t have $500 in savings, says Steve Davis, national sales manager at Global Payments.But when employers offer their teams a workplace payroll benefit known as earned wage access, employees can tap up to 50% of current net earnings ahead of payday without incurring high fees, raising debt levels, or harming credit scores to address emergency expenses. Global Payments has offered employers technology and training so they may extend earned wage access as an opt-in benefit for three years.Davis spoke during a From Day One webinar and offered insights on how employer-offered earned wage access can benefit both employees and workplaces. “Waiting two weeks or more for a paycheck can cause quite a bit of financial strain,” he said. “We’re all living in an on-demand world. So why don’t we have pay on demand as well? That’s our question.”While some employees may never tap into earned wage access, its presence can offer them peace of mind against financial precarity. According to Davis, in one workplace study 60% of employees shared that financial decision-making impacts their mental health. And employers that offer benefits to reduce financial strain can help employers hire faster.“We’ve seen about twice the number of applications come in for jobs at employers that offer this type of benefit. So, it helps that employer hire faster,” Davis said. “Most employees taking advantage of the benefit are staying about 22 or more days longer. And there’s about a 49% to 50% increase in retention for individuals using it. It can create a sense of loyalty to employers (when) employees perceive that their workplace is one that genuinely cares.”Employers offering earned wage access can typically roll out the benefit in 45 to 90 days, depending on the size of their enterprise and their priorities. Global Payments’ system integrates with timekeeping, payroll, or HCM (human capital management) systems, and earned wage access technology integrates with those systems. Employees need only provide their email address and contact information to activate access to pre-payday wages.Steve Davis of Global Payments was interviewed by journalist Jane Hodges during the From Day One webinar about "Boosting Financial Wellness by Helping Employees Meet Their Everyday Needs" (photo by From Day One)About 75% of the employers using Global Payments’ earned wage access benefit extend it specifically to their hourly workers, who are often employed in fast food or retail jobs, but increasingly also manufacturing or healthcare, as well. It’s less common, but possible, to offer it to salaried workers. Davis notes that employees working in hourly roles at companies can get paid instantly for “gig economy” shifts (such as driving and delivery services), so employers offering faster pay access for hourly work can compete better against gig jobs.To use earned wage access, employees can use an app to check what funds they have earned during the current pay period and how much they are eligible to withdraw — with funds transmitted via their employer-issued payment card (a card used by many unbanked hourly workers), ACH, or direct to a particular credit card or payee. The 50% limit on net earnings is designed on industry recommended maximums, and employers can elect to reduce the amount available — or how many times employees can use the benefit in a given year. In most cases, Davis notes, it will take an employer about six months to understand its workforce’s use patterns with the product.“It’s totally free to the employer, and there’s such a demand from the employee base. And there’s competition for great employees: You’re competing with the gig economy,” Davis said. “I think probably in the next 24 months, most of your mid-market to enterprise organizations will have implemented (some form of) earned wage access offering.”Editor’s note: From Day One thanks our partner, Global Payments, for sponsoring this webinar.Jane Hodges is an independent journalist based in Seattle, Washington. Her work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and The Seattle Times.

Jane Hodges | July 10, 2024