Workplace Wellness Trends Report – 2019

Each year Shortlister conducts a survey of the nation’s top benefit consultants to analyze current purchasing trends and identify emerging areas of interest.  This year we took the market’s pulse on emerging point solutions, ranging from musculoskeletal (MSK) to behavioral health, along with the issues employers typically encounter when trying to implement multiple point solutions.  Our goal remains the same: empower employer, consultant and provider stakeholders with objective and unbiased insights on what’s trending and what employers are actually buying.

We had another fantastic response from over 100 wellness/population health Subject Matter Experts at top benefit consultants.  These experts have daily exposure to the vendor market, the RFP process and how employers are evaluating and selecting vendors.

Participation Profile

Shortlister would like to thank our broker & consultant partners that responded to this year’s survey, as without their input, the creation of this Workplace Wellness Trends would not have been possible. Our goal is to provide an unbiased and educational overview of how today’s employers are purchasing wellness & well-being services.

With over 500 vendors enrolled and 10 of the 12 largest employee benefits consultants in the US using Shortlister, we’re in a unique position to share objective insights with the market.

We’d specifically like to thank the following partners for contributing multiple responses to our wellness trends survey:

Arthur J. Gallagher, AON, Alliant, BB&T, Buck, CBIZ, HUB International, Lockton, Marsh & McLennan Agency (MMA), Mercer, NFP and Willis Towers Watson

To segment out respondents for this Workplace Wellness Trends, we categorized them by the size of the clients they serve. The respondents were split into two groups of roughly the same size and used employers of 5,000+ lives as the demarcation line

work with the large employer market, where they represent clients with over 5,000 employees.

work with the small and mid-sized employer market, where they represent clients with less than 5,000 employees.

The large market group represented approximately 90% of the bid volume vs. 10% for the small & mid-sized market.

Workplace Wellness Trends

Are your

clients doing

more or less

than in past


In an effort to support employee well-being, employers are taking a more holistic look at the resources they provide to attract and retain the best talent.

A priority is being placed on personalizing the member experience to improve engagement and deliver the right message at the right time.  Native mobile apps & “hub” platforms continue to be a key part of the strategy, given the access & personalization they support.

The number of “point solution” providers is exploding, as employers look to implement a combination of offerings (from women’s health solutions to student loan repayment), that will speak to their unique population.

Musculosketetal Programs

The Good

Very needed – musculoskeletal claims are almost always in the top 3 spending categories for medical care.

Innovations in the use of virtual technology are a unique delivery method that more employers may find beneficial.

Very important to consider. They are a large ticket item for workers comp and linked with Rx usage.

Very important for my clients, this is a critical component when we review data analytics.

The Bad

There is a great need, but clients are hesitant to invest.

Need more solutions, especially for the mid-market. The technology is great, but they seem to be ineffective in reducing claims. As great as technology is, having a personal touch with a doctor is important for ongoing treatment and care.

Need more cost effective workplace solutions that speak to both risk and HR sides of the house.

Emotional Well-being Programs

The Good

I believe It’s time to put these at the forefront of our proposed strategy. Emotional/Mental well-being identifies on a continuum of need and/or urgency. From depression/anxiety/suicide/stress (left side of continuum) to happiness, purpose at work and home, engaged employees, etc. on the right of the continuum. These solutions are gaining more traction with the market. As clients are moving away from carrier-provided EAP solutions and implementing stand-alone EAP solutions, they are also looking into targeted emotional wellbeing programs.

It’s an emerging market. I expect us to see traditional EAP providers try to play in this space and promote “targeted” emotional health programs.

The Bad

They lack full care coordination with Rx/claims integration and outreach to individuals who may need emotional support. They are reactive.

Unfortunately there are only a few vendors that will work with smaller employers. While it’s great that vendors want to work with large employers, they are missing a substantial group of employers that need a solution.

They seem to have the right intentions, but employers don’t know how to deploy them or get much utilization for the price.

What is the biggest issue you see your clients encounter

when rolling out multiple point solutions for their population?

Confusion in communicating multiple solutions to their workforce, and more specifically, the right solutions for a specific employee out of the available options
Lack of an overall communication strategy that considers all components and how to clearly promote them to employees
Employee communication is complicated, doesn’t feel seamless, need a really strong “hub” for everything

Streamlining the communication of resources to avoid confusion and overlap

The main challenge we’ve seen is clients struggling to establish a “hub” that creates a synergy among all benefit solutions they offer Making sure the employer isn’t double-paying for overlapping services and can integrate all the vendors together into a cohesive program in employees’ eyes’ Vendors don’t always play well with others

No one talks and errors happen. Each vendor thinks they are the most important solution and don’t take the client into account. The client needs should be the focus, not the provider’s desires

Tying it all together with one cohesive message so that employees understand the resources are intended to support their well-being Confusion on what each vendor offers – multiple platforms and login credentials tend to lower engagement numbers

Everything seems disjointed and often employees aren’t clear on where to go for what services/help Solutions are too siloed. Employees don’t understand and there is low engagement

Are your clients “Kicking the Tires, but not Buying”


“Buying & Implementing” the following programs?

Parting Thoughts

Based on our Workplace Wellness Trends, we can see that the growing market consolidation is being fueled by employer desire for comprehensive, and thoughtfully integrated, solutions.   They’re seeking a member experience that mirrors the consumer grade apps and user experience today’s employees are accustomed to when they engage with companies like Amazon and Netflix.  As employers prioritize true employee engagement, an intuitive user experience with personalized communication and recommendations, is an imperative.  Employees won’t utilize what they can’t find and won’t engage with a solution that isn’t personalized to their needs and preferences.

With limited time and budget, employers are somehow expected to wade through a rapidly growing vendor landscape to determine which “benefits” (from wellness solutions to the latest HR technology) will allow them to attract and retain the best talent, while producing the health outcomes & productivity improvements that impact the bottom line.

“Vendor Fatigue” is Real

Fatigue is beginning to set in for today’s HR buyer as their limited time and budgets are strained by an ever-expanding selection of HR Technologies and health & well-being solutions.

After reviewing the data provided in this Workplace Wellness Trends, there are some questions to consider: Is it time to implement a new talent acquisition system?  Should onboarding be automated?  Would a student loan repayment solution be valued by our millennial population?  Should caregiving resources be offered?

From HCM platforms to talent management systems and caregiving resources to financial wellness solutions, it’s increasingly difficult for today’s employers to navigate the crowded vendor landscape and select the vendor partners that will have the biggest impact on employee satisfaction and health outcomes.

Recognizing this buyer fatigue, we’re observing more:

One-Stop Shopping

Agnostic hub platforms provide a pre-vetted ecosystem of point solutions that employers can “activate” without the need to conduct additional RFPs or incur integration fees.  As a result, point solutions are aggressively working to embed themselves within “hub” platforms & health plans to gain access to the large member populations that will allow them to quickly gain scale and prove the efficacy of their solutions.

While the promise of a “truly integrated member experience” is attractive, in practice, today’s solutions commonly encounter basic data transmission issues and lack the personalized communication needed to effectively drive member engagement.

Market Consolidation

Buyer fatigue is also fueling a race to control as much of the employee experience as possible, by becoming the employee’s central point of access for all things benefits.  This resulted in a highly acquisitive 2018, with no signs slowing down in 2019 and beyond.  Market leading solutions will be aggressively focused on the vertical integrations that allow them to “own” more of the employee lifecycle, in an effort to become the primary system of record.

In today’s war for talent, attracting and retaining the best employees requires a balance of challenging & fulfilling work and attractive compensation plans, with Google-esq perks.

About Shortlister​

Shortlister is the #1 marketplace for finding and selecting vendors in the wellness, HR technology and benefits space. Shortlister combines a proprietary algorithm and bid management technology with industry thought leadership to provide you with the support you need to find the perfect vendor for your needs. Our learning algorithm analyzes data from thousands of previous vendor selections, industry trends and vendor reviews to make the optimal vendor recommendations for each client’s needs.

If you’re a broker, employer, health plan or investor going to market for a vendor in the human capital space, make sure you’re leveraging the efficiency and experience of Shortlister.