Dear Aflac, a note about your advertising. -

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Saturday, July 6, 2013

Dear Aflac, a note about your advertising.

Dear Aflac �

I stumbled upon this advertisement on Thursday in a business magazine, and it caused me to become confused. My first thought was �Aflac doesn�t do worker�s compensation!� and my second thought was �I need to fix this advertisement.� I immediately went to your website as the advertisement instructed me to. There I learned that no, you don�t provide worker�s compensation, but yes, you do provide voluntary insurance to cover accidental injury that happens off-the-job.

Reads: "When your star employee gets hurt, Aflac will see him through."

Okay, also, why do you assume that the "star employee" is a male? Grrrr. Hear my inner feminist roar. 

Then I decided to learn more about your services (out of curiosity) and discovered your �AFLAC WorkForces Report � Executive Summary� from March 2012. I liked what you had to say about the state of the U.S. workforce and am paraphrasing or quoting pieces below.

Businesses need to recognize �the reality of a large number of workers simply biding their time before jumping ship at the first signs of economic stability.� You state that �business leaders need to be in prevention mode.� With this focus on prevention, why, oh why, did you use the phrase �When your star employee gets hurt� in your advertisement (emphasis added)?

Is it because you know that, according to the National Safety Council (NSC), U.S. workers work safer on the job than they do in their homes or communities?  The injuries or deaths that occur off-the-job in the home and community are due to poisoning, falls, mechanical suffocation, and drowning. According to the 2011 edition of the NSC Injury Facts:
  • Nine out of ten deaths occurred off the job (90%!)
  • Nearly 3/4 of medically consulted injuries occurred off the job

In the �AFLAC WorkForces Report � Executive Summary� you continue to focus on prevention and wellness programs � I believe that off-the-job safety should be a more prominent piece of wellness programs. You state that:

�Impactful wellness programs are not just hosting a company fun run, or hanging a few health-related posters around the office. Wellness programs must be comprehensive, engaging and holistic, encompassing key areas of employees� everyday lifestyle and include a focus on a healthy workplace and community, education about eating well and exercise, and the ability to manage stress and focus on prevention.�

If you could modify this statement to include education about off-the-job safety, it would make me happy.

You also discuss workplace mental health, and how workers� personal lives directly impact their productivity:

�Employers are also feeling the effects of worker anxiety. Individuals with stress caused by large outstanding debts and unstable financial situ�ations report incidences of ulcers and digestive problems, migraine and other headaches, anxi�ety, depression and even heart attacks at rates between two and three times the national aver�age. This stress translates into higher health care costs and other negative effects on the workplace. Financially-stressed employees experience high�er absenteeism and turnover, lower levels of job satisfaction and lower productivity.�

Another statement on personal distractions was the following:

�Companies are also experiencing higher produc�tivity losses due to distracted workers. Nearly half (46%) of workers who have experienced a personal issue that impacted their ability to get their work done, say it was due to a health is�sue specifically. Additionally, the Aflac study finds that nearly half of companies (43%) esti�mate their average productivity loss stemming from employees� concern over personal issues is between 11 and 30 percent. Productivity losses related to personal and family health problems cost U.S. employers $1,685 per employee per year, or $225.8 billion annually.�

I appreciate that you didn�t blame the Internet or the various social networks for the worker distraction issues. Since many workers spend the majority of their waking hours a) away from their families, and b) at work trying to be productive, when family issues occur, workers are not able to just �turn off� their family responsibilities the second they walk in the door. The various social networks allow workers to maintain contact  and *hopefully* healthy relationships with their friends and families, on their terms, rather than taking unnecessary vacations, long phone calls, long lunches, personal days, etc.

I also appreciated your comments on communication of benefits in the workplace. Too often, employers just send an email or have a link on the company intranet that says �click here to learn about your benefits� leading to a gazillion-page document that is overwhelming to mentally digest. When employees go to Human Resources (HR) in this situation, telling them that they aren�t sure what to pick, they are often not helped by HR. You state that:

�Unfortunately, feedback from U.S. workers indicates most companies� communications and education about benefits isn�t up to par. In fact, the Aflac WorkForces Report finds that only nine percent of workers say their HR de�partment communicates extremely effectively about benefits packages offered. Another 22 percent say their HR department communi�cates not at all or not very effectively.�

I especially appreciated your comments on employee loyalty to employers:

A more confident workforce, combined with more job openings, can lead many workers, who may be on the fence about job change, to move forward and make their exit. The recessionary environment has caused workers to reassess the employer-employee value proposition. They are now taking a closer look and asking, �What is my employer providing me, in both hard and soft benefits, that makes me loyal to them?��

There have been a number of studies on declining employee loyalty, which seem to boil down to these key points:

  •           Employees feel their jobs are in constant threat due to massive layoffs during the recession.
  •           Employers have reduced benefits (at higher cost to employees), to fatten the bottom line and please shareholders; this places all the risk for rising health care costs and pathetic 401k returns on the employee rather than the employer.
  •           The Millennial generation (I am one!) has a different expectation for their careers. In short, we want to get back what we put into ANY relationship.
  •          Employers have decreased the opportunities for growth and training while asking/forcing employees to take on job responsibilities they may not be prepared for.

So, in short, I am no longer confused by your advertisement and believe you offer a useful service. Voluntary benefits for employees at little to no cost for the employer � sounds good. 

I skimmed through the 2013 "Aflac WorkForces Report � Executive Summary� and appreciated the summary of findings relating to the Affordable Care Act and it's impact on employee benefits:

"Aflac�s third annual employee benefits study discovered:
  • While more business leaders are embracing cost-friendly consumer-driven models, consumers are largely unequipped and unprepared to effectively take the reins.
  • There are long-term implications for businesses taking a short-term approach of shifting control and responsibility of health insurance decisions to workers.
  • An organization�s degree of health care benefits engagement and knowledge factors heavily into its HR metrics � attraction, satisfaction, productivity, and retention of talent.
  • Amid massive changes in health care, what remains unchanged is the unequivocal role benefits satisfaction plays in the welfare of the workforce.
  • The growing importance of voluntary products in a consumer-driven health care environment characterized by a largely financially fragile population."

I think your findings were well-portrayed in this image from the 2013 Executive Summary.

Aflac's portrayal of the cycle: Corporate Disengagement from Benefits Initiates Cycle of Difficulties.

BUT, I would like you to revise your future advertisements to focus on prevention and the services you actually offer. The advertisement shown previously is slightly misleading.

Something like this:

The Industrious Hygienist's revision of the Aflac advertisement: "If your employees get hurt off the job, Aflac will see them through."

Yours truly �

The Industrious Hygienist

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