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Global HR leader Mercer teams with health analytics startup Jiff

Fitbit Force, Jawbone Up,  Fitbug Orb, Nike FuelBand SEFitbit Force, Jawbone Up,  Fitbug Orb, Nike FuelBand SE
(From left) Fitbit Force, Jawbone Up, Fitbug Orb, and the Nike FuelBand SE. Photograph by Richard Drew — AP

Sales of fitness bands, smartwatches and other sensor-enabled gadgets are less fit than anticipated this year. That’s actually a sign of maturation, however. The slowdown in demand hasn’t stopped large companies from putting biometrics at the center of emerging data-driven employee health initiatives. Category leader Fitbit, for one, has made sales for corporate wellness programs a top priority.

The latest evidence comes in the form of a partnership disclosed Tuesday morning by workforce benefits giant Mercer and startup Jiff.

The latter sells cloud software that uses employee data to recommend ways they can get the most out of existing healthcare benefits. The hope is to cut costs for both employer and employee in the process. Together, Jiff and Mercer will create an information portal, called Health Pathfinder by Mercer, intended to motivate healthier activity and diagnose an employee’s potential for diseases such as diabetes before the condition becomes chronic—and far more expensive to treat.

“We take digital information from anywhere we can get it to help an employee better navigate what is available,” Jiff CEO Derek Newell told me when I spoke with him several weeks ago.

Mercer’s lead executive for health management solutions, Cheryl Mealey, notes:

While there has been an explosion of health and well-being solutions in the past five years, employers are left wondering how to manage it all. By teaming up with Jiff, Mercer can enable clients to integrate their preferred benefit solutions, personalize workforce programs and incentives, motivate employees to engage with the solutions, and measure what works.

One of Jiff’s biggest priorities is insinuating its technology into existing human capital management programs. Its deal with the $4.2 billion benefits company certainly will put it in front of many more potential clients. That’s a huge boost when you consider the short-lived startup only has roughly three-dozen accounts today (including contracts in the final stages of negotiation).

Jiff’s revenue should cross into the double-digit millions this year, Newell said. The company recently hired three senior executives and elevated its focus on customer success and operations to address the needs of enterprise accounts. Its latest venture infusion, a $23.3 million Series C round led by Rosemark Capital, came in May.

Wondering whether this approach really works? Consider the example of Fortune 500 energy company Williams. Last year, it hired another software company tackling this problem, Limeade, to encourage more participation in its decade-old wellness program. So far, engagement has increased more than 20%.

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