Good to Great: The difference is the strategy

The true strength of a wellness program may not so much be in the individual aspects of the program, but rather in the way those aspects are linked, positioned, and implemented. The number of activities or vendors on your wellness calendar isn't a measure of how comprehensive your program is. Comprehensive programs are those with the most cohesive strategy and greatest integration with your work flow. Activities in isolation will only ever appeal to a portion of a population. In contrast, a truly comprehensive strategy can unite the individual aspects of a program and go further towards building a culture or movement which puts people on a pathway towards common goals.

As we approach the close of another year, most are furiously in the midst of planning wellness strategies for 2015 and beyond. This is an excellent time to consider whether your health, wellness, engagement and performance initiatives actually form a real strategy, or whether they’re simply a bunch of activities.

Too many wellness programs are activity based. We often come across companies who tell us their wellness offerings are extremely comprehensive. In essence this may be true. While the laundry list of services or programs they offer, and the range of health areas covered is comprehensive, the way the programs run are far from strategic, meaning most individual employees are not involved in enough aspects of the program to be considered comprehensive.

We recently consulted with an organization who offered a range of services to their employees, including tobacco cessation, weight management programs, health challenges, information portals, incentive or reimbursement plans, EAP, risk assessments, even coaching. While these services are great, the way they are offered is simply activity based. That is, they are available and promoted to employees, and often times even encouraged, subsidized, or incentivized, however they mostly occur as isolated services and require employees to opt in to each of them individually. As a result, the company is essentially continually in campaign mode - trying hard to promote each different activity in an effort to boost utilization, while ultimately not really succeeding in getting significant meaningful engagement in any of them.  

Does this sound familiar? This approach is exhausting and really drains the attention and resources of already stretched HR and Benefits departments who always need to think of the next creative way they can promote or launch the next campaign. Is that efficient? Is it even worth the effort?

The difference between activities and a strategy is that each piece in a strategy has purpose, and it is strategically planned, positioned, and promoted. Health behaviors are complex. Our lives are not split into individual activities, they all merge together. A truly comprehensive wellness program has a single vision and common goal which all employees can get behind. That goal is consistently promoted and communicated, and the individual activities become the tools to align and achieve the stated objective: that gives them purpose. Education and communication works as the foundation to make people more aware of their need to participate in the other activities. Participation in one activity links to, and leads people into the next activity. The result is more consistent engagement, progressive education, and more sustainable change.

Before you finalize your wellness or performance strategy for next year or any year, pause and think about these four questions to determine if your strategy is really a strategy (and not just another list of actions).

  1.  Are the elements of the program linked together and consistently communicated through a central, overarching communication or education process?
  2. Is that communication and education integrated into work flow to more effectively engage your population, or do you need people to "opt-in" before you can even promote the benefits of the program to them?
  3. Does each activity within the program contribute to the end goal, or do some detract from, or confuse the end goal? If any fit the latter, can they be brought into alignment, or should they be eliminated?
  4. Does the program include everything people need to succeed? That is, does it not only raise awareness, or assign goals, but does it actually provide the steps needed to go through a complete pathway from initial awareness raising, through helping individual’s identify value, and then providing them with tools or strategies to succeed? If it only does one or two parts but does not provide everything needed for people to go through a change process, then how can you expect the activities to have any lasting impact?

We still find many organizations with gaps in their strategy. They are either not offering all the pieces, or not understanding how to link them together. Hopefully the simple questions above will help you critically review your own strategy. However, if you need more expert assistance, HBD can also provide you with a number of health, safety, or performance services or strategies to help you achieve more from your programs, and ultimately get more out of your workforce.  

Have a safe and healthy holiday season! 

Published on by Andrew Stephenson.