Properly positioning the value of health

The end of the year is the opportune time to review health promotion strategies and direction for the coming year. How well have your vendors delivered this year? Do you have the right mix of programs – is a “mix” even the right approach? Is your program coming under fire for underperformance?  As you think ahead to 2016, I hope you think first about how you are positioning health promotion, and secondly whether your strategy supports that position. As “wellness ROI” claims continue to take fire, continuing to beat the drum for health risk reduction and healthcare cost management as the cornerstone of your value proposition might be a losing battle. The real value of a true health promotion strategy is organizational performance. That is, leveraging the foundation of a healthier, more engaged workforce to improve safety, performance, and your employee experience.

The problem is, simply changing your positioning won’t work if your strategy won’t actually achieve those things, and unfortunately many of the most common program structures we see simply won’t get there. So before you shift your value proposition, first make sure you have a program model that will succeed. Here are four tell-tale signs of a program that will relentlessly hold you back – and if you have a program like this, perhaps it’s time to rethink the strategy altogether:

  1. Poor engagement or incentive driven participation
    Most non-incentivized programs still actively engage a small minority of the workforce (estimate less than 30%). Incentives boost compliance, but not genuine care-factor from your people. If you have less than 60% of your workforce actively engaged without incentives, then you have the wrong program. Period. Specifically it's not perceived of value by your workforce.
  2. Too many pieces
    Biometrics: check. Disease management: check. Online platform: check. Step challenge: check. Having players in every position on the field doesn't mean they can execute an effective team play. While many health promotion programs might look strategic from the manager's side, how many of them fit seamlessly together from the end-user's side? Too often the individual pieces are too separate, too targeted, too generic, and don't align well enough to sustain engagement and effectively educate your workforce at the individual level.
  3. Narrow focus
    Most health promotion initiatives are broken down into separate wellness activities, and each activity is highly focused on one particular aspect of health. The emphasis is on physical risk reduction without looking at the bigger picture. Health and lifestyle behaviors are complex, and there is a lot of interplay between physical, mental, and emotional drivers. Focusing on the end risk often fails to effectively help people understand the process. The result: even when these programs help someone achieve a shift in behavior, that change is often not sustained long term.
  4. Too short-term
    Many health initiatives and programs are either isolated events (or a series of isolated events), or they are finite, short-run campaigns. These create the wrong mindset for participants. If I know I'm beginning a step challenge which ends in 12 weeks, my brain begins with the assumption that after 12 weeks, I'll stop. These programs suffer from "diet syndrome". Anyone can will themselves to do something for a pre-determined period of time, but unless the mindset is to create a permanent shift in behavior, then I'm sorry, they'll fail.

The solution is to stop looking at health promotion as a stand-alone program and consider it more as an organizational strategic initiative. Stop judging the program on physical risk reduction metrics alone. Stop trying to build a solution that "checks all the boxes" and yet really doesn't appeal to anyone.

The true value of an effective corporate health culture is in the life it bleeds into your organization. It inspires people to be better. It gives them energy and keeps them engaged. It shows them how healthier lifestyles keep them safer and more productive – that is, it shows them the value of healthier behaviors in boosting their quality of life as well as their performance. It's not about healthcare cost containment, it's about improved performance, a buffer to the impact of stress, reducing accidents and improving the employee experience.

Programs that achieve this type of impact are programs which are designed to become integrated into the way you do business. They engage your whole workforce as a natural part of their workflow - they are not something people have to opt-in to or get ushered into via risk stratification models. Rather than being flavor of the month, they are ongoing with progressive, contextually relevant content which teaches employees how their physical, mental, and emotional actions align to regulate their health, energy, and performance.

So as you review your progress for this year and set your sights on goals for 2016, if you think it’s time to shift towards a more progressive strategy and re-frame the role health promotion plays in your workplace, then perhaps it’s time to give us a call.

HBD has over 20 years' experience creating leading workplace health behavior change programs. From industrial work environments to high-end executive leadership, HBD has developed unique, tailored solutions which improve population health, safety, and performance by capturing the sustained meaningful engagement of each individual employee. We can be contacted by phone at 1-844-206-1533, by email at, or through the contact us page on this website.

Published on by Andrew Stephenson.