• Andrew

2020: Resolve to Provide a Better Wellness Program!

Are you sick of all the resolution and goal setting articles you’ve read in the last month? Don’t worry, “I resolve not to bore you with generic goal-setting advice.” If you want that… look here instead.

However, there is value in those articles in terms of the lessons they can provide in how NOT to set up your corporate health and wellbeing initiatives for 2020… that is, if you actually want to achieve progress towards improving your employee’s health and wellbeing and improve your employee experience. If you don’t actually want to make a measurable improvement but just need a “wellness program” to check a box… then you can stop reading and entertain yourself here for a minute.

If we know that things like lack of relevance, lacking strong “why” value, or having goals that are incongruent with our environment all lead to failure in creating healthy resolutions, why do we expect generic wellness programs to be any different?

Ten years ago, having a wellness program was progressive. Now it’s the norm, but in many cases, they have become more of a burden than a benefit. Being required to jump through hoops to “earn” discounts (or should we say it like it is… avoid surcharges) can, for many, be more of a stressor than a wellbeing promoter. Screenings without consultation or context, incentive deadlines, point counting, prize tiers, generic challenges, annoying apps, and alerts… do your employees appreciate them?

Many programs are made up of too many independent, inconsistent, and short-run elements. They lack consistency and continuity. Some activities are nice in the short term… a massage, a free flu shot, a meditation class, a fun challenge… but they do not help people create an effective pathway to sustainable and meaningful lifestyle change. Shouldn’t that be the real purpose? To help support healthy and productive personal and professional growth? That’s an employer that provides its employees with value!

It’s pretty simple: Generic programs will get you generic results. A “calendar of events” style wellness program might be fun to begin with, but it loses its luster pretty quickly. It gets increasingly difficult to keep the excitement up for the “next event”. Providing self-directed access to wellness information or services in the periphery of work is a nice thought, but rarely effectively utilized. These traditional approaches result in industry average participation… from single-digit percentages up to around 25-35% participation for some elements. But even so, much participation is incentive-driven and leads to very little (if any) measurable shift in total population health due to either: not achieving broad enough participation; or, “base level” participation where participants do what is necessary to obtain an incentive but are never truly engaged in the program or outcome.

These common program models may be successful at promoting awareness, but awareness doesn’t make someone healthier. Short-term controlled interventions, activities, and campaigns don’t often influence the more complex, long-term, and multi-factored process of living a healthy and resilient lifestyle. Programs need to more consistently meet people where they’re at and guide them on their individual pathway to better health and performance.

Sounds nice, but is it possible? Is it feasible and scalable for a diverse workforce? YES. For 25 years we’ve demonstrated a model that is highly effective in sustaining the engagement of total populations (average >80% of total workforce engaged monthly without incentives) AND in achieving measurable improvements to the population’s health and performance (average >50% of total workforce populations improving health and measurable improvements in organizational safety, productivity, and job engagement). Through core principles of:

Consistency: Consistency in participation as well as consistency in the reinforcement of key messages and personal value proposition. Look for ways to integrate consistent health promotion into your regular workflow so that your total population is engaged more often without the need to “opt-in” or be wooed into the periphery by incentives.

Relevance: Make sure program branding and messages are in line with your organizational culture and work environment as well as ensuring there is an ability for participants to choose and work on what is most important to them. Lack of perceived relevance and trying to force everyone to achieve generic goals or perform generic requirements is the number one reason employees don’t like and don't participate in wellness programs.

Progressive: Programs need to adapt as your employee’s needs evolve. What value does an annual steps challenge really have? It most likely simply rewards the people who are already the most active. Does that effectively improve the health of your least healthy people? Make sure you consider the value, purpose, and goals of a program - from both the organizational perspective AND the employees' perspective.

By achieving these critical structural pillars in creating an effective health promotion program you can far exceed the marginal impact of average programs. If you would like to discuss how realistic achieving these things are, or if you would like to see samples of the amazing outcomes of more effective population behavior change programs in populations similar to yours, please hit the "contact" link and chat with us.

Resolve not to make more useless resolutions in 2020. Don’t do more of the same when the same hasn’t delivered its true potential. A different approach leads to different outcomes. Isn’t it time you achieved some new outcomes?

#EmployeeExperience #WorkplaceWellness #EmployeeEngagement

HBD International, LLC

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