It is not unusual for me to encounter employers who say they want a wellness program. In many cases, they have taken one or two small steps to implement one but they are not getting the results they were hoping for. If your program has fallen flat you may want to take a look at the following items.
You have no management support.
I have seen examples of wellness programs started by the employees. An enthusiastic, committed group of employees can be successful in implementing a wellness program. They can even have some impact. In my experience, without the support of management, the programs eventually fizzle out. For a program to be sustainable there must be support at all levels of management as there is a correlation between the level of leadership support and the level of participation and outcomes of the program.
According to a 2011 survey[i], organizations with strong leadership and cultural support were ten times as likely as those with little or no support to report a substantial positive impact on their medical plan cost.
You have no resources.
It is human nature to want something for nothing, but that seems to be taken to a new extreme when it comes to wellness programs. There are some wonderful free resources available for programming. But regardless of how thrifty you are, there still needs to be some budget to assist in programs, evaluation, marketing and communications, etc. At the very least, there must be time for a team to implement and administer a wellness program. If no budget/resources are being used in the pursuit of wellness, you are wasting your time and it will not be sustainable.
You have no plan
A genuine desire to improve employee health and engagement is a great motivator but not necessarily a great start to implementing a worksite wellness program. You need to gather data in order to understand your population, needs, issues, priorities and establish baselines, then use that information to create a plan. Without a plan, your program will be random events with no measurement. This allows you to make informed decisions and implement the program effectively. Download our Why Your Wellness Program Needs a Plan ebook.
You want immediate results
Don’t create a wellness program unless you are in it for the long haul. As we like to say – It is a marathon not a sprint. Encouraging individuals to change behavior, or organizations to change culture is not a simple or straightforward process. It can be messy with many two steps forward and one step back occurrences. For worksite wellness to work, efforts must be comprehensive and sustained over time.
You are not implementing a comprehensive program
A wellness program is more than an occasional lunch and learn or biggest loser contest. A comprehensive program includes gathering data, developing policies, benefits, environmental supports, communication and marketing plans, in addition to programming. Worksite wellness may not be rocket science, but it is much more involved and wide-ranging than most believe.
You are not concerned with employee’s privacy
Many aspects of employee health are private and protected under federal laws. One of the biggest barriers to employee participation in a wellness program is employees not wanting their employer to have access to their private health information and not understanding what information the employer obtains and how it is used. You should take steps to ensure the employees’ privacy is protected and repeatedly communicate the precautions being taken, what information the employer receives, and how it is used.
You are not measuring results
You need to evaluate effectiveness, outcomes and provide continuous quality improvement. Remember above when we mentioned you should be in this for the long haul? Evaluation allows you to measure results over time. It may take several years to see major improvement. If using the right measures you should see incremental changes much sooner.
Take a step back
Review what elements make up your worksite wellness program. Are you missing any of the items mentioned? If so begin to take steps to add or improve that item. Don’t try to figure it all out at once but take steps to make your program more comprehensive so you don’t have to throw in the towel.
Valorie Bender, CWPM
[i] Health Enhancement Research Organization (2011) Employee participation in health and wellness programs soars with senior management’s commitment [Press release]. Retrieved from http://hero-health.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/Press_release_scorecard_annual_report.pdf