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How to Evaluate and Improve Your Employee Wellbeing Program

I’ve been reading a lot on employee wellbeing lately—more than usual. Not since my college years have I spent as much time researching, filtering through the various credible sources (and some not so credible) and assessing the merits of corporate health and wellbeing programs. Why this sudden return to scouring research journals you might ask? As wellness continues to evolve, we are constantly being challenged on its true return on investment for businesses. Your company may want a strategic plan to improve employee wellbeing, or simply look to dip a toe in the wellness pool. Regardless of your goal, learning best practices and innovative plan designs will offer a fresh approach to your workforce wellbeing program—and drive results.

Why is it so Difficult to Determine what Works?

There is a lack of consistency around the definition of wellness. Vague definitions compounded by an ever-evolving “identity crisis”: health promotion, fitness and health, corporate fitness and wellness, worksite health, health improvement, and -most recently- wellbeing programs can overwhelm and confuse even the most health conscious employer.

A workforce wellbeing program can, and should, incorporate a wide variety of wellness activities that support individual health and promote a healthy worksite culture. While the industry used to focus on physical aspects of health improvement, today we understand the impact of mental, social, and financial health as core drivers of employee satisfaction at work and at home.

How to Increase Program Effectiveness

Baseline and/or benchmark metrics
Plain and simple: what gets measured gets done. Nothing is more important to building your business case, and fewer things are more overlooked. Evaluate every component so that trending reports and cohort data can be reviewed regularly. What should you measure? Participation, engagement, biometrics, individual and aggregate health improvements, claims utilization, cultural attributes, performance levers, senior leadership support, employee lifestyle changes, risk migration, and more.

Unique and personal approaches
Understanding employees’ preferences, motivators and barriers will improve engagement by meeting them “where they live.” Incentives or communication delivery options for example, should fit their lifestyle, instead of relying on a one-size-fits-all approach. Asking hourly employees to give up a lunch break or attend a seminar after a 10 hour shift often results in poor attendance.

Consider hosting a webinar, or add a wellness topic to a scheduled employee meeting. This shows the type of workplace flexibility and support that is more likely to increase engagement.

Even a simple survey asking employees for their feedback will produce valuable data that can help drive initiatives more effectively.

Performance culture
Studies show the correlation between high-performing employees and healthy work cultures. Employees who score high in wellbeing surveys also score highly in performance attributes such as high productivity, positive work attitude, engagement, retention and more. Employers looking to reinforce these connections should examine management styles, trust, communication, leadership support, growth and development, corporate protocols and training, environment and other performance drivers.

Worksite accommodations
Think beyond the fitness room. Examine employee workspaces and consider allowing more stand-up workstations or tables, stability balls, or even headsets that allow desk-tied employees to stand up and move. Creative café solutions can differentiate your culture, have big nutritional impact and attract top talent. Promote and provide nutritious, affordable options for employee meals and snack times, consider new café vendors if current choices can’t, or won’t, accommodate healthier options.

Chronic condition management
metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and heart disease are just a few conditions that can be managed and potentially improved by early intervention. While these programs can be more costly to initiate, they are effective at reducing the high cost (both in dollars and employee wellbeing) of these conditions long term. These initiatives can be one of the greatest investments in corporate wellbeing programs.

As Abraham Lincoln said, “The best way to predict your future is to create it.” Employers have an opportunity to create a culture of high performance and wellbeing, by designing their employee wellbeing programs to address the unique cultural drivers within their workforce population.


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