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Creating a Workplace Wellness Program That Actually Demonstrates a Return on Investment

One of the #1 requests I receive from clients is to develop a Workplace Wellness Program for their company that demonstrates an ROI. However, to many of my clients, a Wellness Program is a Wellness Fair, a “Lunch and Learn” and possibly bringing in an outside company to conduct a biometric screening for their employees.

Once clients share with me their perception of a Wellness Program — I take a step back and ask them — what is driving their interest in developing an Employee Wellness Program?

Among the common themes include: 

  •  “I want to bring down health care costs by developing a high-performing workforce”;
  •  “I want to show our employees we care”;
  •  “I want to improve employee satisfaction, retention and recruitment”; or 
  • “Our competition is doing it.”

That said, as a Wellness Consultant, the most important thing I personally believe an Employee Wellness Program can do for a company is transform corporate culture, change lives and positively impact your ROI.

Here are some initial steps to consider in developing an effective, measurable and sustainable Wellness Program for your Employees: 

 Define what Wellness actually is.

 I’m an active member of a national organization called WELCOA (The Wellness Counsel of America) and they define wellness as one thing, but you ask another reputable organization their definition of Wellness and they may have a completely different model. I look at Wellness holistically — instead of using the term Wellness, I’ve use the term — “Organizational Wellness.”

Organizational Wellness includes all the primary aspects that lead to your employees’ health — programs that speak to mental, physical and emotional health. Before you engage in a Wellness initiative for your employees, as a business-decision leader, you and your colleagues need to first determine what Organizational Wellness means to you. 

 Get Support from the Top, the Middle and Everyone In-Between

Everyone knows that if your Senior Team, especially your CEO, doesn’t support a major corporate initiative – it will fall flat. Just as importantly, if your middle managers don’t support the initiative, as well as your front-line staff to serve as “champions of your program” — the Program will never get off the ground. Make sure that your Program is communicated effectively throughout your entire organization and that there is some level of accountability for staff in supervisory roles to make it a success! Also, make sure your communications about the program are clear, concise and engaging.

 If your CEO says at your Annual Town Hall meeting – “We are going to start a Brand New Wellness Program to demonstrate that we care about you” it may be perceived as Corporate Babble Speak. However, if your CEO says that My Leadership Team, along with your Managers and Team Leads are committed to Launching a Wellness Program for all of you to show how much we care about each of you. Plus, just as important, I’m personally holding my team accountable to make it work and to ultimately, help you lead healthier lives.” – That’s a completely different message!

 One Year Isn’t a Magical Number

 99% of companies do their budgeting based on a fiscal year. Unfortunately, Wellness doesn’t work that way. If you launch a Program at the beginning of your fiscal year and expect to see significant results in one year – you’re fooling yourself. For an effective Wellness Program to work – you need to look at it as a longitudinal program. It takes a tremendous amount of work to change people’s behaviors – it’s all about baby steps.

Imagine if your Doctor said to you today–you need to get healthy by: losing 30 pounds, lowering your cholesterol, getting move active and finding better ways to manage your stress. That’s a lot of behaviors to change. Even if you agree with your Doctor – you need to motivate yourself to make those changes and, at the same time, you need the tools to support you in making those changes–especially through challenging times at work or in your personal life. (And rest assured, just like every other human being out there – you’re probably have several setbacks that come up along the way that could impede your success.) An effective Wellness Program can provide you with the guidance to push through those tough times and persevere. 

 A Wellness Program needs to be done in incremental steps, accounting for the fact that change – substantial change – doesn’t happen overnight. It’s not just about training, apps and working out — there’s also a major psychological component that involves making major changes in your lifestyle and being motivated to sustain those changes throughout your life. 

Ideally, you may want to consider conducting a biometric screening for all of your employees at the beginning of the Program, analyze the aggregate results and use that as starting point to build your program. Then, conduct the biometric screenings again a year later and then another year later to help measure the success of your Program. In the interim, you need to develop a robust, strategic and aggressive program that builds momentum throughout that entire period.

Corporate Culture

We all know that every company big or small has a Corporate Culture. If your company’s culture doesn’t support a Wellness Program then that could be one of your toughest obstacles to being successful. For instance, some of the challenges that companies face is that they have a remote workforce or their managers looks down at employees for taking the time to attend “lunch and learn” programs or going to the fitness center during their lunch hour. If your Corporate Culture doesn’t support Wellness – from all levels – it’s going to be an uphill battle to see positive results.

To Reward or Not to Reward – That is the Question

 One of the major controversies when it comes to developing Wellness Programs is offering incentives to employees for participation – a discounted gym membership, a free Fitbit, PTO, etc. Part of that decision can simply be determined by asking your employees – what do they value most? Simply conducting an anonymous survey to see what would motivate them to participate in a Workplace Wellness Program along with asking your employees what Wellness issues are important to them goes a long way in developing a “best in class” Program. Once you combine your employee survey results with your aggregate biometric screening results, while providing your Management Team and employees with the information they need to launch and implement the Program – you have the ingredients for a Successful Employee Wellness Program.

If you’d like to learn more about developing a Wellness Program at your organization, please contact me via LinkedIn or at kevineinbinder@yahoo.com.

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Kevin Einbinder

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