Healthcare costs are on the rise. In the first quarter of 2014, healthcare spending rose 9.9 percent - the largest quarterly increase in more than 30 years, according to the U.S. Commerce Department's Bureau of Economic Analysis. With these continually rising rates, organizations of all sizes are searching for ways to minimize healthcare expenses while still offering quality benefits.
Wellness programs have served as one solution to this predicament, allowing many companies to offer employees the tools for improving their health and reducing risks. In the U.S., 44 percent of companies offer a wellness program to employees, and that number is likely going to rise (2013 Aflac Workforces Report).
While wellness programs are the future of healthcare cost containment, many organizations struggle to develop programs that appeal to the workforce and address their specific health concerns.
An effective strategy to support wellness programs will help organizations create a vibrant culture as well as help support happier, healthier and more productive employees.In order to be successful with your wellness program as well as boost participation and results at your organization, here are five key strategies to consider.
Gain Executive Support
Impactful wellness programs integrate into a company culture that supports and encourages healthy lifestyles and choices. This culture, however, will struggle to develop without the support of the executive leadership team.
Leaders at your company must "walk the talk" when it comes to health and wellness.To gain support, discuss with company leaders the anticipated return on investment of the wellness program in addition to the elements that will bring about positive health changes in the population.
Understand Your Population
An effective wellness program takes into consideration the demographic and health risk data of the company's healthcare population, including employees, spouses and dependents. This information should be used to customize the wellness program and engage people in the initiative. By using this insight strategically, you'll be able to facilitate greater interest, excitement and sustainable participation in the wellness program.
Focus on Behavioral Change
In order to make your program compelling to participants, you must focus on elements that will naturally foster behavioral change. Ensure that the program is convenient for individuals to learn about and use. It is also important that you build strategies on a collaborative/motivational model.
The program must provide flexible options that allow individuals to pick methods that will work for their lifestyle. This customizable approach will help foster intrinsic motivation and inspiration.
Communicate and Incent
A wellness program without participants is a wasted endeavor. To promote the program to your population effectively, use a variety of engagement access points, including websites, printed materials and mobile applications.
Additionally, if budget allows, consider developing an incentive structure that resonates with individuals. Be intentional about promoting these rewards and ensuring that they are appealing and worth the effort required to earn them.
Assess and Modify
Companies dedicated to wellness must continually review and evaluate their program with a critical lens. On a regular basis, schedule a wellness team meeting to discuss areas for improvement and modifications that will help keep the program fresh.
While constant evaluation is important, keep in mind that it will be at least a year before you'll see indicators of the program's success. By following these five tips, organizations will be able to transform their wellness program into a strategic tool that has the power to contain healthcare costs, improve productivity and strengthen employee health. The positive impact of your wellness program will reinforce the value of this ongoing investment.
About the Author:
Jen Piliero is a Senior Product Manager for Ceridian LifeWorks. With more than 14-years' experience in the employee assistance program (EAP), work-life and wellness industry, Jen Piliero is an expert on employee wellness and engagement.