The research is in. An effective employee wellness program will provide a 300-600% ROI through decreased health care, sick time and disability costs, as well as improved recruitment, retention and employee engagement. The result of this research has been a two-fold increase in the number of organizations that have launched wellness programs for their employees in just the past year.
Only one problem - the first word in the phrase "Effective Employee Wellness Program." There are many approaches to employee wellness. Common entry level approaches include holding an internal "biggest loser"-like contest to providing paid memberships at the local health club.
While both provide proof to employees (and customers!) that the organization is serious about really doing something beyond lip service, their true effectiveness is limited. With the "biggest loser"-type of contest, 97% of the people who lose weight will gain it back without an ongoing process.
And in terms of paid health clubs, you're likely to find that - while a great tool as part of a personalized program - when done as a singular approach, this typically only provides a benefit for the 10-15% (maybe 20%) of employees who would have joined one anyway.
Both scenarios are missing a key element that can result in participation - and movement - by 50-70% or more of your employees. What is that key element? What component will take a wellness program from "nice" to "effective " Personalization Every employee is different. As a result, generic, impersonal approaches to employee wellness simply don't work over the long haul. Only personalized approaches do. Here are a few tips to get you started:
- Avoid "One Size Fits All" approaches. We've found a clear trend when it comes to employee wellness - the popular "one size fits all" actually turns out to be "one size fits NONE." As you look over your proposed approach (or review your wellness vendor's proposal), think about a few of your employees on opposite ends of the spectrum. If it won't meet the needs of these "extremists," there's a good chance it won't work for your organization
- Build a "customization" ability into the program. People adjust, grow, back-slide, excel, and change their goals. For an employee wellness program to be effective, it needs to be able to move along with the individual. An employee who's never even owned a pair of running shoes the first 42 years of her life might lose 15 lbs and decide to train for and run a half marathon. Does the program adjust along with her life? Or is it all just about weight loss?
- Take Temperament into account. This brief column is obviously not intended to review the various personality or temperament styles that exist within your team. But you see it everyday - people are inherently different in the way they approach various aspects of their lives, including wellness pursuits. Without going to ridiculous extremes, it's important for any effective wellness program to take those individual styles into account. Simply stated - a program that's perfect for a "Guardian" will be an absolute disaster for an "Artisan."
- Involve others. There are many ways to put this into practice, ranging from accountability groups to partnership programs. But one thing is certain - the involvement of others is absolutely essential to achieving long-term success in the area of wellness. "We become the people with whom we spend time" is an ageless truth.
The "why" is no longer in doubt, as study after study has confirmed the ROI of employee wellness programs. But as these programs gain acceptance and a broader range of providers step into the marketplace, the "how" is still far from consistent. As you look for ways to maximize your ROI, be absolutely certain that "Personalization" is a central part of the equation.
About the Author
Brad Cooper, MSPT, ATC is the CEO of US Corporate Wellness, Inc., a national employee wellness provider. He can be reached at 800-910-9425 or BCooper@USCorporateWellness.com. More information and a free trial are available at www.USCorporateWellness.com .