How to Keep your Wellness Program from Failing

by Denise O’Malley, founder of You Define Wellness

Last week I heard this from a Human Resources professional, “We tried a wellness program with our staff.  It didn’t work.”

This wasn’t the first time I’ve heard this statement or some variation of it and it begs the question…

What did you try?

Was it a weight loss challenge? Gym membership? A program tacked on to your medical insurance plan?  I can confidently guess that the reason you gave up was because only 20-24% of your employees engaged in your wellness initiative… and that’s a failing grade.

How am I so confident about this number? Experience and an understanding of the four types of employees.

The engaging group – the 24% who can’t wait to get started in your programs – are the CAN’Ts. What about the other 76%?

The remainder of employees fall into three other groups: the SHAN’Ts (5%), WON’Ts (10%), and the DON’Ts (61%).  In order to achieve success in your wellness initiatives, you need to focus on the DON’Ts… so let’s talk about them, but first let’s look at another statistic that reinforces what I’m saying.

Several years ago I wrote a white paper that went quasi-viral on LinkedIn called “Three Simple Strategies to Re-Focus Wellness Initiatives”, more appropriately subtitled “Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.”  In it I shared a statistic from the Willis Towers Watson 2017 Global Benefits Attitude Survey:

“Most employees (73%) say they prefer to manage their health and well-being on their own.”

Well no wonder your attempt at workplace wellness failed when a super majority of employees want to make their OWN decisions on wellbeing!

With just this information, it’s easy to give up on wellness initiatives; however, the study goes on to state that “two-thirds of employees… agree that employers have a role to play in encouraging them to live healthier lifestyles.”  They WANT and NEED your support! 

Let’s identify the DON’Ts. They are employees who:

  • appreciate the fact you have an interest in your wellbeing but DON’T like what you’re offering;
  • feel they DON’T have the time or money to engage;
  • DON’T do anything for themselves; and/or,
  • DON’T know where to get started.

In order to engage this large group of employees, you MUST offer what they need and want. Since you probably don’t have the gift of mind-reading, how do you go about delivering a wellness program that engages?

You could simply ask your employees what they want, but that doesn’t solve the engagement issue for the long term.  The formula to success is two fold: education + access… but the WHAT and HOW contribute greatly in this formula.

As a former insurance agent, I can tell you we did a very good job taking education about healthy living out of signing employees up on their benefit programs.  If an employee needed care, the answer was within the medical insurance plan.

Now far removed from that industry, I can see how we did a disservice to employees by not having resources for them to learn about other paths to attain and maintain optimum wellbeing!

It’s not enough to simply find experts to bring education to your employees, although this is time consuming in and of itself.  It’s important to tailor the education to be in alignment with their values and outside of work interests!

As for access, let me cite the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health and their 2012 National Health interview “Use of Complementary Approaches in the U.S.”  In this document you’ll find an amazing statistic: 59 million Americans spend $30.2 BILLION a year – out of pocket – on healthy living products and services!

If you want your wellness program to be a success, shouldn’t you give employees subsidized or discounted access to the types of products and services they no doubt ALREADY believe in?

These two premises – education and access – are what You Define Wellness is all about.  With independent health & wellness professionals from around the globe, we have more than 130 different healing modalities represented in our network and hundreds of educational videos as resources to employees!

An employer who has an understanding of how healthy employees have a positive impact on the bottom line (roughly keeping 20% of revenues from flying out the door), will want a wellness program designed for their business and people.  That’s why we created the Employee Wellbeing Needs Analysis… a comprehensive look at how employees define healthy living and a plan to meet their needs with custom designed education programs.

Implementing an effective wellness initiative for your company doesn’t have to be time consuming or even expensive.  Let’s talk about what you need and design a program that is perfect for your company… and your staff with thank you for!

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