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3 tell-tale signs of an off-target wellness program

Although there are many ways for an employee wellness program to veer off course or have no impact at all, here are three tell-tale signs that a wellness program is not hitting the mark:

No. 1: You follow the illness du jour.

If your program’s focal points are Heart Health Month, Depression Awareness Week or Breast Cancer Detection Month, it means it’s not focused on your people, their health issues, needs and preferences. Similarly, you can misguidedly base a wellness program’s priorities on whatever is in the headlines. This is a common problem: your CEO sees aNew York Times story about depression and asks what the wellness program is doing about depression. You and your team rush to put something together, in order to be responsive to the CEO and gain his or her support. No one asks whether depression is even relevant to your employee population.

Avoid this pitfall: It may seem obvious, but a wellness program’s focus needs to be tied to the actual illnesses and health status of the group it serves.

No. 2: Your program rollout receives a ‘ho-hum’ response.

A wellness program might have beautiful materials, a slick website, impressive mobile apps and still only have a few employees participate. Even a generous incentive can fail to draw people.

So, what’s gone wrong? Most likely, the program is not addressing employees’ priorities. This is particularly true with wellness incentives. Got employees who are heavily invested in their kids’ Little League? Offer training for volunteer coaches and free tickets to a local MLB game — now that might draw people in.

Avoid this pitfall: Make sure programs hit upon the health and incentive priorities that most interest your people. If you’re unsure — and, again, this might seem obvious — just ask them.

No. 3: You create a fuzzy goal line (or no goal line).

Lots of benefits professionals fall into this trap: believing that measuring wellness results is difficult, they don’t try to measure their programs at all or fail to set measurable goals from the outset.

Instead, practitioners hide behind platitudes about employee morale or studies that show results in other settings. Reports from wellness vendors show what results the program might have, but there is no way to verify what actually happened.

Another mistake is to have goals that cannot be measured. For example, one goal might be to “strengthen employees’ consumerism in selecting medical services.”  There is no way to objectively measure the strength of a person’s consumerism.  Instead, setting a goal to increase the number of employees who use a quality-of-care web tools — that would be measurable.

Avoid this pitfall: Quite simply, this is a case where a failure to plan is a plan to fail. Be proactive in making your wellness program successful by starting with clear goals and metrics.

This article was written by Linda K. Riddell and was originally published on Employee Benefit News.



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