Why Wellness Programs Fail
Ryan L. Turnbull, MBA
Vice President, Employee Benefits Wellness Practice
Poms & Associates
Employer sponsored Wellness programs have seen a resurgence in recent years; a trend that is expected to continue in an effort to curb escalating healthcare premiums. Unfortunately, far too many Wellness programs fail to achieve the desired employee participation and return on investment.
Let’s be realistic. The typical employee will not change their lifestyle simply because we supply them with a website where they can access wellness related educational material and track their daily steps. That is not to say that these types of programs do not have their place. They do (10-15% of employees will embrace any single Wellness program component), when complemented by the many other facets of a well designed, best practice, comprehensive Wellness program, customized to the needs of your employees and corporate culture.
A successful Wellness program can result in hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars in healthcare premium savings. Thus, employers must be strategic to design a program that will be embraced by employees and provide a return on investment.
Successful Wellness program design begins with an investigation of employee Wellness desires, needs, and potential roadblocks to success. This is achieved via a series of one-on-one interviews, focus groups, and/or employee surveys conducted with a subset of employees, well in advance of Wellness program design and implementation.
The data collected as part of this investigative process provides a strategic roadmap for Wellness program success. Employers who begin the Wellness program design process with a clear understanding of employee Wellness needs can they be confident that they have strategically allocated an often finite Wellness budget to those tools and resources that will be embraced by employees and maximize participation. Employers who omit this critical first step in best practice Wellness program design should not be surprised if their Wellness program fails to achieve the desired participation and return on investment.
If you are an considering the implementation of a workplace Wellness program or attempting to improve on a poorly designed program that lacks employee support and participation, take a step back and talk to your employees about what will work for them. Doing so will allow you to design a successful Wellness program that meets their needs.
In the past few years the Wellness program provider space has evolved into a ‘product’ focused marketplace that primarily offers ‘off the shelf’, online programming that claims to provide a ‘one size fits all’ workplace Wellness solution. Unfortunately, ‘one size fits all’ seldom translates into Wellness program success. Avoid these plug and play products as a standalone Wellness solution unless they are complemented by a multi-faceted comprehensive Wellness program, customized to the needs of your employees.
Albeit warranted by a separate and lengthy Wellness program design and strategy conversation, once you have a clear understanding of the direction for your customized Wellness program, based on a detailed analysis of employee Wellness needs, be sure obtain executive support, fund it appropriately, staff it, design an effective marketing and communications program, and keep it fun. Doing so will significantly increase your chances for Wellness program success and return on investment by way of employee satisfaction and healthcare premium cost containment.