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The keys to a successful corporate wellness programme

If you’d asked someone 20 years ago what corporate wellness your question would have been received with blank stares and scratched heads, no longer. Over the past two decades corporate wellness has become big business with almost all large companies now employing wellness professionals.

The rapid growth within the industry has given rise to a number of trends such as enforced health screenings and more recently ubiquitous wearable devices such as fitbit. However, as with all fast growing industries there has been a certain amount of trail and error in terms of what is effective.

The mass health screenings that took place in the early 2000s proved to cause more harm than good and it remains to be seen if devices such as fitbit can make meaningful change from a corporate wellness standpoint.

Given the turbulent nature of the industry corporate wellness professionals are rightly anxious that the programmes they invest company money in will provide good ROI, both for the health of their staff and the health of their career.

Here are five great tips to make sure the corporate wellness initiatives you invest money and time in are successful and create lasting change within your company.

Keep it simple

Simplicity is key in any successful wellness programme. If your programme is to complicated or requires your staff to fill in forms that resemble a tax return people will loose interest very quickly.

The goals you set participants should be easy for them to track and equally simple for you as the programme lead to verify. If you are loosing sleep over whether participants are actually taking part or just saying they are it’s time for a rethink.

Wherever possible the progress of participants should be tracked automatically and collated in a simple easy to read format. There are some very good wellness software programmes out there which can help you keep track of your programme.

Likewise, the aims of your wellness programme should be easy to explain. If you can’t explain what you are trying to achieve in a few sentences the chances are the programme is either to ambitious or lacks focus.

They may not seem as exciting at first but a simple corporate wellness programme is almost always more effective.

Engagement not participation

A common mistake wellness professionals make is getting too fixated on participation numbers. It may look great at first when you present to management a participation rate of 60%. However, if that 60% is poorly engaged you will run into issues further down the line.

When employees are simply going through the motions and not fully engaged with improving their health you will not see positive health outcomes. This means that although the participation stats are fantastic the ROI will not follow as employee health won’t have improved.

Remember that it is all about positive health outcomes. If you can genuinely improve the health of 20% of the workforce that is much better than having 60% jump through meaningless hoops.

Incentives are great but don’t rely on them

Incentivising your corporate wellness programme is a fantastic way to boost participation but it can’t be your only tactic. If the only reason staff are participating in your wellness programme is because of the perks, be they financial or otherwise, the programme will not be sustainable.

The goal of every wellness programme should be to have employees participating because they want to improve their health. Incentives can be a great way to get things going but at a certain point the motivation has to come from within.

To creating a lasting culture of health within your company it is best to have great incentives that get people on board with the programme. However, they must stay based on the strength of the wellness programme not because of the perks.

Communication is key

With the smorgasbord of corporate wellness solutions available these days it may seem like the hardest thing is choosing your programme. Unfortunately choosing the programme is just the beginning, then the hard work really begins!

It’s all well and good having an amazing wellness programme but that’s useless if nobody knows about it. Developing an effective comms strategy is crucial to the success of your corporate wellness programme.

The most effective comms strategies work from the top of the chain of command down. If you can get buy in from people in senior management positions and have them communicate that buy in down the chain you are well on your way to a successful programme.

Our experience with StepJockey has shown us that you can’t rely on the majority of staff to take the initiative on their own health. Most of the work force will require regular encouragement and a well thought out comms plan will ensure that your workforce have the support they need to improve their health.

Understand your workforce

The average workforce can be broken down in to 4 rough groups based on how they will respond to a corporate wellness programme.

  • The first 20% are the people who are already healthy - they are invested in their personal health and don’t really need your help. There is a good chance that this section of the workforce will take part and do so enthusiastically but your programme should not be geared towards them.
  • The next 30% are people who are interested in improving their health but will need some encouragement from you and your programme. A good wellness programme should engage this group without too much effort on your part.
  • The next 30% are the people who will require some serious begging and pleading from you. They are aware of the benefits of improving their health but it is not a priority for them. Your ability to engage this section may make or break your programme.
  • The final 20% are those that couldn’t care less about their health or your programme, whatever tactic you try is unlikely to have any impact. That is not to say you should exclude them entirely from your programme but don’t loose sleep over them!

Understanding that these demographics exist within the company is crucial to targeting your programme. Any good corporate wellness strategy will target the middle 60% as they will gain the most benefit with the least input from you.

If your programme is targeting to strongly towards the top 20% you may see great engagement but poor ROI and if you spend too much time chasing those who are set in their ways your engagement will suffer.

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