Make Your Investment in Wellness Count


By Diane Taylor, CHRP

Workplace wellness programs have become the “thing to do.” With benefit and absenteeism costs increasing at alarming rates employers have jumped on board in an attempt to keep their costs level.

Additionally, good wellness programs serve as an attraction factor as part of an organization’s recruiting value proposition. Employees, today more than ever, are looking for employers that value work/life balance.

In fact, work/life balance is typically found among the top three factors in studies indicating what employees are looking for in an employer of choice.

It sounds like a simple and straight forward value added solution; if you implement a wellness program, you will save money and be more attractive to the best and brightest. Unfortunately, after years of trial and millions of dollars invested into such programs, the evidence is showing that this is not the case.

An October 2013 World at Work article outlined a study conducted by the Consero Group which indicated “nearly half, 47 per cent, of Fortune 1000 Chief Human Resources Officers (CHRO) believe their wellness programs are not effective.”

These same CHROs felt strongly that employee health deserves a prominent place on their list of priorities.

So where is the gap? If we agree that employees who are “well” perform at higher levels, contribute to the success of business objectives, and impact the bottom line, then how do we support wellness without wasting critical dollars?

All hope is not lost. We just need a different, more thoughtful, approach to human wellness to uncover meaningful gains in our workplace wellness programs and optimize our investment.

Here are four approaches to begin the shift to a proactive, individualized, holistic and employee-driven wellness offering that promises better results:

Approach #1 – Be proactive
Traditional wellness programs generally include reactive programs and offerings for their employees. An example would be medical and dental benefits. A significant element increasing benefit costs for employers is prescription drug claims. Historically it has not been uncommon to see benefit premium costs escalating as much as 10 per cent year over year. Prescription drugs are required after an employee develops a health concern. They are used to fix symptoms that have developed from a lack of wellness. The goal of shifting to a proactive wellness program is to increase employee health and vitality, decreasing the need for prescription drug usage, which in turn assists in stabilizing annual benefit premiums.

Approach #2 – Focus on individual rather than universal offerings
Imagine two teams preparing for the Superbowl. Team #1 has one coach that comes in everyday and runs all the players through the exact same drills. Team #2 has special coaches for specific positions who run their players through specific drills to enhance their performance within their assigned roles. Which team do you think has a better chance of winning the Superbowl? The same approach applies to workplace wellness strategies. Universal approaches do not have the same success rate as individualized programs. Although you may have a wellness program in place, if it is not designed to meet different needs it may not yield the results you are hoping for. The reality is that we do not run our businesses with robots. We run them with people and each person is a divinely unique individual that has specific challenges and is motivated to overcome them in different ways. In order to achieve a great return on investment in your wellness spending it is critical to look at how you can best individualize your offerings.

Approach #3 – Compliment the whole being
Most traditional wellness programs focus primarily on the physical aspects of the employee, yet human beings encompass physical, mental, emotional and spiritual realms. As a result it is important to develop a program that enables the employee to develop their wellness in all of these areas to get the most sustainable result.

Approach #4 – Make it employee driven
So often, with the very best intentions, we develop and implement programs we feel are going to make a significant impact on our business and are left wondering why they didn’t go as well as expected. Traditional workplace wellness programs are the same. A human resources person or group, sometimes in collaboration with an expert, determine what the program will include and how it will be implemented. The missing element here is individual ownership and accountability. When an individual designs and implements their own unique plan they have skin in the game. As a result they are much more likely to be accountable to their wellness and get results.

Make it happen!

Diane Taylor is a leadership and life design coach with 20 years of corporate HR experience. As principal of Glow Leadership, her purpose is to help people create meaningful balance by becoming leaders in all areas of their lives.

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