Most worksite wellness programs are not making a difference. You do want your program to make a difference don’t you?
Possible Disconnect #1:
Most worksite wellness programs created today are being created by employers in an attempt to help them control or curb employee healthcare or health insurance costs. Compare this fact to the results obtained by WELCOA (Wellness Council of America) in a 2013 survey of worksite wellness professionals. The survey of 785 wellness professionals revealed that 504 or 64.2 % of them reported they entered the field of wellness to help others. This compared to 199 or 16.2% who reported they entered the field to help organizations move forward.
So, if the majority of wellness professionals responding to the survey entered the field to help others, but their program’s purpose is to move the organization forward by saving or reducing employee healthcare spend, what kind of disconnect might this create?
Possible Disconnect #2:
Which are we trying to address – health or wellness? Since the purpose of most wellness programs today is health related cost reduction or savings, the focus of most programs is employee health risk reduction. Note that while the focus is on physical health, we call what we do worksite wellness. Is there a difference between health and wellness?
Like other fields, we in the field of worksite wellness throw around a lot of terms or jargon, but how clearly do we define the words or terms we use? For example, consider health and wellness. Are we clear about what we mean when we use the terms health and wellness? Are these terms synonymous and therefore interchangeable? Does it make any difference?
A review of definitions would suggest that maybe the distinction between health and wellness is not particularly clear. Could this be an explanation for why this possible disconnect might exist?
A widely cited definition of health is the World Health Organization’s 1948 definition: “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease and infirmity.” Unfortunately, the WHO does not define or elaborate on what a state of well-being is.
According to the National Wellness Institute, “there appears to be general agreement that:
- Wellness is a conscious, self-directed and evolving process of achieving full potential
- Wellness is multidimensional and holistic, encompassing lifestyle, mental and spiritual well-being and the environment
- Wellness is positive and affirming
The definition of wellness long used by the National Wellness Institute is consistent with these tenants. Wellness is an active process through which people become aware of and make choices towards a more successful existence.”
Based on these definitions alone, what is the difference between health and wellness? If we are not clear on definitions, what we are trying to accomplish and how we should best do it, might this not be a possible disconnect?
Possible Disconnect #3:
Are we trying to create customers or loyal followers? Another way to ask this question is: Are we seeking employees to participate or are we seeking employees to engage in wellness?
Some professionals in the field argue that the use of incentives needs to be a core component of a worksite wellness program. I found it very interesting that a recent Towers Watson/National Business Group on Health survey (2013/2014 Staying @ Work Survey) found that come 2015/2016 61% of the U.S. companies responding to the survey (892 employers in the U.S.) reported they will penalize workers for not completing required health management activities. The same survey found that 71% of the responding U.S. companies will reward or penalize employee tobacco use and 68% will reward or penalize employees for unhealthy biometric screening outcomes in 2015/2016.
So just what does the use of incentives get the employer? My understanding of the incentives research literature is that the research results are quite clear: incentives (extrinsic motivators) are great for getting customers and participants, but not so good for establishing followers or for employees engaged in maintaining healthy lifestyle behaviors long-term.
Loyal followers or engagement is based on a strong emotional connection between the product or service and the target market. Connecting emotionally transforms the customer into a follower – someone who is emotionally connected to the brand. Emotional connection taps into intrinsic motivators, as opposed to extrinsic motivators.
So is your use of incentives creating a possible program disconnect for you?
Successful and sustainable worksite wellness and wellbeing programs are properly designed, properly implemented and adequately resourced.