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Smart Benefits: The Secret to a Winning Wellness Program

Monday, May 21, 2012


The secret to a successful wellness program? Communicate, communicate, communicate.

The goal of workplace wellness programs is to improve health and slow healthcare costs. And to get there, a clear communication strategy is a must. The key? Frequent, action-oriented, deliberate and detailed outreach.

Below are some best-practice tips to help boost participation – and employee engagement.

Announce the program.

Don’t be shy when rolling out a wellness program; make it an event. In a kick-off meeting, position the program as an employee benefit the employer fully supports and be sure to involve leadership. Discuss with employees why program participation is so important, the goals the organization hopes to achieve, and how everyone can work towards them. Outline available activities and the timeframes for participation. And don’t forget to build up the incentives.

Provide a wellness summary plan description/benefit summary.

Results-based programs require plan documentation. And even though participation-based programs don’t, it helps to provide these written materials for these programs as well. The pieces should include a program description, incentive plan design, incentive schedule, activities and calendar of events. Results-based programs need to include all necessary legal language as well. Final pieces should be posted on your wellness and benefit portals for anytime access by employees.

Don’t assume participation: remind!

Whether you’re hosting a health screening event, inviting employees to be part of a team-based challenge or encouraging participation in a community fitness event, provide advance registration then establish a strategy for communicating with employees to ensure their participation. The methods can vary based on your population but emails, texts, tweets, paystub attachments and banner ads on the company intranet sites and portals are all good ways to reach employees. In them, use short, clear messages that drive employees to action – and don’t stop until participation goals are met.

Brand your program.

Name your program and develop a unique logo that’s recognizable and meaningful, yet ties in with your corporate identity. Use the branding on the portal and all program materials so they stand out from other corporate communications and incent employees to act.

Provide wellness portals.

Portals serve as a hub of wellness activity. Make them the go-to place for education, resources, team-based challenges, incentive tracking and social networking. To help shape content, track visits to the portal and participation in activities within it. But, remember: portals aren’t valuable unless they’re used so drive employees online with regular messages. Most importantly: make it a fun place to be.

Share success stories.

As the wellness program progresses, both individuals and teams will have success stories. Get permission from employees to share their stories with other employees, then post them in company newsletters, on bulletin boards and on the wellness portal. Not only will the stories encourage those employees involved to continue on their successful path, a little healthy competition is a great way to encourage other employees to reach their goals as well.

Post results.

After a cycle of activities is completed, be sure to report back to employees on progress and results. Share where the population health risks are, how future activities and participation will help reduce them and any new program goals or offerings. Don’t forget to survey employees to gauge their satisfaction with the program – perhaps the most important result of all.

Amy Gallagher has over 19 years of healthcare industry experience.  As Vice President at Cornerstone Group, she advises large employers on long-term cost-containment strategies, consumer-driven solutions and results-driven wellness programs. Amy speaks regularly on a variety of healthcare-related topics, is a member of local organizations like the Rhode Island Business Group on Health, HRM-RI, SHRM, WELCOA, and the Rhode Island Business Healthcare Advisory Council, and participates in the Lieutenant Governor’s Health Benefits Exchange work group of the Health Care Reform Commission.

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