Top tips for planning and implementing a successful corporate health and wellness program December 20th, 2012, by Ken Buckley

Planning and implementing a corporate health and wellness program can seem like a huge challenge. But if you’ve been following our four step proven process of prepare, assess, plan & implement and evaluate, you’ll find the actual design and implementation of your corporate health and wellness program is really straightforward.

You’ll know which aspects of your organisational culture need a health fix; you’ll have identified the biggest health issues faced by your employees, you’ll have gained and shown leadership support, you’ll have garnered the support of your employees, and you’ll have identified or developed a program that meets best practice criteria.

If you’ve gone with a third party provider like Healthworks, your provider will guide you through the implementation process step by step. They’ll help you choose the best tools and activities for your employees’ needs, they’ll have the backend system all set up for you, and they’ll give you materials to help you promote and market it internally.

If you’re designing your program from scratch, or you’re looking for more expertise to help you make your existing workplace health program better, here are some top tips to keep in mind.

1. Make it easy

Your corporate health and wellness program needs to be easy to join, easy to do and easy to track.

If being healthy was easy, everyone would do it. There are many roadblocks on the way to a healthy lifestyle – some external, many internal. The role of a workplace health and wellness program is to either remove these roadblocks or give employees the tools and knowledge they need to overcome them.

Some managers worry about losing their most engaged employees –­ the already health conscious or the natural go-getters — ­ if they make it too simple. Yes, these employees probably already exercise regularly, and probably know how many serves of veggies they should eat. But they are also very busy, and even they aren’t going to bother if it takes up too much of their valuable work time.

And remember, easy doesn’t necessarily mean simplistic. You can have a comprehensive, scientifically-based program that’s still very easy to join and do.

Firstly, the initial signup needs to be easy. Consider setting up a room of laptops on your “launch day” with Wellness Committee members on hand to help out, so employees can attend an intro session and then sign up then and there.

Secondly, the activities need to be clear and straightforward. Make sure employees know exactly what they need to do for each task.

Also, plan activities that have a low “barrier to entry”. A program which encourages employees to move more, regardless of the type of exercise, is going to show all employees that how much better they feel after moving a bit more, and how easy it is to incorporate more movement into their day.

Thirdly, the tracking or other “housekeeping” needs to be easy. Most employees already have too much to do. If they perceive that keeping up with the program requires too much paperwork or form-filling or other annoying tasks, they won’t bother. Ensure your backend system is quick and painless to use.

Make it fun

The “fun factor” will not only attract employees who would otherwise be turned off by health-talk, but will have significant flow-on effects in your overall employee engagement and socialisation.

A fun, vibrant, active and inclusive health and wellness program is one of the best medicines around for your organisational culture – and your employer brand.

Make it about them

Let’s talk key messages. A critical factor in the success of your program is how to you talk about it and market it to your employees. You need to create some compelling key messages, and use them creatively and consistently.

Too often, organisations get caught up in key messages about the organisation: “This health and wellness program demonstrates our commitment to the wellbeing of our employees”. They focus it on employer brand — how wonderful it is to work here because we have such a great health & wellness program; how caring they are as an organisation.

These are better saved for your key messages to get buy-in from your leadership. Your employees don’t want to hear about how great you are as an employer, they want to know what’s in it for them.

WIIFM­ — What’s In It For Me ­– needs to be at the front and centre of your messages throughout the entire program.

Focus on the real and personal benefits of taking part, how you’ll feel better (fitter, slimmer, stronger), sleep better, relax better. Use internal success stories to keep on reminding employees of the benefits. Better still, use mini “testimonials” from real employees: “I can fit into my skinny jeans: Jenny, HR”; “I’m having the best sleep I’ve had in years: Ray, IT”.

Show employees that it’s based on their PHA results

(or health risk appraisal (HRA) or other type of personal health risk assessment)

It goes without saying that you’ll base your program on your aggregate health risk assessment results (make sure you choose a PHA or HRA which gives you an quick and clear aggregate report!)

But it’s also important to tell employees that you’ve designed the program around these results. This is also a good time to reassure them that the results are confidential and you don’t have any identifying data such as names.

This will help boost employees’ confidence and engagement in the program. They’ll be able to see how the program can help them with the problem areas raised by their own PHA – it’s a direct and natural WIIFM (see above).

Make it meet your real objectives

While most organisations’ objective is to improve employee health, and in so doing, reduce presenteeism and absenteeism and boost productivity, there are many other secondary objectives within.

Some of these are stated (employee retention, employer brand, employee engagement), but many other “real” objectives are not listed in the formal proposals and presentations. These objectives could be to create a sense of energy and activity in the workplace, or to uncover pockets of health issues (in which teams is smoking a particular issue, or stress?), or to reunify teams and boost morale after a difficult restructure.

When choosing your health and wellness activities, make sure they’ll deliver what you really need to demonstrate success in your particular workplace culture. If your objective is to uncover heath issues, focus first on health checks, such as healthy heart check.  If your objective is more around employee morale, focus first on group-based activities which bring disparate groups together, such as motivational campaigns.

Provide lots of variety

Even though your PHA will show you the key focus areas, every employee is different. They not only have different health issues, but they’ll respond to different kinds of incentives and activities.

A best practice corporate health program offers many avenues and approaches to good health – it will offer exercise options, nutrition options, and ideally some mental and emotional health approaches too.

Likewise, a best practice health and wellness program will offer many options when it comes to the “how”. Some employees will want to do things on their own, in their own time. Others are more motivated and inspired by doing it as a group. Others will need the help of their spouse or friend or other family member.

Show progress

Even the most motivated employees will be more motivated if they can see their progress or get rewards along the way.

Make sure your health and wellness program includes some kind of tracking and incentives system, so participants can clearly see, and reap, the rewards of their progress as they improve their health.

You may want to consider an inbuilt rewards program, where employees can earn points for each task, and score a major rewards prize at the end.

We’ll talk more about the benefits of incentives in our next blog, including how to motivate and incentivise your employees to truly engage in your corporate health program.

 

[This blog is the tenth in a series on how to deliver a best practice workplace health and wellness program. Start at our first blog here – how to create behaviour change through your workplace health program. In our next blog, we look at the best way to use incentives to drive genuine engagement in your health & wellness program.]

 

Healthworks provides annual programs and a wide range of other corporate health and wellness services. In 2013 we are introducing a  new type of workplace health solution called WellSteps, which gives you an effective, easy and evidence-based approach to workplace health.  Contact us on 1300 90 10 90 or email us for more info.

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