Why? May 14th, 2014, by Ken Buckley

How well you explain the “why” behind your workplace wellness program can make or break its success.

Employees need to both understand and believe your explanation of the reasons and benefits for your corporate health initiatives.

Most organisations have the same core reasons for investing in a wellness program, with a few variations of course. These could include: improving productivity, reducing absenteeism and presenteeism, reducing injuries and compensation claims, increasing employee engagement, strengthening your employer brand with the associated talent retention and attraction benefits and so on.

How you translate these into reasons and benefits that employees can relate to is vital.

Business and personal

There are two types of “why” you need to explain. First is the business reason — why is your organisation investing in a wellness program? Second is the personal reason — why should employees take part; what will they get out of it?

1.    Business reasons

Your employees are smart. They know you’re not going to pay for health services simply out of the goodness of your heart. Give them respect and explain the hard business reasons behind the new program.

If your core aim is to reduce absenteeism rates, then say so. Chances are your employees are frustrated at other team members who are off sick too often.

If your aim is to address a pressing issue such as stress, then say so. For example, you can say you know it’s been an intense year for everybody, and you want to help them manage their stress and look after their health.

If one of your main reasons is to boost your employer brand and improve retention rates, then say so. “We have so many talented people working for us, and we want to keep you.”

Most employees can see the links between business success and their own job security or career development. It’s OK to talk about business costs such as absenteeism and compensation claims. Do follow it with more personal benefits, so you’re not only talking about employees as numbers or dollars.

For example, “Our absenteeism rates are above industry norms, and we want to reduce these, for our business’s sake and yours. We want you to feel great all year round.”

2. Personal reasons

Switch on your employees’ internal motivation drivers by pointing out what’s in it for them.

This is where you focus on the end results of your program — what will they gain from taking part? Talk about having more energy, boosting immunity, feeling and looking great, improved mood and concentration, or a better night’s sleep.

Be consistent

This explanation needs to be consistent across all the ways your employees hear and read about your program. That is, what your CEO says needs to be reflected in the explanations given by your team leaders, wellness champions and promotional materials.

Of course, there’s a time to talk business reasons and a time for personal benefits. Use the personal reasons when you’re promoting the individual activities, and save the business reasons for the launch and overviews.

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