It’s no secret that healthy employees can mean a healthier benefits budget. Study after study shows that employers who create and sustain a culture of wellness in the workplace really can spend less on health benefits. They also see less absenteeism and fewer disability claims. And let’s not forget their employees are more productive on the job. If you’ve ever been to an HR convention, you already know this. If not, go ahead and Google it. We’ll wait.
Convinced? So, you hear a lot about workplace wellness, but you get little guidance for making it successful. The fact is, you can’t just toss a program on the table and expect employees to pick it up, let alone embrace it. Wellness must become a way of life, deeply embedded in your company’s mission and values, policies and procedures, and your health benefits. But, if you want to truly maximize the return on your investment, your employees have to want it too. You need to motivate them and keep them engaged. Communication is a key ingredient to achieving this.
Explain to employees the reasons, goals and benefits of the program
In a Fidelity Investments survey, employers’ top three gauges for program success were participation, engagement and employee feedback. Where health improvement programs were not working well, employers chose most often to re-evaluate their overall strategy and/or increase communications. Employees, their families and supervisors need to know what you’re doing and why with consistent messaging about the value and direction of the program. Employers should communicate early and often, but with a long-term communications strategy.
Use a variety of communication media
For example, some successful organizations use posters and bulletin boards to deliver information and reminders. Others use health and wellness themed newsletters, while still others hold ‘lunch-n-learn’ presentations to raise understanding of the overall program.
Common communication methods for employers include emails, intranet and websites; face-to-face presentations; and posters, flyers, and print publications to engage employees. Some also use virtual meetings, social media, videos and podcasts, more so today as technology improves and becomes more prevalent.
Independent branding also helps to create recognition of wellness information. Give the program a name, mascot or theme. For example, you can create a wellness program logo that complements the company’s logo.
Create a communication timeline
Many wellness programs kick off with strong messaging and management support, but then the task of creating and sending communications falls to the bottom of the "to do" list. Employee engagement can fizzle out along with it.
It helps to include a communications plan with the overall strategy of the wellness program. You can get outside help for this if needed.
At kickoff, provide clear, motivating information about wellness programs, how they work, and any incentives for participation.
Throughout the year, provide health and wellness tips and incentive or program reminders to keep employees engaged. Remember to include family members who are also members of the health insurance plan because they, too, contribute to the cost of your health benefits.
Refresh your materials each year. Communicate successes and program changes to re-motivate employees and families.
Remember that a “culture” is an ongoing and consistent practice
It takes several years to realize full return on investment and, once achieved, continuation of programs and communications is key to maintaining cost savings.
Jeanette Juryea is President of QubComm, your Corporate Communications department in the virtual Qubicle next door. Send an email to Jeanette@qubcomm.com for professional writing, editing and design services from award-winning writers. You can also ask about writer training, brand/style guide development, existing communications analysis and more.