Ann Wyatt, Regional Vice President, HealthFitness
While Sibson's Healthy Enterprise Study found that 40 percent of all health management programs are not effective, research shows that organizations adopting the most effective programs—those in the top 25 percent-- experienced 16 percent lower healthcare costs and a 35 percent lower rate of increase in costs than the rest.1,2
Well-designed programs lead to improved retention, better employee morale and increased productivity. Reams of data support that.3,4,5
It would seem the answer is simply to build a good program. However, it's not that simple; what works varies by workplace, income, age and a host of other factors. The task is to develop the right program for your target group. Research6 published in September found comprehensive workplace programs do work, but their success depends on program goals, design and implementation. The program must fit into the organization's culture.
For instance, a focus group conducted for a client of HealthFitness – a large manufacturing plant population, found that some of wellness program names sounded too "feminine" to attract the rural, blue-collar, mostly male workers. Messages about the importance of good health weren't effective, but "Get fit for hunting season" was.
Another example: A technology company with employees making six figures launched a health management program. The incentive to complete a health assessment and attend a biometric screening? A $25 gift card. The participation rates were dismal.
Employees want meaningful and relevant programs.7,8
It needn't be costly, and success isn't reserved for the mega-firms. Kramer Beverage, a small company in New Jersey, earned American Heart Association recognition for its efforts to keep employees healthy. The company provides gym membership discounts, offers healthful food options at meetings and in vending machines, and has created a walking track outside the building.
Another small company with a limited budget wanted to test the wellness program waters but was concerned it didn't have the funds to make a big splash. The company started by putting a bowl of fruit in every break room once per week. The buzz it created revealed that employees were hungry for health.
It comes down to finding out what employees are "hungry" for and "feeding" them the means to reach their goals. That can vary widely, from shaving 10 seconds off a 5K time to being readier to hunt. You don't have to build the perfect health management program--just the right one.
1Healthy Enterprise Study, Sibson Consulting, (Winter 2011)
2Steven F. Cyboran and Sadhna Paralkar, MD. "Wellness Program ROI Depends on Design and Implementation" Society for Human Resource Management, July 26, 2013
3Parks, K., et al. "Organizational Wellness Programs: A Meta-Analysis." Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 2008
4Goetzel RZ, et al. "Do workplace health promotion (wellness) programs work?" J Occup Environ Med. 2014 Sep;56(9):927-34
52013 Aflac WorkForces Report conducted by Research Now
6J Occup Environ Med. 2014 Sept. op. cit.
7Aon Consumer Health Mindset,
8"Five voluntary trends to watch in 2014." BenefitsPro , Dec. 13, 2013