Friday, February 28, 2014

Wellness programs: impact on employee engagement

In his appalling documentary (Escape Fire), Matthew Heineman explores ways to renovate our Healthcare system. In a Forbes interview with Michael Lindenmayer, he highlights 4 things that need to change:

1.Americans must own their own health and invest in prevention.
2.Physicians and insurers must switch to health outcomes vs. disease management.
3.Companies and insurers must integrate health into corporate culture.
4.As a society heading to healthcare bankruptcy, we must talk about the issues and act NOW!

The #1 and #3 points have found echo with the surge of wellness programs. More and more companies are investing in such programs to manage employee retention, engagement and productivity, but also as a mean to decrease their healthcare costs.



What are wellness programs and why do many organizations offer them to their employees?

Traditional wellness programs include nutrition and weight control, smoking cessation (according to a new study from Micah Berman at Ohio State, the average smoking private sector employee costs companies $5,800 more per yearthan one who has never smoked), fitness and stress reduction.  Companies have found that these programs provide a significant return on investment, for the employer, the employee and their families, but obstacles are hard to overcome.
CVS was widely criticized in March when word leaked that its employees would have to submit to health screenings or pay an extra $50 per month for insurance. But the pharmacy chain isn’t exceptional: nearly half of large companies have wellness programs that measure workers on such factors as weight, blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation survey.
Johnson & Johnson, a leader in wellness programs, offers a $150 benefits bonus to overweight employees who reduce their body mass index by 10 percent. Its wellness program slowed the rate of increase of healthcare costs by $565 per employee. Citibank debuted a wellness program in 2008 and found that every dollar spent on wellness returns $2 to the company!

In her blog, Cornelia Gamlen offers ideas on how to make a wellness program successful. Wellness programs can be simple or they can be as complex as your organization desires. The key to a successful program is the buy-in from the CEO to the entry-level employee.  As John Tozzi from Bloomberg BusinessWeek pointed out, adding a wellness program won’t deliver savings or make employees healthier without deeper changes to the workplace. The workplace metamorphosis needed “is hard, and it’s hard to outsource that to an outside firm, so most companies don’t try”. 

Wellness programs are only a tool to renovate our Healthcare system. Dramatic and drastic changes in people’s lifestyle are necessary to carry out a healthcare revolution. Nevertheless, wellness programs are a step in the right direction, according to Geoffroy Verney-Carron founder of WellnessPaladins. First, the wellness program must be part of a bigger change in the company’s culture. As companies ought to innovate to survive to a rapid and constant evolving market, a wellness program can be part of the plan. As mentioned above, such programs increase productivity, employee retention: happy, healthy and engaged employees (see a previous blog on customer engagement) will carry the transformation towards a culture of innovation.
As for any major change with an organization, the top management must lead the charge and employees will follow. Most of innovative programs die because management does not carry it through. Policies, processes and procedures must accompany the change, not slow it down or inhibit it.

It is easier to be and stay motivated among a group of fellow workers working towards the same goal, than working alone towards a healthy lifestyle change. This is why wellness programs within companies have a higher rate of success than individual programs. Employees will support each other, motivate each other, which will translate in a similar collaboration on all work projects. Management will interact with employees as peers, running on the treadmill, lifting weights, in zumba classes, taking down hierarchy. When such employees have an idea they want to bring to management, they will no longer be afraid of hierarchy barriers. Again, health, happy and engaged employees will carry the transformation towards a culture of innovation.

How about your company? Does it have a wellness program? Do you believe such programs can help create and nurture employee engagement? Share your thoughts.

4 comments:

  1. Hello,

    impressive.....!! I just want you thanks for sharing this its gorgeous idea, and this is a great idea. Health and wellness programs are intended to improve and promote health and fitness they are usually offered through the work place, although insurance plans can offer them directly to their enrollment see more: employee health wellness programs

    Best regards
    Sathiaja Sarah

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