In corporate wellness strategies, measurement is often the missing component. To achieve its goals, a corporate wellness strategy must be able to answer two questions: Are we making a difference in employee health? And, is that difference resulting in a positive return on investment (ROI) and cost savings for the corporation? Without a defined measurement component, it’s impossible to know if these outcomes are being achieved.

Employers pay more for unhealthy employees. The costs saved in terms of employee health resulting from effective wellness programs are often greater than the cost of the programs themselves, meaning that wellness initiatives can pay for themselves within the first few years of implementation. Organizations such as Canada Life, Dupont, Prudential Insurance and Citibank report positive ROI in the range of $2 to $6.85 savings for each $1 invested in employee wellness.

The design of a successful corporate wellness strategy—built with ROI in mind—should start with a health risk assessment (HRA), which measures employees’ current health status. The resulting information—a personalized health report for individual employees and an aggregate report for the whole organization that does not identify individual employees—allows the employer to establish a baseline around which to design wellness interventions that target the prevalent health issues among its employee base. And the information gathered through an HRA makes it easier to measure employees’ progress in making those health changes—thereby demonstrating ROI.

Following completion of an HRA, wellness interventions aimed to address identified health issues can be implemented. During this stage, measures such as participation, satisfaction and comparisons of different interventions are examined.

Current research suggests an employee participation level in wellness programs of at least 60% is needed for ROI to be realized. As a result, it is important to engage employees in corporate wellness through accessibility and communication.

Employees spend a majority of their time at the office, so employers that offer a variety of wellness activities aimed at different demographics and fitness levels, and at different times of the day, are most likely to see their employees connect with something that improves their health.

Participation is also heightened by activities that are group-oriented and foster positive peer pressure, camaraderie and recognition. Online interventions, such as a social media component, can enable employees to interact with one another and engage in peer mentoring. Additionally, incentives—financial and otherwise—offered to employees for completing wellness challenges are proven to raise participation levels. Incentives should be linked to specific health outcomes or goals so ROI can be clearly measured.

To effectively engage employees around wellness, it’s essential to communicate wellness program initiatives, program goals and incentives available for employees who participate. Create messaging that is clear, consistent and widely circulated. Management-driven communication around wellness is also invaluable—employees are more likely to participate if they can see that the organization’s commitment to wellness starts at the top.

A corporate wellness program can pay dividends by making employees healthier and increasing productivity. But to fully judge success and justify continued investment in wellness, employers need to effectively measure ROI around the corporate goals for wellness. Start with an HRA to create a wellness baseline and to determine which health considerations you should be building your wellness programs around. Then, generate participation levels needed to achieve that ROI through variety, incentives and communication. The continued health of your organization depends on it.

Lydia Makrides is the president of Creative Wellness Solutions.

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Copyright © 2017 Transcontinental Media G.P. This article first appeared in Benefits Canada.

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