Look and measure before leaping into a workplace wellness program

It wouldn’t be reasonable to proceed with a blood transfusion without first confirming blood type, or order eyeglasses without first confirming the prescription. Why then, do so many organizations launch a workplace wellness program without first confirming the actual health risk areas applicable to their employee population, as well as the cost drivers to the benefits plan?

The most comprehensive program won’t improve the health of an organization if the content isn’t relevant to the population it’s trying to reach. It may seem like a daunting task to identify specific health risk areas and cost drivers across an entire company, but if stakeholders take the right approach, it can actually be quite painless.

Read: How to conquer employee resistance to your wellness program

It’s important to maintain the proper levels of confidentiality throughout the process, especially if an employer has the internal resources to collect and analyze the appropriate data, and reach a conclusion with a set of recommended focus areas. An easy way to alleviate that concern, along with the challenges of internal workloads, is to hire an external consultant to perform this task. Whether it’s conducted internally or externally, the results of an analysis should reveal the organization’s current health risk areas and cost drivers.

An additional benefit to identifying the foundational data is that it’s now possible to measure the progress of a wellness program and benchmark it against that initial data. This will provide a simplified presentation of the program’s achieved return, through the reduction of costs, claims, turnover and increases in engagement, productivity and performance. 

Employers can collect an array of information during the initial analysis. Alongside health and drug claims, this can also include any other applicable and quantifiable data, such as an employee assistance program’s utilization, disability leaves and absence tracking, employee surveys and a health risk assessment’s aggregate reports. The more information included in the initial analysis, the more comprehensive the content of the resulting wellness program.

Read: Followup, support key to helping wellness champions maintain success

During that first analysis, employers should determine their attainable goals and then allow for two-to-three years of consistent programming before taking the next assessment. Depending on the proportion of qualitative data within the objectives, the return may be minimal in the first comparison to the benchmark data. But if an employer maintains conviction in the program and allows for progress within the program, the results will continue to evolve.

As well, the program’s content doesn’t have to rely on technology, gamification or complex challenges, as long as the education behind the content is relevant to the population and available to them through multiple means. In the initial development phase, employers should take the extra time, as they would with the introduction of any benefits or pension initiative, setting the stage for a successful launch and ongoing engagement that will produce positive change in the organization.