Communication and customization key to health and wellness programs

Although most Canadian employers understand the importance of workplace health and wellness programs, many aren’t delivering the right programs or communicating them to their employees effectively, according to a new survey by GoodLife Fitness.

Its survey of 200 Canadian senior leaders and HR managers, as well as more than 1,000 working Canadians, found that more than two-thirds (68%) of employer respondents feel they do an effective job communicating the details of available health and wellness benefits to employees, but 62% of employee respondents said they’re not fully aware of the benefits available to them.

Read: New Year’s resolutions for your benefits program

The survey also found that 62% of employers believe their health and wellness programs aren’t tailored to employee needs, but 61% of employees said they would be more inclined to participate in a health and wellness program if it was tailored to their individual needs.

The majority (83%) of those responsible for health and wellness benefits felt the programs they offer are sufficient, but 62% of employees said they would like to see more health and wellness benefits from their employer.

The survey also found:

  • 53% of employer respondents said lack of a budget is a barrier to starting health and wellness programs, while 41% cited lack of time.
  • 77% of employer respondents agreed that measuring the impact of their health and wellness program is important, yet 59% either have no measurement framework in place, or find measuring success a major challenge.
  • 52% of employer respondents rely on participation and satisfaction rates as their sole measurement, while only 13% track health metrics and 12% track staff productivity.

“Our research shows the more you invest in a workplace health and wellness program, the more you get out of it,” says Tammy Brazier, director, corporate and business development at GoodLife Fitness.

“We found health and wellness benefits are on management’s priority list, but many employers are missing the mark when it comes to customizing, communication and measuring the programs they offer.”

Read: The new rules of engagement

The report highlights input from companies, including John Brooks Company, which takes additional steps to consult employees and checks in regularly to ensure it offers the right programs.

“It’s important not to rely solely on engagement levels as a measurement metric, since not every session will be interesting to everyone,” said Heather Collis, general manager at John Brooks Company. “It’s about employee feedback and how it benefits them.

“Before any health and wellness activities began, we did a company-wide survey to gather information about employees’ current health and wellness practices, as well as their interests. We also asked questions about what environmental changes employees would like to see to support their well-being.

Heather Coy-Robinson, HR manager at CARPROOF, echoed the need to measure and respond to employee interests, though she also added that the next step is to demonstrate productivity and financial gains.

“When you track ROI it takes a long time to see results trends,” she added. “Once we did, it became much easier to secure continued funding for the program. The key was to show results as quickly as possible and communicate results in a way that would be attractive to management.”

Read the full survey