July 29, 2022

3 Steps to Maximizing Health & Wellbeing Engagement

Simple steps to maximizing health and wellbeing engagement.
Employees who believe that management is concerned about them as a whole person - not just an employee - are more productive, more satisfied, more fulfilled. Satisfied employees mean satisfied customers, which leads to profitability.
- Anne M. Mulcahy

It's easy to forget that health and wellbeing programs are about helping employees be their best. For the longest time, the sole focus was on lowering claims to show an immediate return on investment. 

In the early days of health and wellbeing, the financial gatekeepers set program strategies with a narrow focus on cutting costs. Fortunately, that’s changing with new, more cost-effective options and a better understanding of the value health and wellbeing can deliver. That’s  not to say programs should spend money without concern for return, but maximizing engagement and value does mean taking a broader perspective on program goals.

Revisit Program Goals

Engagement will naturally suffer if lowering claims cost is the sole metric for the program: 

  1. Only those who have high claims expenses will be engaged. 
  2. The program will narrowly focus on a limited set of challenges and solutions.
  3. Individuals are less likely to feel supported.

Instead, to maximize engagement and potential value, the program goals should expand to focus on the many ways a well-designed program can deliver value:  

  1. Improve productivity
  2. Increase customer satisfaction
  3. Reduce presenteeism and absenteeism
  4. Lower turnover
  5. Increase profitability
  6. Reduce healthcare costs
  7. Improve company culture

With these more broadly defined goals, the program investments are more likely to improve the bottom line and see more engagement. However, achieving these goals requires another step.

Personalize

First, let’s come together on what personalizing means:

  1. Meeting an individual where they are
  2. Giving the individual what they need most at the moment
  3. Continually moving the individual forward on the path to achieving their idea of “better” 

For health and wellbeing engagement, personalizing means we must accept that only the employee can decide their “better” and what is holding them back from achieving it. For example, even if biometrics say someone is overweight, personalizing means letting them decide the most important thing for them to address right now. 

Personalizing is important because it leverages the brain science of “personally meaningful.” Simply put, we are all bombarded endlessly with sensory inputs and choose where to focus our attention through relevance or what is  “personally meaningful” to us. Relevance is a powerful lens made up of our values and priorities through which we filter out those things that don’t have immediate importance to us. 

In the traditional program, a large portion of the budget is spent on persuading individuals to override their lens and focus on what the program deems are the priorities. For many reasons we'll cover in a later post, this is a losing proposition.

In contrast, the personalizing strategy spends significantly less on persuading individuals to take a pre-defined path. Instead, the majority of dollars are spent on expanding the breadth and scope of the program to meet as many members as possible where they are right now.

Add Breadth and Scope

If the only way someone improves is by taking positive steps, then engagement becomes the overriding metric for program success. The more people motivated to act, the greater the program’s impact.

To that end, instead of trying to convince someone to start where they are not yet ready for change (or fully committed), the better alternative is to offer as many starting points and growth paths as possible through wider program breadth and scope - addressing more life challenges and providing more ways to take positive action. 

For example, if someone is not ready to address their weight or diabetes, but they are ready to address their stress level or finances, then that’s engagement, progress, and a win. If someone is not ready to exercise but they are ready to practice meditation, that’s another win.  

Wrap Up

When someone gets engaged and overcomes any challenge that’s been holding them back, an amazing thing happens - their confidence and outlook both improve. No matter how small the success may seem, it's all interconnected so any progress is a step in the right direction and a success that can be built upon. 

As far as return on investment, what company wouldn’t benefit from employees having more self-confidence, new skills, and a better outlook on life?