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Published on : January 15, 2014

ThreeStyles of Communication that Will Keep Your Employees Engaged in your Wellness Program

ThreeStyles of Communication that Will Keep Your Employees Engaged in your Wellness Program

With the rise of the chronic diseases like obesity and heart disease, and the increasing cost of employer health insurance claims, there couldn’t be a more critical time to cultivate a healthy workplace culture.The evidence is there- the corporate wellness industry as a whole is gaining momentum with an expected net worth of $6 billion by 2015.  While coverage claims are skyrocketing in cost, employers are struggling to combat the increased absenteeism, reduced productivity and degraded well-being that comes with poor health.

Creatinga culture of wellness in the workplace requires strategic communication that aims to engage employees in their own personal path to health.A strong wellness program takes time to grow and evolve before becoming fully woven into the culture of a company. Strategic communication with employees can facilitate this integration so that wellness becomes an intrinsic part of the work day.
While wellness programs vary in scope and structure, wellness agendas that have proven most successful are those thatare able to engage employees on an individual level. Such personal engagement calls for cultivatingawareness, participation, motivation and recognition for healthy behaviors. These principles of engagement are carried outthrough the overarching umbrella of communication, which will determine how a wellness program will be accepted, how it will perform, and how it willactually affect your company’s bottom line. The most ideal program can demonstrate that the company is saving money and also increasing employee satisfaction.

Successful communication in any wellness program should beof 3 qualities: educational, motivational and personalized. Changing behavioral habits is fundamental to improving one’s personal wellness, and it requires deep personal investment to do so. Incorporating these 3 qualities of communication will help ensure that your program taps into each employee in an individual and impactfulway.

Educational communication shouldpromoteawareness of the most chronic health issues plaguing our world today. This is critical as employees need to know why they should participate in your company’s wellness program, and how their participation will result in positive outcomes. Providing educational content with real life, impactful  statistics, percentages and studies, in a way that’s accessible – through newsletters, flyers, workshops, and resource libraries - will inform your employees about  the consequences of an unhealthy lifestyle,ultimately aiding them in becoming more health conscious and following through with preventative measures. Communicating the preventative measures that can reverse and prevent chronic disease, whether it isthrough yoga, nutritional insights, or meditation, and integrating these measures into your wellness programthrough educational materials and onsite, available resources, will inform employees of actionable steps that they can take to improve and maintain their health.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 75% of health care costs in the United States are due to chronic conditions such as heart disease, cancer and obesity, and chronic diseases account for 7 in 10 deaths each year in the United States.  Chronic conditions are also the most preventable, but actionable steps need to be taken. Corporate wellness programs need to educate their employees about the current healthcare crisis while emphasizing the importance of preventative action and providing actionable services.

Building employee participation in your wellness program can be bolstered through motivational communication.  Health coaching, onsite wellness classes, support workshops and webinars are all effective vehicles to provide motivating communication. Leadership in the wellness space is powerful for aspiring new habits. Designating an onsite wellness program manager, director or counselor can help provide employees with an inspiring guide and steady leader.

Encouraging employees to participate can be strengthened by incorporating incentives –providing recognitions or rewardscan work to highlight the results of positive behavior. Options for incentives are limitless, and being creative with your incentive program will go a long way. Building unique and dynamic programs that challenge, stimulate and reward your employees in a deep way will keep them invested. From monetary awards and social recognition platforms, to competitions, results dashboards, and paid days off, incentives ignite enthusiasm and drive by creating tangible end- goals.

Communication is most effective when it’stargeted, and in the corporate wellness space, targeted means personalized.When it comes to health, one size does not fit all.  Health and wellness is unique to each individual, and each employee will require a different path. By basing goals on individual metrics such as biometric screenings to help identify health targets, employers can demonstrate their vision for a personalized approach to achieving those goals. Further, by connecting employees with a variety of options –both mainstream and alternative health services - employees can pick and choose to find the solution that works best for them. Research shows that engagement and meaningful change comes when employees find the health resource that piques their own, individual interest.

To further personalize your program, providing a wellness tool that employees can use to take control of and track their own wellness solutions, whether it be a measurement dashboard, an activity tracking device, an app or a resource portal for locating and booking healthcare services, will help employees learn to become empowered throughchoosing, planning and following through with preventative health measures. The majority of health care costs can be attributed to lifestyle, and lifestyle can be changed. A personalized program needs to be sustainable, and communicating the importance of taking ownership of health needs will ensure sustainable lifestyle practices over time.

Overtime, employers can correlate program participation with claims data and measure the efficacy and cost-effectiveness of particular program elements. Enabling your employees to communicate back to you about the effectiveness of your program is invaluable. Launching surveys, tracking, progress reports, and other feedback vehicles will provide you with insight as to whether or not the program is impactful. Communication should never be a one way street.

The success of corporate wellness programs is largely driven by the strategic communication that fuels it, and the real challenge is often in the execution. A great program takes time to grow and evolve, and to become fully woven into the culture of a company over time. Ultimately, your company should live and breathe wellness inside and out, with the goal always being healthier employees.