Involving People in Wellness

Figure 1: Program Elements in Wellness Programs

A few readers sent emails describing the degree to which their employees fight to avoid their wellness programs.  Like many fundamental things in life, taking care of your health easily falls in the great idea, but poor in execution category.  We all know we should take better care of ourselves by eating right, exercising, and sleeping enough, but something always seems to be in the way.

For anyone that has changed a personal habit for the better, change starts with the decision to make a change and taking the first step forward. Although personal will plays a huge role in successful change, research points toward external factors as well.  As people, we have different motivators, but a few common motivators include financial rewards, recognition, more opportunities, social interaction, or other non-monetary rewards.

Most wellness programs utilize external motivators to appeal to internal desire.  Some of the most common motivators include small prizes, competitive contests, and public recognition.  Each highlights the employee’s achievement and keeps others interested and engaged in the effort.  HCS in its 2011 Workplace Wellness Survey found that most programs utilize some method of public recognition to gain support for the wellness program followed closely by non-cash prizes (see Figure 1). The joining of recognition and prizes fits well with having recognition ceremonies, lunches, or other social events.  Cash, time off, and a reduced insurance premium appear a lot less (below 25 percent of the respondents).  The same respondents felt that the following made a difference in the success of their program:

  • Make being health a priority for the organization
  • Link healthiness to corporate and personal goals
  • Involve everyone in the organization
  • Make it fun
  • Interject some minor competitive element
  • Recognize milestones along the way as well as overall outcomes
  • Assign someone in each work unit to be the program liaison

As human resource leaders, if we want our wellness programs to be successful, we have to determine what makes people want to participate.


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