The concept of member engagement at first glance appears to be the unreachable Holy Grail of improving member health and wellness outcomes. Two truths from this concept are: 1) Increasing and sustaining high engagement isn’t unattainable; and 2) It requires work. You can take the advice of best practices researched and developed by others, whether those come from academic scientists or thought leaders in the corporate benefits space. However, what has worked well for a given group probably won’t repeat the same results for your organization. Why? Because companies are like snowflakes—no two are exactly alike, meaning that an exact process which yielded positive results for one member population will easily and quickly deliver repeatable results for another.
This is where plan sponsors typically become frustrated because they see a credible article, architected solution, etc., that looks good, hits with positive impact, and yields a desired outcome. Yet, when implemented the exact same way within their population, it didn’t work out so well. So, let’s back up to some foundational mechanics that we know do yield positive results and use that as a foundation for program development to make your company’s health and wellness initiatives a successful case study and not a paper that becomes a trashcan liner.
Each company that is successful in achieving meaningful engagement leading to better outcomes has a primary, common thread: They developed a culture of health and wellness within the organization. Let’s take a look at those repeatable steps.
Step 1: Research and Plan–Impact Analysis
You have to have a well thought plan before you launch into health and wellness. For this, either you, your broker, or your vendor-partner(s) should conduct a company-wide impact analysis. This gathers input from all key stakeholders to establish goals, examines the current situational status in detail, determines gaps, sets benchmarks for how data will be used and tracked, and establishes a feedback loop for continuous improvement. Without this, your program is guaranteed to deliver disappointing results as compared to expectations. This information needs to be shared with your leadership, as well as, your vendor-partners.
Step 2: Lead From The Top
Executive level, C-Suite endorsement is one of the most underestimated, and yet at the same time most powerful, predictors of program adoption and success. Employees and members will follow the organizational leaders. Part of your annual plan has to include visibility of your key executives in championing your program components.
Step 3: Make It Relevant
Your health and wellness program has to reflect the unique nuances within your business’ population and corporate culture. There has to be a “feel” that the program reflects your values, needs to visibly contain your “thumbprint”, etc. In short, there has to be customization to as many facets as possible. If the overall sense is that the program was designed externally for the business masses, you’re going to achieve mediocre adoption.
Step 4: Establish Champions
You have to establish and nurture a corporate wellness team that is comprised of a variety of employees from a broad cross-section of your organization. This drives the ownership of wellness down and through the entire organization. They should have regular check-in meetings to determine how the program is functioning and play a key role in developing each year’s annual health and wellness program strategy and plan, which leads to…
Step 5: Keep It Fresh
Over time, you will find which program initiatives are your most popular. Retain those as your program’s core. For those less popular, move them out of the mix and introduce fresh elements. This process of constant refinement will guarantee continued interest and engagement by your membership. You can’t keep pushing the exact program design month-to-month and year-to-year, without losing the interest of your membership.
Step 6: Leverage Technology
There are many technologies out there. But, the question here is, “Which one truly works for you?” Many if not all of them sound the same, state they will deliver on your specific needs, etc. Unfortunately, this is part of the sales process. Don’t fall for talking points. Dig deep through a thorough self-review of the solution, carefully scrutinize references, and use your own staff as testers before you reach a conclusion. The solution should be very nimble and flexible, while also giving you and the wellness team as much administrative control as possible, without having to jump through costly change processes or, worse, having to accept the technology as it stands, which most likely will not adhere to your program goals.