Making The Case For Employee Wellness Programs
A key component of the employee value proposition is the benefits that the company provides. In many instances, a benefits package is as crucial to a candidate's acceptance of an employment offer as the proposed salary. Aside from medical, dental, vision and paid time off there are several other ways in which organizations can utilize benefits to entice and attract talent and retain current employees. The popularity of wellness programs is a direct result of the manner in which employees have demonstrated their interest and desire for supplemental health perks. Due to its recent evolution, there is currently no 'norm' or standard wellness package, however there are commonly offered initiatives. Wellness programs should be implemented if there is a significant return on investment projected, and if the employee population is skilled enough to necessitate retention efforts. While most wellness programs are outsourced to third party vendors or the companies that administer standard benefits, there are also ways in which Human Resources personnel can lead programs.
When discerning whether or not to implement a wellness program, there are several areas of consideration. Developing an understanding of the commonly offered initiatives and the manner in which they are administered is the starting point. Insight into perspective challenges and concerns will help gauge the amount of time invested as well as potential risks. Subsequently, developing the business case and articulating projected return on the time, resources and money invested in the wellness program will assist in securing buy in from leadership. As with all Human Resources initiatives, measuring the effectiveness is critical to demonstrating strategic usage of funds.
Commonly Offered Wellness Initiatives
Across organizations of various sizes and industries, most wellness programs provide employees with the opportunity to complete health and risk assessments. These assessments are typically coupled with self education resources including guides, white papers and progress tracking tools to help employees improve health status. This approach requires very little administration and maintenance; most employers make assessments and resources available on their intranet site and in hardcopy form across work areas. The content for the tools can either be purchased or created after doing a bit of research.
Another form of commonly offered wellness initiatives are facilitator led trainings and classes. There are a myriad of offerings that fit into a budget of any size and will supplement the benefit package in an impactful way. Be sure to implement trainings that provide employees with the tools to continue to make healthier choices. Consider enlisting the services of a fitness instructor and coordinating sessions for employees to work out. Schedule lunch and learns in which healthy meal options are offered to attendees; ensure that recipes and incentives for attending are provided. Leverage the expertise of nutritionists to help employees develop meal plans, understand how to control portion sizes and identify healthy lifestyle choices.
Challenges and Concerns
While the impact that wellness programs have on organizations is significant, it is also critical to develop an understanding of associated challenges and concerns. From a risk perspective, offering fitness classes whether on- or off-site may present liability issues. Be sure to seek out legal counsel in the development of a waiver and ensure that it is administered to employees attending workshops. An additional area of concern is incentivizing employees to attend and participate in wellness initiatives. As most HR professionals are aware, employee engagement activities are only impactful if they are being utilized. Develop creative ways to encourage attendance, avoid interruptions to productivity by partnering with management to identify the best dates and times for the programs, and conduct surveys to gauge satisfaction.
Developing the business case for wellness programs is tricky; there are several advantages associated with providing additional layers to supplement benefit packages, however the concept is fairly new which may lead to . First, providing healthy lifestyle resources to employees will lead to significant cost savings. The reality is that employee benefit expenses can outweigh actual compensation for a severely ill or unhealthy individual. Providing tools and resources, along with making them readily accessible will undoubtedly lead to a reduction in dollars spent on the treatment of preventable illnesses. An additional area of consideration is the enhanced productivity levels of healthy employees. Rather than taking sick days, employees provided with resources to avoid seasonal illnesses will likely seek out vaccines and take other preventative measures.
In presenting the business case for wellness programs to leadership, its key to clearly articulate the amount of money spent on treatment of preventable illnesses. Come prepared with a budget for all proposed initiatives as well as return on investment projections. Consider all concerns and challenges, and also provide insight into your plan to administer or outsource the initiatives. Develop a system for measuring the effectiveness and regularly report findings to decision makers and senior leadership. Case studies articulating success stories within other organizations typically provide reassurance and assist in the buy-in process; consider including relevant resources that demonstrate the success of wellness programs elsewhere.
Effects of Wellness Programs
Once you have secured leadership support and developed a strategy for structuring and implementing the wellness program, be sure to justify the budget allocated by demonstrating the impact. Track employee attendance at events, assess how often resources are being utilized, and conduct follow up surveys to gauge satisfaction and interest levels. Review companywide spending on specific healthcare treatments and introduce wellness initiatives that address needs and lead to cost savings. Develop a system for collecting ideas and requests from employees to ensure alignment of programming with interests. Be sure to share the return on investment of the program to demonstrate impact and support requests for additional resources.
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