By Beth Taylor
Actively disengaged employees cost more than $300 billion per year in lost productivity alone. That statistic from global consultant Gallup pinpoints the key to long-term success in a corporate wellness program – employee engagement. It is also the most challenging. Short-term success frequently plateaus until engagement slows or stops. The same employees participate in your clients’ wellness initiatives, often resulting in missed opportunities to engage employees with the greatest health risks. A rising trend in wellness is to target employee engagement. The following presents three steps for helping clients improve their long-term engagement results.
Incorporate wellness in business
Business strategy that incorporates wellness initiatives sends a clear message throughout the organization that there is value in a healthy workplace. Like any area of performance, your clients should develop metrics that align with company goals, communicate objectives, and obtain feedback. Wellness strategy should focus on total health, including physical, emotional and social health. Measurable business outcomes in areas such as absenteeism, productivity, and safety incidents help refine goals.
Manufacturer Lincoln Industries has received national recognition as a case study in blending wellness initiatives with business strategy. Lincoln provided its employees with the tools for success, control over their results, and recognition through an awards program. By focusing on total health and integrating wellness, safety, and health benefits, this 500-employee company experienced more than 90% employee participation in wellness initiatives, decreased absenteeism and turnover, and lower workers’ comp and health care costs.
Incorporating wellness in business strategy is the first step in engaging employees in the process. The message starts with your clients’ managers.
Hold management accountable
It is common practice for businesses to hold management accountable for their unit’s performance. Successful organizations recognize the link between employee engagement and performance by adding that area to management evaluations.
Management is the front line for implementing your clients’ business strategy, which should include wellness initiatives. To create the right environment for a culture of wellness, managers’ key performance indicators should include measurements for employee engagement. Some companies go as far as integrating bonuses for their managers for measurable successes.
Visible signs of management accountability have a huge impact on results. For example, some companies post leader boards that share wellness activities results by units, departments or teams. If your clients have a point system for recognition, they can hold managers to two levels of accountability. The first measures the timely posting of results by managers. The second measurement reflects the earned points from the managers’ direct reports.
Engage employee champions
Sponsor a company event and inevitably, certain employees emerge as champions. They are the first to volunteer and are quick to lend their support. Every wellness program needs employee champions. Grassroots efforts engage employees; however, you do not want to overlook other potential champions.
Engaging the same employees for every event discourages others from participating. That pattern contributes to wellness programs launching with a bang, and then fizzling away over time.
Making assumptions about employee populations kills even the best strategy. For every organization characterized as entrepreneurial or competitive, you will find employees who don’t fit that mold. The quiet “steady Eddy” at your client’s fast-paced workplace may be the perfect candidate for tracking award points or providing structure for meetings.
Help your clients recognize the hidden champions or the outside-the-mold employee and understand what motivates the them. For every champion your client engages, it increases the likelihood a buddy will come along for the ride. Another way to encourage the buddy system is by rewarding points to employees when a friend accompanies them to a wellness event.
By learning the motivational push buttons for employees, your client is able to customize wellness communications and activities for better engagement. Creating a winning solution for your clients’ wellness programs, like a winning sports team, requires every member of the team be engaged in the same pursuit of success.