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Broad Appeal: 4 Best-Practices for Managing Employee Wellness Programs in Distributed Populations

January 5, 2011 / Employee Engagement

Often times, when I ask our clients what their hurdles are in launching a health and wellness program, I hear about the difficulties in reaching geographically dispersed populations.  It can be difficult to engage employees in multiple locations and make sure the program’s message is consistently disseminated across the entire organization.  There are some best practices to follow when choosing and implementing a health and wellness program that can alleviate the problem.

  1. Implement programs that are broadly applicable.  I’ve found that for a program to have a significant impact, it must be applicable and relatable to everyone.  While everyone is different and has targeted needs, employers should take a preventative approach to wellness and provide an overarching program that addresses the population on a whole. The better job a company does to implement programs that apply across the board, the better the employee response and overall results.
  2. Incentives are still a key factor in motivating employees. I can’t stress enough that incentives must be meaningful and tied to the behaviors you want to encourage.  Incentives can take many forms, including: cash, premium incentives like HSA/HRA contributions or healthcare premium credits, days off, opportunities for employee recognition, and much more. The most important thing is to determine what behaviors you want to incent and what form of incentives will drive those behaviors within your specific population. 
  3. Create challenges and opportunities for intra-organization.  It’s amazing how effective designing programs that appeal to someone’s competitive nature can be.  Challenges and competitions make healthy behavior change fun and less daunting.  They also help to generate and foster excitement, well after the program has launched.  For companies with employees in multiple locations, challenges offer a way to get the separate locations talking and interacting with one another, thereby creating a broader community of peers to connect with and support each other in making long-term healthy changes.
  4. Make programs personal, measurable, and easy to use.  When you don’t have a daily interaction with all your employees, you want to make sure they are still able to understand and engage in the programs you offer. Ensure that both the company and its employees have the tools to track and see their progress over time and use validated data to make sure results are accurate. 

When Memphis-based First Horizon National Corporation, a leading financial services company, chose a health and wellness program, they needed a provider who could motivate their 5,600 employees across even the most rural branch locations to become active and healthier. By using a combination of cash-based incentives and a unique technology platform, they were able to build a foundation to grow the company’s budding wellness strategy across all populations. The online, activity-based challenges also brought a greater sense of community and accountability. First Horizon now boasts a 42% participation rate, significantly higher than single digit industry standards. MORE ON FIRST HORIZON.

What are the other hurdles your organization has when it comes to dispersed populations or any other issues in health and wellness?  Post a comment with your questions and I’ll try to address them in this blog.

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