Original article from safetydailyadvisor.blr.com

By Chris Kilbourne

Many employers turn to wellness programs to manage healthcare costs and improve employee productivity. However, recent research shows that educating employees about the programs is critical to their success.

“Well on the Way: Engaging Employees in Workplace Wellness,” a white paper released by Colonial Life & Accident Insurance Company, explains that strong communication drives the effectiveness of wellness programs. The company has found that more than half of workers do not know enough about their company’s wellness programs to participate in them. In fact, 52 percent of workers whose employers offer wellness programs say they are only somewhat or not at all knowledgeable about them, and the lack of knowledge is highest among young workers, less-educated workers, and lower-paid workers.

“Just offering a wellness program and expecting a majority of employees to participate—the ‘if you build it, they will come’ scenario—is prone to failure,” says Steve Bygott, assistant vice president of marketing analysis and programs at Colonial Life. “Communication that clearly delineates the benefits of participation to employees is the first step to long-term engagement in wellness programs.”

Case Studies

Winners of the National Business Group on Health’s 2012 Best Employers for Healthy Lifestyles awards, for example, have demonstrated a commitment to promoting wellness and educating employees about it.

Cardinal Health received an award for its Healthy Lifestyles program, which is part of the company’s overarching benefits strategy to support the well being and development of its employees. Cardinal Health incorporates work/life effectiveness initiatives, programs, and incentives that emphasize wellness and prevention. Among other offerings, the company provides its employees with education and awareness programs, as well as health coaching.

NextEra Energy, Inc. is another award-winner. Its NextEra Health & Well-Being initiative provides a wide variety of health and productivity management programs—with services in five primary categories: health promotion, fitness, nutrition and weight management, health centers, and an employee assistance program.

Other award winners include American Express® and HP.

American Express’s Healthy Living corporate wellness program encourages preventive care and healthy lifestyles. Developed in 2009, the program was introduced in an effort to help employees achieve greater physical, psychological, financial, and social wellbeing through superior resources, enhanced access to care, and incentives to foster healthy changes, including health coaching, on-site medical clinics, and lifestyle and disease management programs. The company also received a Best Communication Tactics award for its global communication efforts to engage employees and develop a strong culture of wellness.

HP has created a global culture of wellness with its Winning with Wellness initiative. The program, which was implemented in 33 countries over the course of 1 year, equips employees with user-friendly tools and resources to take charge of—and be accountable for—managing their personal wellness, according to Aon Hewitt, which worked with HP to, among other things, articulate its wellness strategy and create a plan to implement and communicate the initiative globally.

Why It Matters

  • More organizations are realizing the connection between wellness programs and the productivity of employees and the profitability of their companies.
  • More organizations are, therefore, instituting wellness programs of various kinds ranging from gym membership subsidies to weight loss programs and smoking cessation plans.
  • As today’s Advisor indicates, however, merely starting a wellness program isn’t enough; wellness training and education about the programs are critical steps to making wellness programs effective.