Employee engagement is crucial to have an effective wellness program. The same approach doesn’t work for all employers — employee populations vary widely — and a variety of factors must be considered when designing and implementing a program.

Here are some best practices, offered by Ann Wyatt, regional vice president, account management, at HealthFitness, that employers and their benefit advisers should consider to ensure a successful wellness program:

  • Have a clear set of objectives. The client needs to be able to define what success is — what does that look like after one year? After three years? “If they can’t figure that out, they’re going to have struggles in their program overall,” Wyatt says.
  • Go beyond the physical realm. “Wellness is not just about physical health,” says Wyatt, and a program needs to also address social, emotional and financial wellness. Each area is one that can impact productivity, she says.
  • Make sure the program is adaptable to the workforce.
  • Wellness isn’t a one-time thing. “You should focus on wellness throughout the year,” Wyatt says. That’s what employees are doing, she says, and it’s realistic employers do the same.
  • Understand your audience. Ask deeper questions to better understand employee populations, Wyatt says. What drives them? What are their risk factors?
  • Have wellness champions. Getting as many employees involved who can help spread the word will increase awareness and engagement, Wyatt says. “It’s something that can’t be done alone,” she says.
  • Recruit senior leadership support. Company leaders who are involved in the program will set the tone for other employees, Wyatt says. An executive leading a weekly walk, for example, can have a bigger impact than a leader simply talking about wellness initiatives, she says.

Have a full-time wellness champion     

Running a wellness program can be a full-time job, and devoting someone to that task shows company commitment and leads to increased participation and greater overall success, Wyatt says. While all employers have budget concerns, if they can devote the resources, a dedicated wellness employee can result in a top-notch program, she says. “Getting that in place is probably one of the best things someone can do for themselves,” Wyatt says.

Communication is also important, and the message should address why employees should care about the program, Wyatt says. A variety of modes of communication helps spread the word, she says. Employees are typically inundated with emails every day, so using other methods such as continually updating posters in the break room, placing signs in the parking lot and face-to-face greetings when employees enter work can be effective ways to disseminate information about wellness programs, Wyatt says.

Get creative, she says, citing an example where HealthFitness worked with a manufacturing client and posted wellness tips in the bathroom, dubbed “The Stall Street Journal.” 

Effective communication drives participation and engagement, Wyatt says. “Don’t make your program the best kept secret out there,” she says. 

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