One of the hottest games on Facebook is Cafe World. More than 22 million participants play to run their own virtual restaurant. In the game, a "buzz rating" indicates customers' satisfaction with the virtual restaurant. The goal: to create and maintain a high buzz rating.

A major challenge for your clients' wellness programs is creating that initial buzz, and then keeping it going. Here are tips for boosting clients' buzz ratings.

* Know your neighborhood. In Cafe World, participants connect with their neighbors, sending invitations. Those neighbors become the restaurant's workers, customers and peers in the industry.

Your clients' "neighborhoods" include their employees, their benefit advisers, and other employers with wellness programs.

Engaging employees means understanding the culture. Clients that discover what drives their employees emotionally unlock the door to employee health. Champions of the corporate wellness program emerge from the employee neighborhood. They are your leaders, your motivators. They are vital to keeping the wellness buzz alive.

Look at what works now for your clients. Is there a traditional event that always creates a buzz in the workplace - a best Halloween costume contest, a holiday party? Try a similar approach on wellness. For example, one company bronzed a pair of running shoes as a trophy, and awarded it to different departments for meeting targeted goals. It became a sought-after reward.

As your clients' benefit adviser, you are their provider of resources and industry experience. Know the carriers, vendors and online resources that fuel the corporate wellness buzz. Analyzing your clients' health care data and finding the right tools protect your clients' investment in a healthy workforce.

In Cafe World, your buzz rating rises by helping neighbors. Help your clients by sharing the successes of your other clients. Introduce your clients to the rest of the neighborhood of employers with corporate wellness programs. Trying another employer's "daily special" can inspire your clients. Help guide them through the Cafe World of wellness.

* Serve a variety. If you only served one menu item at Cafe World, your buzz rating would barely get off the ground. Figuring out what to serve requires balancing the preferred tastes of the neighborhood, the cost, and the time to prepare the food. There are many motivators for keeping employees engaged in their program. Here are just a few ideas:

Using Internet off-the-shelf products like newsletters, announcements and posters; tapping into vendors' wellness communications; interactive online tools, "tips of the day"; rewards and incentives, wellness trophies, and friendly interdepartmental competitions; recognition by senior leadership at town hall meetings; and "Run with the CEO"-type events.

Just as there are several strategies for selecting the menu on Cafe World, your clients need your assistance in finding the right strategy mix for their programs. Cafe World has menu items that cost more and take more time to cook, but serve more people. For a better return on their investment, your clients should consider their budget, their resources for serving up the items, and the engagement level of employees. Are your clients reaching their high-risk employees? Are there more cost-effective uses for their dollars?

* Don't ignore the buzz. Cafe World participants can open their restaurants with a bang. However, their buzz ratings can plummet with poor decisionmaking on menu selection or purchasing, or by ignoring their neighbors. The restaurant business is a tough industry - even in virtual form. It is not for the faint of heart.

Your clients' corporate wellness programs require the same level of attention and enthusiasm. It takes strategic planning, marketing, ongoing measurement of results, and motivation. A successful program remains popular and relevant with employees. It starts with the invitation and finds the right promotion to keep employees coming back for more.

As owners of the program, senior leadership shares the experience and ensures that employees are well-served. Without the commitment of the C-suite, it will not be long before the door to a healthy workforce closes. With the high cost of health care, the consequences are far more detrimental than the cost of the wellness program.

Neighborhoods change - employees leave, new leadership comes in, and benefit advisers move on. Understanding the neighbors, keeping the program fresh, and listening for the buzz of a healthy, engaged workforce will put your client at the top of their game.

Taylor is a consultant and certified wellness program manager for Intercare Insurance Solutions in San Diego.


$3K the amount some companies spend on financial incentives for wellness programs per employee. however, the average is $220 per employee, according to a Buck Consultants survey.

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