Setting expectations defines success. Generally, your clients' expectations for ancillary insurance products, like dental or vision coverage, are universal. Obtain the best premium possible and deliver a plan design that makes employees happy - or at least, less vocal.

But what are your clients' expectations for their wellness programs? If the answer is passing the whole problem over to a wellness vendor, your clients will not be happy with the results. There is more to the program's success than writing a check.


Framing expectations

Understanding what is at the core of your clients' motivation for establishing a wellness program is the first step in framing realistic expectations.

For many clients (and their employee benefit advisers) tackling the issue of wellness is foreign territory.

Your clients will not find success in tactical solutions that resolve checklist complaints like an unpaid claim or eligibility problem. By shifting expectations to a more strategic approach, you help your clients meet the challenges to improving the health and productivity of their workforce.

No vendor delivers a complete solution, regardless of how that vendor markets its products or services. Long before vendor selection, you should set the expectation of the need for an integrated solution. Develop broad strategy that involves all areas of your clients' organization.

Human resources help tap into the mindset of leadership and staff and are strategic partners in the success of the wellness program. However, setting realistic expectations for the program extends beyond your usual work with human resources by exploring solutions in other areas of the organization.

For example, facility and safety management play a role in creating a safe and healthy workplace. A well-maintained facility, ergonomic assessments, and staff training on safety best practices illustrate how the departments have a direct impact on the work environment.

The marketing department is instrumental in getting the word out to employees and can put a face on the wellness program through branding and communication. When you set the expectation early that the wellness program is a company wide commitment, you enhance the opportunity for success.

After you lay the groundwork at the worksite, you can now assist your clients with the vendor selection process. Look for vendors with programs that integrate with your clients' health and productivity needs. For example, is the vendor's program compatible with your client's health plans, internal software systems and does it offer flexibility in design?

A client with a tech-savvy employee population is more likely to engage in a wellness program that offers interactive options, such as social networking, gaming or wellness apps for smartphones. Does the vendor have the right capabilities for encouraging engagement from your clients' employees?

As you direct your clients' wellness expectations on long-term strategy, consider vendors with the greatest potential for long-term partnership. Your clients' health plans, employee population, and wellness needs change. A vendor that adapts to that change provides your clients with continuity and long-term support. Share your experience with other wellness programs, vendors and solutions. Explore what did and did not work, and adjust expectations to fit your clients' health and productivity concerns.


Managing expectations

You built the framework for expectations. Now you need to add the reinforcement for managing expectations. A year from now, are your clients going to remember your early discussions on setting reasonable expectations? They will with positive reinforcement. Start with documentation that includes written expectations, roles and responsibilities, timelines and costs. In the absence of documentation, all your work on framing expectations crumbles under the weight of apathy and unfulfilled goals.

Establish measurements that make sense for the program's specific expectations. For example, in the beginning of the program, much of the activity focuses on identifying the health risks of your client's employee population. A more realistic expectation is the successful collection of data rather than an expectation based on reducing the number of health risks.

The measurements could specify the required reports, the individuals responsible for the collection and analysis of specific data, the time for completion, and any associated cost. As your clients' wellness programs grow, the measurements and expectations will change.

Monitor continuously to ensure your clients' expectations are still applicable to their specific employee issues. Change is inevitable. By helping your clients adjust to unexpected changes, you keep expectations relevant and the wellness program on track.

Communicate often to keep expectations in check. Without consistent communication, clients focus on perceived negatives (increased cost, time away from work) instead of the long-term strategy for improving employee health and productivity.

Health and productivity solutions take time. Clients looking for quick fixes and separation from the management of their wellness program have an unrealistic expectation of success. Help increase the survival rate of your clients' wellness programs by framing and managing expectations for better results.

Taylor, CWPM, is director of health and productivity at Alliant Insurance Services in Newport Beach, Calif. Reach her at





1) Improve employee health

2) Control health care costs

3) Increase productivity

4) Reduce absenteeism

5) Attract and retain talent

Source: ADP HR/Benefits Survey on Wellness

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