When putting together a wellness plan, there are three steps to maintain enthusiasm among participants, says Jennifer Patel, director of wellness engagement at Hallmark Business Connections.

First, get senior leaders involved. “It’s really important,” Patel says. Getting middle managers involved, too, is crucial, she adds. When managers join the program alongside their employees, it promotes participation.

Second, and similarly, get employees from all divisions of a company to participate. The more advocates the better, Patel says, and more participation allows for feedback from several different perspectives.

Third, vary your method of communicating — don’t rely solely on email, Patel says, adding that email isn’t as effective because of the deluge of emails many employees already receive every day. “It’s important to look for other ways of communicating,” Patel says.

Posting signs at the front door, kiosks or vending machines are good alternatives to email, she says.

Once a program is established, both the employer and employees benefit, Patel says: “A healthy, happy employee is going to be more productive.” They will miss less work and be more engaged, Patel says, which helps the financial health of the business.

Increase engagement

To increase participation in its own plan, naturally, Hallmark developed a line of custom e-cards used to introduce new programs and celebrate milestones. Employees are greeted with moving graphics and inspirational messages, Patel says.

But, she adds, the company relies heavily on communicating with printed posters in high-traffic areas. The “1980s version of marketing,” as Patel calls it, is quite effective.

Overall, plans need to be tailored to each company, Patel says, and different branches need autonomy. “One size fits all doesn’t work,” she says.

Get input from the employees about the plan’s design, Patel says, and use a lot of incentives when first starting the program. Use a variety of rewards — what motivates one employee might not motivate another.

Patel also recommends offering weighted rewards for employees who participate in health risk assessments and/or biometric screenings — the information learned from such tests is extremely helpful on an individual level. 

Be sure to check out the upcoming November issue of EBA for more with Patel and other experts, who will discuss best practices for outcomes-based wellness.

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