A recent study by HERO (the Health Enhancement Research Organization) linked investments in comprehensive employee wellness programs to strong corporate stock performance. This report joins a growing category of ways, including lower medical costs and improved presenteeism or absenteeism, for employers to measure the value of investing in employee health. Companies now have a variety of metrics to help define program success, including engagement rates, but success can be determined beyond these typical numbers.

While engagement is important, it’s a metric better viewed as a very early indicator measuring the ability of your health and well-being programs to build awareness and attract members. Since the primary purpose of these programs is to activate healthier behaviors and attitudes, the goal is to develop improved ways to measure whether programs are not only engaging people, but also getting the message right — and engaging them at the most effective time.

See also: Employees underwhelmed with wellness plans

To help companies look beyond engagement, three leading indicators can be used to measure the success of health and well-being programs at key points where engagement impacts outcomes. These data points help employers tie participation to more meaningful results that indicate better health is effectively being activated across your population. These measurements can also be used to find opportunities to improve programs for superior outcomes.

Indicator #1: Persistent engagement

Participation is the best way to gauge the impact of incentive and communications programs, but for a true litmus test of program effectiveness, a deeper look at employee engagement is necessary. A better way to evaluate for impact is to look for persistent engagement — when employees are engaging beyond the expected scope of activity.

For instance, are you seeing engagement beyond incented activities and incentive timeframes? If yes, it’s a strong indicator you are engaging people with compelling resources that offer the user valuable benefits. Strong indicators that program will be effective include members who repeatedly engage with online tools, re-visit digital health and well-being resources, and engage with live support resources beyond what is required for incentives.

See also: Wellness programs need personalization, employees say

Indicator #2: Preventive health

Strong health and well-being programs engage individuals to help to shift their perceptions of health to activate positive behavior change. If the messaging and timing are well calibrated, the impact starts to reveal itself through simple actions. Activated individuals will respond to recommendations and start taking steps to better manage their health. Data points that track activities relating to preventive health offer a good view into whether employees are effectively absorbing the message.

A place to start is to look for increases in measures that indicate individual action around resources that support preventive health. Good examples are the number of fitness devices being integrated with an engagement platform or the number of fitness and health trackers being used. Additionally, take a look at the trends in compliance through closure or prevention of gaps in care. If the message and timing are well-aligned to the individual, you will see that reflected in whether they are acting on those opportunities. These numbers indicate that you are successfully prompting individuals to take action on opportunities to improve their health and care.

Indicator #3: Workplace support

Finally, measuring the company’s commitment to health as a “temperature check” across all programs offers a good gauge for the likelihood of success. A strong culture of health and well-being encourages employees to adopt healthier behaviors, providing surround-sound for programs and reinforcing positive behavior changes.

Surveying employees for their perception of the company’s commitment or performing an in-depth culture of health assessment — or both — offers valuable insights on how program messages are received. From visible leadership support to healthy cafeteria options, this indicator helps employers understand existing positive influences that will drive long-term change. Results can be tied to future success and used to strengthen the culture of health along the way.

With these three indicators, companies have a framework to measure progress against the unique goals of their health and well-being programs. Employers gain perspective on the full picture of member response and participation becomes better understood as a measure of effective promotion and incentives. Armed with more detailed information, organizations can adapt programs, policies and incentives to drive measurable, meaningful engagement and activate healthier employees.

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