Today's implementation of wellness plans consist of HR or the broker doing a wellness meeting to explain how to use it and distributing a flier. From my perspective, if you have 100 people in attendance, 25 are listening and somewhat engaged. Another 25 people don't care, 25 have issues they want everyone to hear about (they tell their story) — and at times disclose personal health information during the story — and the final 25 may not speak or understand English. With that said, people don't pay close attention to emails and if someone is talking or presenting, they may not stay engaged. People are juggling so many things while also watching TV and Facebooking, for example. We can no longer concentrate on just one thing.

What I am getting at is — the means of communication must change in order to address how adults learn and take in information today. We need to produce (short, but sweet) YouTube videos that keep people engaged, along with a drip email campaign along that sends information to people slowly over periods of time, and personal consultation. This adds accountability to the program.

Back in the day, I made a bet with my C-suite team that a wellness plan would not fly with our population, no matter what the incentive was. They took me on. Our plan incentives were $10K plus in cash incentives, a new car and lots of gift cards. All our employees needed to do was go take their annual physical. Our carrier would notify us when it was complete and we'd get tickets to be in the drawing to win the prizes (we set it up so everyone got something).

Check out the stats on the results:

  1. We had 1,000 employees
  2. The plan was communicated by our broker at group meetings that were mandatory in attendance (all but 11 attended as they were on leave or otherwise not available)
  3. 6 people participated (2 were executives)
  4. After 6 months of trying, we gave up

Oh, the best part … the facility for physicals was across the street from our location (seriously across the street). You may ask why it did not work and how I knew that was going to happen. It’s simple … here are the facts about our workforce:

  1. Mostly male population (they only go to the doctor if their wife, if they have one, nags them)
  2. Many workers worked on commissions, so if they missed work it impacted their pay
  3. The biggest factor was (after surveying about why it did not work), most did not want to know if they were sick, and they knew what they needed to do to be healthy (exercise and eat right) but were choosing to stick their head in the sand

So, communication, communication, communication! This is essential to help fix wellness plans in the workplace. 

Zulic is an EBA Advisory Board member and director of human resources at Efficient Edge HR, Recruitment and Insurance Services in San Diego, Calif. She can be reached at

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