So your clients have a weight management program in place, but only the “healthy” employees have signed up for it. What is an HR professional or business leader to do?  Help your client rethink their strategy and program.

From the get go, population engagement strategy should set proper expectations, engage and excite people and make it very clear about what it takes to be successful. This is a combination of informing and encouraging a selection process for those who are really ready.

Unlike overall wellness, where it applies to everyone, weight management is a very targeted thing, applicable to only a portion of the population.  Don’t be afraid to say so. And even within that population, how do you identify and drive engagement among the people who are really ready to change?

Also see: "Rising health costs, chronic conditions a 'global phenomena."

First, although it might seem counterintuitive, you start with a broad-based communication strategy to drive awareness and interest among the entire population. Reach the population with distinct and memorable communications. When awareness is in a good state, you then start to target messages to specific individuals (i.e. those with a BMI over 30, people with chronic conditions associated with obesity, specific locations of the company).  This will allow you to find the right people, at the right time, with the right messages, who are truly ready to change.

Now what about the program itself? Just as with population engagement, program engagement is all about setting the right expectations, engaging the participants and exciting them along the way. There are three key areas of focus where program engagement should be integral in an employer’s weight-management solution. Let’s look briefly at each one.

1) Personalize your approach. The first step to personalization is understanding the attributes and the obstacles that a person faces and how he or she will react to situations. The key here is to ensure that a weight-management program includes a scientifically-driven approach for personalizing the experience. Without personalization, the chances of driving continued engagement are much less.

2) Personalize with an expert. Real, live people matter. Experts should be able to personalize the experience at every touch point of a program, and they should offer multiple touch points. In addition, make sure that the coaches who will be working with employees or members are certified and experienced professionals. You would be surprised how often this isn’t the case.

3) Choose High-Tech + High-Touch. You have to ensure that any approach you’re vetting has a high-tech and high-touch element to it. We’ve found the best way to do that is through a human approach that optimizes today’s technology. More than 6,800 wellness and fitness iPhone and iPad apps exist. And that doesn’t even account for any unique Android apps.

While this is certainly a testament to the importance of wellness in today’s environment, just like wellness as a whole, the people who are already fit are using a lot of these apps. With expert-led programs, technology can be leveraged to increase efficacy rather than having the technology try to do it all.

Also see: "How employers are controlling rising healthcare costs."

We also know that self-monitoring (or food logging) technologies are a go-to tool for any person trying to lose weight. Why? Because it drives awareness and educates us on what we're really consuming. If we are truly honest, we learn a lot about the choices we're making that are not in line with our weight-loss efforts. Ideally, this awareness leads us to making healthier choices. In our experience, having a program, which adds the high-touch feedback loop of an expert reviewing those choices adds accountability and drives healthy behaviors.

Popp-Lloyd is director of employee engagement and implementation for Retrofit.

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