Is a wellness program really worth it?

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It’s no secret that proving a return on investment for wellness/disease management programs and employee clinics is a challenge. How do you prove a negative? What is the best way to do so? Can you draw a conclusion by looking at trends over time and assume, if your plan is performing under industry trend, it must be because of the wellness programming you instituted?

All that sounds great until your CFO pokes a gazillion holes in your theory, right? What’s an HR professional to do? Wellness is now a “thing,” and any employer worth its salt must have some sort of wellness program, right? While there are no silver bullet answers here, there are a lot of questions you can ask yourself. Those answers can help lead you in a direction.

1. What are we trying to accomplish?

Before you embark on any kind of wellbeing initiative, you must start with this question. If the sole purpose is to save money on your health plan, good luck. You will likely not be successful. At a minimum, you won’t be able to prove success definitively. If your trend is low, could it just be that several unhealthy employees left your plan? Unless you track down to the member level over time, you cannot say with 100% certainty that a wellbeing program impacts claims in a positive way. Even then, you begin paring your data set down to a point where it may not be credible. Yikes! Why even do it, you ask?

2. What is our most important asset?

Like many organizations, if you say, “your people,” they are your why. You do it because your employees spend more of their waking hours working for you than they do with their loved ones. And isn’t it better to have them healthy, happy and productive while at work?

3. What is our mission or vision statement?

Chances are you are aiming to deliver a quality program and do the right thing for your most valuable asset: your employees! What vendors are you hiring to deliver your wellness products and services? Does their delivery mesh with your Mission Statement? Are you touting a company mission/vision of “do the right thing” for your customers?

4. What about engagement and turnover?

By measuring wellbeing programs only on medical plan claims reductions, are we being shortsighted? If our employees are healthy, happy and productive, are they more engaged? Does higher engagement lead to increased productivity and lower turnover? Recent surveys show that employees were 38% more engaged, 18% more likely to go the extra mile and 28% more likely to recommend their workplace to others when the employer had programs that promote wellbeing.

While, yes, we should measure the dollars — and the health plan is a way to do that — we should be measuring other areas, too. Ultimately, we need to rethink the lens by which we view employee wellbeing. It’s the right thing to do, and in this boxing match, everybody wins.

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Wellness program ROI Wellness programs Wellness Health and wellness Employee engagement Employee communications