*This article was originally published on HR Morning.
Employees are putting more and more emphasis on choosing an employer with comprehensive wellness programs. In fact, 58% of millennials think company wellness programs are an essential consideration when looking for a job and 54% of Gen Z say the same thing, according to Randstad.
Most executives and HR professionals now know a wellness program is a key piece in attracting talent and retaining it, but not all of them are created equal. For example, offering one wellness webinar a year and advertising it as a “wellness program” doesn’t move the needle in employees’ health and well-being; much like going to the gym once a year doesn’t build muscle. To positively influence the corporate culture and create an engaged work environment (which good wellness programs do), an organization needs a program that’s year-round with multiple touch points.
So, how can you design a program that gets high engagement?
Gone are the days of the wellness program only offering an in-person yoga class at noon. Since the pandemic, employees now want the opportunity to participate in that yoga class whenever they want, from wherever they are.
This supports the move to more technology-based programs where companies are offering sessions both in-person and virtually, and then potentially housing the recording on a mobile platform afterward.
Mental health support is as important, if not more important than physical well-being support, according to employees surveyed by HealthFitness.
Not only do employees want mental health support, but there’s also a business case for it. Workers who feel supported with their mental health have higher job satisfaction and intentions to stay at their company, according to Harvard Business Review.
Mental health support needs to be a combination of both preventive education and services that help the employee during a challenging time or crisis.
Manager participation is by far the easiest way to increase the engagement of a wellness program. Not only does it send the message that it’s OK for the person to take time out of their workday to spend on the wellness activity, but it’s inspiring and motivating to see managers and senior leaders “walking the talk”.
Providing a brief educational session to senior management on the importance of their participation in the success of the program is helpful.
While technology is important, a personal connection in the program is also critical. For many, creating a connection with the health expert can be motivating. Although so much of work is hybrid or remote now, when possible, offering in-person sessions can boost the engagement and the results of a wellness program. In the same survey by HealthFitness, 75% said personal touch was an important aspect of a wellness program.
Some program participants have an intrinsic motivation to participate in a wellness program, but they’re not necessarily the ones who need the program as much as those who aren’t intrinsically motivated.
A survey by UnitedHealthcare found that employees in a wellness program that lacked a rewards program resulted in lower participation compared to a program with proper rewards and incentives. These rewards shouldn’t just be for the “best” participants, but also for other metrics like most improved so that a variety of skill levels are rewarded.
Team building isn’t always at the top of the list of goals HR managers have for implementing a wellness program, and yet when the program is done properly, this can be a huge bonus.
With hybrid work, employees are craving more connection and team-based wellness challenges can do just that. Ensuring that some of the organization’s wellness programs are team-based is a key component of making it successful.
Finally, ensuring the content of the program is tailored to what employees want can also help drive engagement. We suggest a simple survey in advance of the program asking employees what they need help with the most.