One Size Fits One: Creating an Effective Hospital Employee Wellness Program

The research is in. An effective employee wellness program will provide a significant ROI through decreased healthcare, sick time and disability costs, as well as improved recruitment, retention and employee engagement. The result of this research has been a two-fold increase in the number of organizations that have launched wellness programs for their employees in recent years. There is only one problem — the first word in the phrase “Effective Employee Wellness Program.”  And when it comes to developing an effective program for hospital employees who are already considered to be experts in the healthcare arena, the challenge to create an effective program can be even greater.
There are many approaches to employee wellness. Common entry level steps include holding an internal “biggest loser”-like contest or providing paid memberships at the local health club.  While both provide evidence to employees (and customers!) that the organization is serious about really doing something beyond lip service, the actual long-term pay off of these steps is limited. With the “biggest loser”-type of contest, 97 percent of the people who lose weight will gain it back without an ongoing follow-up process. 

And in terms of paid health clubs, you’re likely to find that — while a great tool as part of a personalized program — when done as a singular approach, this typically only provides a benefit for the 10-15 percent (maybe 20 percent) of employees who would have joined one anyway.  Both scenarios are missing a key element that can result in participation — and movement — in the lives of 50-70 percent or more of your hospital’s employees.

What is that key element? What component will take a wellness program from “nice” to “effective?”

Every employee is different.  As a result, generic, impersonal (group-based) approaches to employee wellness simply don’t work over the long haul. Only personalized approaches provide the desired long term effect (and ROI). Here are a few tips to get you started:
  • Avoid “One Size Fits All” approaches. We’ve found in our work with hospitals a clear trend when it comes to employee wellness — the popular “one size fits all” actually turns out to be “one size fits NONE.”  As you look over your proposed approach (or review your wellness vendor’s proposal), think about a few of your employees on opposite ends of the spectrum.  If it won’t meet the needs of these “extremists,” there’s a good chance it isn’t a good solution for your overall organization
  • Build “customization” into the program. People adjust, grow, back-slide, excel and change their goals over time.  For an employee wellness program to be effective, it must be able to adjust along with the individual. An employee who’s never even owned a pair of running shoes the first 42 years of her life might lose 15 lbs, participate in a 5K and then eventually decide to pursue a triathlon. Does the program adjust along with her life?  Or is it all just about weight loss?
  • Take Temperament into account. This brief article is obviously not intended to review the various personality or temperament styles that exist within your team. But you see it everyday – people are inherently different in the way they approach various aspects of their lives, including wellness pursuits. Without going to ridiculous extremes, it’s important for any effective wellness program to take those individual styles into account. Simply stated  a program that’s perfect for a “Guardian” will be an absolute disaster for an “Artisan.”
  • Involve others. There are many ways to put this into practice, ranging from accountability groups to partnership programs. But one thing is certain — the involvement of others is absolutely essential to achieving long-term success in the area of wellness.  “We become the people with whom we spend time” is an ageless truth.
The “why” is no longer in doubt, as study after study has confirmed the ROI of employee wellness programs.  But as these programs gain acceptance and a broader range of providers step into the marketplace, the “how” is still far from consistent.  As you look for ways to maximize your ROI, be absolutely certain that “Personalization” is a central part of the equation.

Brad Cooper, MSPT, ATC is the CEO of US Corporate Wellness, Inc., one of only nine firms nationally to earn Full Accreditation as a Comprehensive Wellness Provider through URAC and a firm that specializes in employee wellness programs for hospitals and health care organizations.  More information and a free trial are available at Brad can be reached directly at (800) 910-9425

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