July 16, 2020

The Foundational Elements of a Successful Wellbeing Program

Traditional wellbeing programs are not direct cost-containment strategies; however, they can provide great value to your organization. Wellbeing initiatives implemented in a thriving workplace culture can influence desired health and business outcomes.

Maximizing Your Program’s Impact – Workplace Environment

Wellbeing programs (even excellent ones) don’t work well in a toxic culture . . . and neither do people. If your managers aren’t supportive, your employees are overworked and the like, the environment may be adding to unhealthy behaviors, and your wellbeing program efforts will be dismantled.

There are three fundamental components of a beneficial workplace environment:

  1. Psychologically Safe – This is an environment is where employees can bring their whole selves to work. This means they feel heard and valued as an individual, regardless of their position in the company. It means they feel safe to speak up, to share ideas, to make mistakes and not be judged. It is a place where they can learn and grow. Further, employees must trust their employer. To achieve this, your organization must be transparent and accountable at all levels.
  2. Actionable Core Values – Your core values must reflect your commitment to creating this psychologically safe environment. They should be centric to all business plans and processes, including your wellbeing initiatives, employee recognition programs, performance evaluation processes, etc.
  3. Employee-Centered Culture – Organizations that put their employees – their greatest asset – first experience the most positive wellbeing programs and business outcomes.

Positioning Your Wellbeing Strategy for Success

In order to position your wellbeing strategy for success, you must begin by setting your goals or desired outcomes. This is a good time to bring together representation of employees from throughout your organization, along with leadership, to develop a shared vision of the ideal impact your program aims to have on employee wellbeing.

Next, it’s important to view those goals or outcomes through the lens of your organization’s core values. If these have not been identified or are otherwise not interwoven into your strategic plan, business operations, personnel policies and practices, etc., this will be an important piece for your organization to concentrate on. 

Then, take your values-based vision and identify what it will take to make it reality. What kinds of benefits, programs and other initiatives are necessary and will logically lead to those goals or outcomes, ideally based on empirical evidence and best practices.

Lastly, identify and implement measurements that reflect the goals/outcomes you have prioritized, assess them periodically for patterns and trends and make adaptations as needed to correct course. Rethink failing measures and build upon the successful ones.

To learn more watch our on-webinar: Evaluating the Effectiveness of Your Wellbeing Program - presented by Lacey McCourt and Bridgette O'Connor.

Envisioning Outcomes

Earlier we discussed envisioning your desired outcomes. So what does this entail? A vision is a picture of where you want to be in the future and serves as a guide for choosing current and future courses of action, including the strategies and the resources applied. 

For wellbeing initiatives, some examples of envisioned outcomes often include things like:

  • Create a best place to work
  • Increase productivity / reduce presenteeism
  • Improve engagement
  • Increase job satisfaction
  • Improve employees’ health literacy and consumerism
  • Improve recruitment and retention

In developing your vision, involving employees in the process is paramount as, by nature, people support what they helped create.

Wellbeing Strategy Evaluation

Whether you are just getting started with your employee wellbeing initiatives or you are re-evaluating how your current initiatives align with your vision, there are some key questions to ask as you evaluate your employee wellbeing strategy. Consider the following:

  1. What evidence-based benefits, programs and resources would help lead to your envisioned outcomes? It’s important to think critically here. Are the initiatives you are considering simply ones that have been pushed by vendors or popular among the masses? Or is there research that clearly shows their effectiveness in attaining your desired outcomes?
  2. Can your wellbeing program alone have a significant impact on these desired outcomes? Is it logical to think that your wellbeing initiative alone can impact your desired outcomes? We see this a lot with employers offering biometric screenings with the intended outcome of helping mitigate health care costs. However, evidence hasn’t shown that to be the case. While age- and risk-appropriate preventive screenings are important and can help prevent and/or catch disease early, there are other benefits-related solutions that are better actual health care cost-containment strategies. 
  3. What intended and unintended effects is your organizational culture having on your desired vision and outcomes?
  4. What changes need to occur to create alignment between organizational culture and employee wellbeing?

Employee & Business Impact

This following is an overview of various employee health and business outcomes indicative of thriving wellbeing and struggling wellbeing, respectively.

Indicators for thriving wellbeing and struggling wellbeing.

Organizations seeking to impact employee wellbeing should start with their leadership, including managers. Leaders strengthen employee wellbeing by creating an environment that empowers employees to manage their own wellbeing on a daily basis. They do this not by serving as physicians, counselors or consultants but rather by serving as wellbeing agents who refer employees to wellbeing information and opportunities, who model positive wellbeing practices, who exhibit high emotional intelligence and who help create psychologically safe, employee-centric, values-reflective cultures and environments. It is in this kind of atmosphere that employees are given permission to feel, to acknowledge and to bring their whole selves to work and, thus, to be their best selves at work and home. 

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