Quick Summary: Simply offering a wellness program is not enough. When trying to motivate employees to change their behavior, communicating that program is critical. You can deliver messages with more impact by following 4 steps.
A 45-year-old employee has been smoking for 30 years. He knows it’s unhealthy and hopes to quit. Meanwhile, his employer has run several smoking-cessation campaigns over the years. Why aren’t these campaigns working for the employee?
First things first: The frequency of your wellness messages matters, but the real key is getting those messages in the right place at the right time.
Here’s a breakdown of the 4 steps your organization should take to ensure successful communication of your wellness program to employees:
Step 1: Conduct a communications assessment.
Assessing your wellness communications plan requires taking stock of the various communications vehicles you use.
Quick Questions to Consider:
- Is information readily accessible for employees and easy to understand?
- Are communications consistent, recognizable, and well-organized?
- To what extent do your messages support your company’s overall objectives?
- Are the messages targeted by employee life stage, disease stage, and other parameters?
Align communications with your overall wellness objectives. For example, if an employee wants to lose weight, does he or she have to scour the medical program to determine what coverage is available, search work/life programs to find support courses, check the cafeteria bulletin board for a Weight Watchers meeting, and read the employee assistance program documents to determine that counseling is available?
Once you take stock of your methods, poll employees (through surveys or focus groups) to learn how they get information about available programs, what programs are most valuable to them, and what they want to know more about.
Step 2: Develop a communications strategy.
Build your wellness communications campaign around the issues you identify during Step 1.
- Set short- and long-term goals. Articulate what you aim to achieve, and set participation goals for the short-term (for example, 75% of the employee population takes a health-risk assessment within the first 3 months) and results-oriented goals for the long term (for example, 50% of smokers complete a smoking-cessation program).
- Identify the unique needs of your workers based on their career and life stages, and design communications to make a section of the audience take action (for example, reach smokers by placing communications in locations where they tend to congregate).
- Build a wellness brand that may include a name, logo, color scheme, and/or an eye-catching message.
- Consider incentives that can help make wellness a priority. Good ones include premium reductions, cash, gift cards, and individual recognition (such as diplomas).
- Select media. See where employees spend their free time at work and place print materials accordingly. If employees respond to electronic campaigns, have an online focus.
Step 3: Build employee awareness and create demand.
A strategy is only as good as its implementation. Develop program awareness by telling employees not only what’s available, but where, when, and how to access it. Do this though “how to” and “did you know?” messages.
Also, recognize that each employee is at a different place regarding behavior change. (Click here to read the arrow in the attached graphic.) Specific communications and support resources should address these different stages.
Spur employees to act on the messages you convey, encouraging them to learn more about available resources and to take advantage of them.
Step 4: Keep it up with ongoing campaigns.
Maintain positive behavior through periodic reinforcement. Keep in mind the “rule of 7”—information begins to sink in when you communicate a message 7 times in 7 different ways.
Remember the 45-year-old smoker with a 30-year habit? A wellness program tries to change behavior that people have maintained for years, if not decades. And the success of your program boils down to how employees respond to the way you communicate the program.
—Erin Hodges and Randolph Carter
Reprinted by permission of The Segal Group, parent of The Segal Company
and its HR consulting division, Sibson Consulting. ©2008. All rights reserved.
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