Quick Summary: Are you discouraged that so few employees participate in your wellness program? You’re not alone. A new study reveals that nationwide participation varies widely by industry. But don’t give up! Keep plugging the benefits of wellness programs in your custom employee communications.
If you work for an electric company, you might feel as if the lights are out when you talk to employees about your wellness programs. Enrollment rates for companies in the utilities industry are only 22% of the average among all sectors, according to a recent study by Gordian Health Solutions Inc. in Franklin, Tenn. But if you’re employed by a hospital, the relative rate of enrollment stands at 157% of the average.
Gordian, a personal health coaching company, studied enrollment rates at more than 125 businesses and organizations during a two-year period. The following shows the industry sectors included in the study and their relative rates of enrollment* in wellness programs:
|Health care and social assistance||157%|
|Finance and insurance||92%|
*Okay, these percentages might be misleading, so here’s how to understand them. Gordian will not release the percentage of participation they have determined to be the industry average for participation. So let’s say it’s 20%—meaning that 20% of your workforce participates in wellness programs on average. Using that as the average, the industry sector in this study with a 100% relative rate of enrollment would have 20% of its workforce participating. You can quickly see that a utility company, with a 22% relative rate, would have a very low participation rate—something like 4% of its employees.
Those numbers may give you hope if your company is above the industry average. But don’t get discouraged if you fall short of your goals—even in an industry that lags behind the average. It takes time, persistence, and creative communication tactics to make wellness programs succeed.
Here’s an example of success: In 2007, Ford Motor Company launched an internal campaign to market its wellness program to approximately 275,000 employees and retirees. The automaker relied on a variety of media, including a Health and Wellness Workbook with DVD, workplace posters, and signs. It featured weekly tips on the Ford intranet and health-related advertising and feature articles in FORD World magazine and plant newsletters.
Ten months into the promotional campaign, 7,000 employees were asked one question by Ervin Marketing Creative Communications, which created the campaign: “Have you added anything new in the last year to improve your health and wellness?” More than half of the respondents had gotten a physical, increased exercising, or eaten more nutritious food.
To boost participation in your company’s wellness program, try these communication techniques:
- Modify the medium to fit the masses. If most of your employees work in a manufacturing plant, they might not have easy access to a computer. Promote wellness through posters in the break room and brown-bag lunch seminars. Conversely, workers at a technology company are more likely to respond to podcasts, blogs, emails, and other electronic messages.
- Send the message all year, not just during your benefits enrollment period. Ford gave employees calendars emphasizing fitness and nutrition. Along with healthy tips, consider adding national health observances recognized by the U.S. Health Department of Health and Human Services to your calendar. For example, promote American Heart Month in February and encourage employees to get cholesterol and blood pressure screenings.
- Get personal. People prefer information that pertains specifically to them. Talk to employees face-to-face whenever possible. Deliver tailored messages about your wellness program through employee resource groups or via an internal blog, where staff can ask questions.
- Do you know your participation rates? That’s just one measure of success. You can track people who attend wellness programs or sign up for health fairs or visit your onsite fitness center. But consider this: How many employees receive your custom health newsletter? 100%!
- If you belong to an industry trade association, ask the group to organize a roundtable discussion at a regional or national trade show where you can share ideas with other human resource managers in your industry about promoting wellness programs.
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