Support from the top: The key to your employee wellness program’s success Advice from wellness program managers who have been there

Heading up your organization’s employee wellness program can be a challenging and sometimes lonely job. At some organizations, a single workplace wellness coordinator is responsible for keeping the company’s employee well-being initiatives on track. Other organizations may assign the management of their workplace wellness program to one or more members of their HR team (in addition to those team members’ regular HR duties).

But regardless of how you came to be responsible for bringing your company’s wellness program to life, you won’t be able to do it alone. Building a workplace wellness or employee well-being program is a multi-step and dynamic process that requires the cooperation and participation of stakeholders from the top to the bottom of your organization.

But, you’ll need the support of your organization’s leadership in particular.

That’s what the Kadalyst team learned when we interviewed Samantha Meneses, an HR Generalist at Nautilus; Cassie Buckroyd, Columbia Sportswear’s Wellness Program Manager; and Amanda LaPore, the Fitness and Wellness Coordinator at Fred Meyer.

Executive buy-in is key

For HR or wellness professionals planning the launch of an employee wellness program, Samantha Meneses says “the first thing you need is your executives to buy into it.”

Meneses told us that she felt supported by her company’s leadership. She added that the fact that Nautilus’ health premiums didn’t increase for three years in a row certainly didn’t hurt when it came to gaining that support!

“They know it’s important and they know that it’s working,” she said.

Meneses also predicts that getting executive buy-in is going to get easier in the years to come.

“I think 10 years ago when you mentioned a worksite wellness program, they would have laughed in your face, but the fact that it’s so acceptable now is exciting and I feel like it’s only gonna get bigger and better and more exciting.” 

Executive buy-in was also the first thing Cassie Buckroyd mentioned when we asked her to name the essential components of a successful wellness program. She told us that someone at the executive level has to be supporting your progress or you won’t have the freedom you need to make things happen.

Like Meneses, Buckroyd found that presenting company leaders with data helped keep the wellness program’s momentum going. In Buckroyd’s case, this meant using information collected from a needs assessment to back her programming plans.

Finally, Fred Meyer’s fitness and wellness coordinator Amanda LaPore noted that to achieve your wellness program’s goals you may need to gain the support of more than one executive.

As a provider of consumer wellness services through its retail pharmacies, Fred Meyer certainly understands the value of wellness and preventive care. But that doesn’t mean that getting approval for specific wellness initiatives is fast or easy, LaPore explained. Even a good idea, such as installing new water filling stations on the company campus, may have to pass through several levels of approval across multiple departments before it can be implemented.

Your wellness program won’t get far without executive backing. To keep your leadership team on board, make sure to present them with data demonstrating the value of your program and keep your lines of communication open.

How can you gain the executive support you need to have an effective wellness program?

Workplace wellness programs add value beyond just reducing healthcare costs and using this additional data can help you demonstrate that added value.

Cassie Buckroyd noted that, historically, employers expected to see wellness programs deliver ROI–specific healthcare savings for every wellness dollar spent. However, that viewpoint has since shifted. When employee well-being improves, employers realize greater productivity, find it easier to recruit talent, and have a better chance of keeping their employees.

Now, as the wellness managers we spoke to pointed out, executives like to see quantifiable results. So share data with your leadership demonstrating that workplace wellness is not only good for its employees but good for the organization as a whole. Of course, that includes pointing out any direct healthcare savings. But don’t stop there.

Many organizations that offer biometric screenings for employees provide employers with a dashboard that allows them to view generalized test results and spot health trends among their employees without violating anyone’s privacy. This type of information is very valuable not only for showing the results of your program but also identifying the areas where your employees could most benefit from wellness interventions.

You can also use an evaluation and reporting system like Kadalyst’s to keep track of other relevant metrics. Factors such as participation in your wellness program, absenteeism and turnover rates, and wellness incentive usage can all be evaluated and shared with your company’s decision makers.

Also, remember that your wellness program is part of a bigger plan–your company’s success.

Buckroyd shared with us that wellness managers should be prepared to demonstrate how their program aligns with their organization’s overall mission. For example, show your leaders how a robust wellness program can attract better candidates. Fred Meyer’s Amanda LaPore told the Kadalyst team that she looks at the goals that are important to the company (such as employee retention) and then demonstrates how its wellness initiatives can help.

By identifying what your organization values are, and aligning your wellness program with those values, you can help them to realize its VOI. 

Build your wellness program with a little help from your friends

To launch and maintain an effective wellness program requires communication and support from many people within your organization. The good news is that you aren’t alone. You can enlist the help of your insurers, vendors, and other wellness industry professionals, such as the ones we interviewed, to gather the information you need to make the best case for your wellness program. And, of course, the team here at Kadalyst is on your side, too.

Have a question? Just give us a call. Our goal is to improve employee well-being everywhere. 

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